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Cosmopolitan Radicalism: The Visual Politics of Beirut’s Global Sixties

Exploring the intersections of visual culture, design and politics in Beirut from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, this interdisciplinary study critically examines a global conjuncture in Lebanon's history, marked by anticolonial struggle and complicated by a Cold War order. Cosmopolitan Radicalism uncovers the transnational circuits that animated Arab modernist pursuits and sheds light on the forgotten trajectories and graphic design practices of its protagonists: Egyptian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian artists who wove through Beirut, in and out of its flourishing art galleries, publishing industry and political movements. Drawing on uncharted archives of everyday print media, the book reveals the translocal visuality that emerged with—and, crucially, shaped—Beirut’s development as a nodal city in the global sixties. It does so by focusing on three interrelated themes: the first is concerned with state promotions of Beirut as a Mediterranean site of international tourism and modern leisure; the second, with the city’s rise as a cultural nexus of modern art, pan-Arab publishing and anticolonial contestation, covert CIA funding notwithstanding; and the third, with its transformation, through the rise of the Palestinian Resistance, as a node in Third Worldist revolutionary anti-imperialism and transnational solidarity. Against a celebratory reminiscence of the ‘golden years’, Beirut's long sixties is conceived of as a liminal juncture, an anxious time and place when the city held out promises at once politically radical and radically cosmopolitan.
Relevant research areas: Middle East, 20th Century, Book arts, Lithography