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Conflict in Dialogue. Renegotiating memory and subjectivities in the Palestinian refugee camp Burj al-Shamali by reviving and extending photography.

Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh
Dissertationsstipendiatin an der Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien | Abschluss-Stipendium des Doktoratszentrums 2016|17


This research is based on an extended stay in Burj al-Shamali, a Palestinian refugee camp southeast of Tyre, in Southern Lebanon, where I lived between 2006 and 2011 and have been working since 2001. During the years I developed and collected – mostly in collaboration with camp residents – an extensive digital collection of family and studio photographs, which also includes videos and audio recordings.
By combining artistic research and postcolonial critic, my aim has been to develop new research methods in Burj al-Shamali camp centred around a conversational practice of collecting images by engaging with the camp residents in an in-depth exchange about personal and studio photographs, one that takes into consideration the conflicts and mutual transformation occasioned by these conversations. The central questions of the research are: How can private photographs function as archives of a refugee society, and how can the representability of this archive be thought? In how far are conversational procedures and the making visible of conflicts valid tools/methodologies? And finally how do the temporal and relational dimensions of the research make notions of endurance and exhaustion productive for the (non-)visualisation of the images/the archive?
This endeavour is also a way of questioning the iconography of the Palestinian refugee created through images mainly produced by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). In both bodies of images, disjunctive power relationships are constitutive of the photographic image. Further, through situating the research in the context of the Arab Image Foundation, it critically reflects on archives created by and for artistic practices.

My interest has been in developing contexts and a practice where the possibility of a new relationship to images and to the processes by which they are shown and looked at is actualised.