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Creative Heritage: Palestinian Heritage NGOs and Defiant Arts of Government

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Abstract

ABSTRACT  Beyond the commonsense dichotomy between art as radical practice and heritage as conservation, this article analyzes Palestinian heritage as the ambiguous terrain where these two practices meet, creating a language that is both locally rooted and cosmopolitan. By examining the recent Palestinian art biennales (biennials), I show how heritage-informed art functions as a platform for performing the future Palestinian nation-state. Organized by a heritage organization, the biennales highlight the creativity of a new generation of Palestinian heritage NGOs, which continue a local social-organizing tradition marked by the alliance between heritage, the arts, and liberation politics. This cultural production undermines a traditional dichotomy between heritage and counter-memory because it represents both part of a state-building project and an act of anticolonial resistance, suspended between what scholars term “transnational governmentality” and “counter-governmentality.” I argue that Palestinian heritage practices constitute a form of nonstate governmentality. In this context, problems of representation acquire strong relevance.

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