This talk draws on Hatim El-Hibri's recent book, Visions of Beirut: The Urban Life of Media Infrastructure. In it, El-Hibri explores how the creation and circulation of images have shaped the urban spaces and cultural imaginaries of Beirut.
Drawing on fieldwork and texts ranging from maps, urban plans, and aerial photographs to live television and drone-camera footage, El-Hibri traces how the technologies and media infrastructure that visualize the city are used to consolidate or destabilize regimes of power. Throughout the twentieth century, colonial, economic and military mapping projects helped produce and govern Beirut's spaces. In the 1990s, the imagery of its post-civil war downtown reconstruction cast Beirut as a site of financial investment in ways that obscured its ongoing crises. During and following the 2006 Israel/Hizbullah war, Hizbullah's use of live television broadcasts of fighting and protests along with its construction of a war memorial museum at a former secret military bunker demonstrate the tension between visualizing space and the practices of concealment.
This talk will outline an infrastructural approach to visual culture, demonstrating the embeddedness of media within the sociotechnical and spatial frameworks that it in turn shapes. Doing so allows a critical understanding of practices of concealment — a politically ambiguous practice of remaining deliberately hidden from or unrecognized by an opposing entity — is a central but often overlooked vector of everyday life and public culture. This talk will also consider how images of post-catastrophe construction have been central to financialized imaginaries of the city.
About the speaker
Hatim El-Hibri is assistant professor of Film and Media Studies at George Mason University, where he is also affiliated with Cultural Studies, and Middle East and Islamic Studies. He earned his PhD in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University, and previously was a faculty member at the Media Studies Program at the American University of Beirut. His research and teaching interests are in global media and communication studies, urban studies, media history and theory, visual culture studies, and Middle East studies. His first book, Visions of Beirut: The Urban Life of Media Infrastructure, is now out from Duke University Press.