Do 26 Jan 2023 – Fr 27 Jan 2023

Cultures of Scandal

Curated by Tarek El-Ariss (Dartmouth College / EUME Fellow 2012/13) and Rasha Salti, organized by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) in collaboration with EUME and the ICI Berlin

ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Christinenstraße 18-19, 10119 Berlin


Since the beginning of the new millennium, leakers and whistle-blowers have been hailed as heroes in prompting the redress of democratic governance gone wayward. The emergence of WikiLeaks has initially reinforced the necessity to correct the role of mainstream journalists and media as the ‘fourth estate’, or as the critical watchdog holding regimes (elected or autocratic) and big business in check and keeping them from abusing power, manipulating citizens and/or consumers, and maintaining the order that best suits their interests. Social media networks as well as digital media sites have multiplied the arenas in which leaks and scandals become manifest, bearing the promise of radical transparency. In over two decades, this genre of journalism has thrived across the ideological spectrum from the extreme right to the radical left, and has transformed perceptions of the media as well as the way in which publics construct world-views and seek, find, and interpret news.

Nowadays, scandalizing, leaking, revealing, and unveiling are used almost exclusively to produce affect, to mobilize a constituency in the denunciation of traitors, in the claiming of moral high ground, in the cancellation of an ‘other’, all in the time-space of a mousepad click. Surging like meteoric flashes, scandals dissipate as soon as they have erupted, leaving a trail that coalesces as undecipherable toxic residue in a repository of affects that cannot form the soil for a lucid, concrete, or elaborate political subjectivity. A string of leaks, scandals, and hacks cannot be the basis for resistance against the contemporary currency of fascism (racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny), the insatiable plunder of living resources, and the extreme accumulation of wealth.

‘Cultures of Scandal’ is inspired by transformations in digital culture as well as by highly polarizing crises around cultural events that surged as disruptive manifestations in the past few years in Europe and in the Arab region. What do the strategies of denouncement and mobilization aim to produce or destroy? What are they manifestations of? How do these campaigns impact practitioners and institutions, and what can they generate? Participants will reflect on practices of shaming and exposure from the 19th century to the present, examining how these practices contribute to our understanding of the canon, the archive, cultural development, and history. Engaging with contemporary examples centred around Arab politics and culture, both in the region and in the diaspora, participants will also address the institutional response to scandal culture and to narratives of struggle deployed to enable or curtail cultural practices.

With contributions by:

Lina Atallah
Kader Attia
Layal Ftouni
Rana Issa
Heather Jaber
Christian Junge
Georges Khalil
Frederike Pannewick
Stefan Tarnowski
Hanan Toukan

Please note that prior registration via ICI Berlin’s website is requested.

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