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Musawi Natanzi, Seyedeh Paniz (2019) The war mode of visual art production: a feminist geopolitical analysis of art producing masculinities in Kabul from 2014-2018. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Since 2004, “Afghan women” producing contemporary art became online in virtual, visual and print the driving agents of a national art under construction centred in Kabul. However, the ethnographical insights gathered between 2014 until 2018 show that feminised bodies are highly constrained in their mobility to produce art as an income generating labour: women art producers become rather known through online one-hit wonder “spectacles”. Meanwhile, masculinities are governing visual art producing spaces offline in local communities in Kabul. Based on the observation that “spectacles” about art producing feminised bodies in Anglophone knowledge exhibiting platforms censor the social economy of art production offline in Kabul, I suggest that the governing presence of masculinities invites to examine the trajectory of art producing masculinities in creating epistemological and vocational alliances sustaining economic empowerment of feminised art producers and themselves within Kabuli communities. A feminist geopolitical methodology provides in conversation with Feminist Marxisms, Islamic Feminisms and Critical Masculinities’ Studies epistemological and ethnographical tools to examine in art production fostering urban communities, the politics of embodied, social and economic experiences of artistic labourers scrutinising the mobility of art producers and artworks in and inbetween spaces dedicated to and/or transformed by visual arts. Visual art is read as visual knowledge and labour in this thesis, which is practiced, discussed, exhibited, interrupted and produced in a socially, politically and economically highly fractured urban space conditioned by competing political economies of war. First, the thesis dissects the war mode of art production through gendered mobility and access to art knowledge, practice and ideally income generation in the militarised public on the street level, in privatised public spaces such as the university, coffee shops, art studios in malls and residential areas and domestic spaces. Second, I analyse the spectrum of themes and mediums referred to in the artworks produced by masculinities prior to finally differentiating between urban, national, regional and inter-regional viewing and buying audiences of the artworks. Analysing the trajectory of art producing masculinities through the spectacularisation and embodied limitations of feminised bodies towards actual economic empowerment, the thesis contributes in general to the de-culturalisation of the study of political economies and urban art and knowledge production in Afghanistan, and in particular in the study of gender politics in war emphasising the spectrum of masculinities productive in urban war outside of state and non-state military formations.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Gina Heathcote
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2022 15:40

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