A Museum without Walls: Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah's Cultural Diplomacy

Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah’s cultural diplomacy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

© 2018 Intellect Ltd Editorial Preface. English language. For almost two decades, Gulf sheikhdoms have consolidated their political mandate and legacy through large acquisition programmes of artworks and through building world-class museums. The aim of these policies is to foster a sense of national collective identity internally, while promoting the trustworthy profile of a fully advanced society to the rest of the world. While this seems to be the regional trend, this article investigates the anomaly of Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah (DAI), a Kuwaiti cultural institution predating most of the museums in the Gulf. I argue that the DAI offers an alternative narrative that focuses on art as a diplomatic agent to explain Islamic civilization in broad terms, as opposed to being limited to one country’s national discourse. In 1991, as a consequence of the first Gulf War, DAI’s building was burned down. This unusual condition of being a ‘museum without walls’, regrettably protracted for many years, transformed DAI into a fluid entity showcasing the depth of Islamic civilization locally and internationally through its broad collection. DAI’s primary tool of cultural diplomacy was, and still is, its travelling exhibitions. This article explores their museographical aspects, surrounding context, and subsequent reception.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-303
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Islamic Architecture
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

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Museums
diplomacy
museum
civilization
political mandate
gulf war
cultural institution
collective identity
art
national identity
English language
anomaly
narrative
Fluids
fluid
discourse
trend
gulf
Cultural Diplomacy
world

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Architecture
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Urban Studies

Cite this

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abstract = "{\circledC} 2018 Intellect Ltd Editorial Preface. English language. For almost two decades, Gulf sheikhdoms have consolidated their political mandate and legacy through large acquisition programmes of artworks and through building world-class museums. The aim of these policies is to foster a sense of national collective identity internally, while promoting the trustworthy profile of a fully advanced society to the rest of the world. While this seems to be the regional trend, this article investigates the anomaly of Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah (DAI), a Kuwaiti cultural institution predating most of the museums in the Gulf. I argue that the DAI offers an alternative narrative that focuses on art as a diplomatic agent to explain Islamic civilization in broad terms, as opposed to being limited to one country’s national discourse. In 1991, as a consequence of the first Gulf War, DAI’s building was burned down. This unusual condition of being a ‘museum without walls’, regrettably protracted for many years, transformed DAI into a fluid entity showcasing the depth of Islamic civilization locally and internationally through its broad collection. DAI’s primary tool of cultural diplomacy was, and still is, its travelling exhibitions. This article explores their museographical aspects, surrounding context, and subsequent reception.",
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