Demonstrates the role of Beirut’s postwar graffiti and street art in transforming the cityscape and animating resistance.
Over the last two decades in Beirut, graffiti makers have engaged in a fierce “war of colors,” seeking to disrupt and transform the city’s physical and social spaces. In A War of Colors, Nadine Sinno examines how graffiti and street art have been used in postwar Beirut to comment on the rapidly changing social dynamics of the country and region. Analyzing how graffiti makers can reclaim and transform cityscapes that were damaged or monopolized by militias during the war, Sinno explores graffiti’s other roles, including forging civic engagement, commemorating cultural icons, protesting political corruption and environmental violence, and animating resistance. In addition, she argues that graffiti making can offer voices to those who are often marginalized, especially women and LGBTQ people. Copiously illustrated with images of graffiti and street art, A War of Colors is a visually captivating and thought-provoking journey through Beirut, where local and global discourses intersect on both scarred and polished walls in the city.
Nadine A. Sinno is an associate professor of Arabic and director of the Arabic Program at Virginia Tech, as well as a literary translator. She is the coauthor of Constructions of Masculinity in the Middle East and North Africa.
Nadine Sinno’s narration of graffiti in post–Civil War Lebanon is a testimonial to the irrepressible creativity, voice, and activist politics of youth in Lebanon. Captured by the artful conversations intersecting the political spectrum, she empathetically calls for understanding that graffiti is a form of layered commentary, analysis, judgment, and forecasting. In Sinno’s telling, graffiti, a venue of youth, visually manifests their will, their anxieties, their commitments, and their hopes for Lebanon. Her story calls for youth to be seen, graphically.
~Suad Joseph, general editor of Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures
A rich and moving account of graffiti-makers, who range from sophisticated artists to everyday scribblers, all engaging with the multiple tragedies that have beset Beirut over the last few decades. As we learn about the struggles of these graffiti practitioners to rehabilitate the city’s injured public space, we also gain great insights into Lebanese culture, society, and politics writ large. A real tour de force.
~Ted Swedenburg, author of Memories of Revolt: The 1936–39 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past
Introduction. Ḥarb alwān / A War of Colors
Chapter 1. Al-shāri‘ilnā / The Street Is Ours: Reimagining Beirut’s Visual Culture
Chapter 2. Anā shādh / I Am Queer: Challenging Patriarchy and Breaking Social Taboos
Chapter 3. Hadhā al-baḥr lī / This Sea Is Mine: Engaging Hazardous Environments as Toxic Politics
Chapter 4. Thawrit Beirut la kul al-‘ālam / Beirut’s Revolution Is for All the People: Animating the (Intersectional) Revolution
Chapter 5. Al-sha‘b al-sūrī ‘ārif tarīquh / The Syrian People Know Their Way: Articulating Regional Struggles beyond Lebanon
Inconclusions. Qabl ma mūt baddī Libnān / Before I Die I Want Lebanon To
The publication of A War of Colors was made possible with financial support from the Faculty Subvention Fund at Virginia Tech.
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