‘Decolonizing the Page’ investigates the significant, yet understudied, political role of graphic design and visual culture during processes of decolonisation and anti-imperialist liberation struggles from the 1950s to the 1980s. Focussed on postcolonial Arabic publications, the study is concerned with how their design, visuality and materiality helped articulate political imaginaries, mobilize cross-border anticolonial solidarities and shape new aesthetic sensibilities. While urgently shedding light on the modern Arab world – under-represented in the historiography of graphic design and visual culture – this project also draws comparisons with shared historical conditions of modernity and (post)coloniality in the Global South.
As reproducible and mobile objects of print culture, illustrated books and periodicals were important sites for the decolonisation of knowledge, imagination and affect, and thus crucial for the construction of postcolonial identity, aimed at a growing Arabic readership and broader networks of transnational solidarity. Central to this decolonising endeavour, amongst Arab artists and further afield across the Global South, is how modernism, as a travelling cultural practice and aesthetic project, was creatively reconfigured to serve postcolonial futures.
It is the project’s central contention that this rich archive enables us to recover a suppressed history of Arab decolonisation processes; one that takes on board the postcolonial imagination, aesthetic preoccupations and political contestations of Arab artists and designers of this generation. In doing so, ‘Decolonizing the Page’ contributes to understanding histories of decolonisation ‘from below’: its thwarted projects and unfinished legacies resonate in renewed decolonial endeavours and solidarity projects today.
The project will build collaborative research networks and produce academic, creative and digital humanities outputs which advance knowledge in the fields of Art and Design History and Middle East Studies and directly benefit academics, creative practitioners and the living communities for whom this constitutes an important cultural heritage of immediate relevance.