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Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service

3700 O Street, NW, ICC 270

Washington, DC 20057

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The Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding invites you to attend the following event:

"Changing Saudi Arabia: How Artists Are Transforming the Kingdom's Culture and Society in the Twenty-First Century", a presentation and talk by Dr. Sean Foley


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T. E. Lawrence once observed that Saudi Arabia had "so little art" that it could "be said to have no art at all." Whether that was once the case is arguable. But that as is not the case today, as the Kingdom is home to a flourishing artistic movement-the subject of Professor Sean Foley's new book, Changing Saudi Arabia: Art, Culture, and Society in the Kingdom.

Exploring the artistic movement in Saudi Arabia in the context of the kingdom's changing political realities, Professor Foley will discuss how artists are expressing the thoughts and feelings that the Saudi public typically has not felt safe to articulate in an absolute monarchy, and, astonishingly, they do so in a way that escapes the wrath of the monarchy. While oil revenues and the ruling bargain between the state and society shape politics at a structural level in Saudi Arabia, he argues that Saudi society retains significant agency through its cultural production.

In both their art and in social media, Saudi artists, have created a vision that contains political elements but can nevertheless be presented as "apolitical." Their art is clear, sophisticated, sometimes critical, but it is never confrontational toward the state or political system. It is a dance of intellect and feeling that rouses its audience, including the rulers of Saudi Arabia, to thought. As mirrors of society and as cultural leaders, artists have often stood at the forefront of social change, offering innovative ways to approach contradiction, dissonance, and diversity. Their work, Foley concludes, is less an answer to the problems of a Kingdom long seen as paradoxical than it is a fresh questioning, a constant reminder of the complexities of life in the twenty-first century.


Speaker

Dr. Sean Foley, is an Associate Professor of History at Middle Tennessee State University and specializes in the Middle East and religious and political trends in the broader Islamic world. He has published widely on Middle East history and Gulf politics and has delivered papers to academic conferences and universities around the world. His first book, The Arab Gulf States: Beyond Oil and Islam, was published by Lynne Rienner Press in March 2010. He has held Fulbright fellowships in Syria, Turkey, and Malaysia. In addition, he has contributed to the Atlantic, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Television, The New Straits Times, Voice of America Television, and other media organizations. Finally, he did research throughout Saudi Arabia while he was a visiting professor based at King Saud University in Riyadh in 2013 and 2014.For more on his work, see his website: www.seanfoley.org.

For any additional questions related to the event please email,

ACMCU Event and Program Coordinator Chirin Dirani: chirin.dirani@georgetown.edu

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Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service

3700 O Street, NW, ICC 270

Washington, DC 20057

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