More info and detailed program here.


From masterpiece to commemorative object: a history of Middle Eastern cultural diplomacy (in French) 

Organised by Silvia Naef, with Joan Grandjean 

Spring Semester, Wednesday 12-14pm, University of Geneva

Salle des Moulages, 12h-14h 

The tradition of diplomatic gift-giving holds a significant historical legacy in the Middle East, with scholarly investigations focusing on its nuances within the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. In the contemporary era marked by the emergence of nation-states, this diplomatic practice persists. An illustrative example is the substantial contributions made by Middle Eastern nations to the United Nations and its various entities, forming the central focus of our analysis based on a research project conducted at the University of Geneva. By scrutinizing the diverse array of donations, encompassing masterpieces, replicas of ancient coins, commemorative medals, traditional crafts, as well as living organisms like animals and plants, we aim to explore the underlying strategies employed both in the past and present, shedding light on the desired image projected by the donor. Given the backdrop of ongoing crises in the region and the predominantly unfavorable international perception shaped by conflicts and acts of terrorism, this presents a compelling geopolitical concern. Moreover, it offers a captivating subject for those intrigued by the history of material culture and art. The course will extend its inquiry to other cultural domains for comparative analysis. A concluding round-table discussion will succinctly summarize the key themes addressed throughout the course.