During the last decades, the former cultural capitals of the Middle East such as Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad or Beirut have lost their cultural influence to the benefit of the Gulf countries.
For long, the phenomenon was seen as a simple import of culture thanks to the Gulf wealth, yet, a new contemporary Arab culture is now firmly rooted in Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh or Jeddah.
Our seminar will proceed, first, to an inventory of this new soft power exercised by the Gulf countries in order to understand, secondly, the consequences of this formulation of contemporary Arab culture, for the societies of the Gulf as well as for the other countries of the region, in the Maghreb and the Machrek.
We will also question the nexus of contemporary culture/political ouverture, in particular when culture is imposed from above. Considering the concept of culture in its broad sense (arts, literature but also sports and entertainment), we will question the concepts of ‘high culture’ and popular culture, focusing on the study of digital cultural expressions and social networks. Finally, we will question the place of culture in democratic transitions, and its articulation with the religious question.