Saleem Al-Bahloly

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Mergenthaler 457


My research concerns the relationship between art and leftist politics in the postcolonial world. I try to understand what the artwork can offer when possibilities for political action have been foreclosed, and in particular, how the artwork becomes a site for the re-encounter with concepts from theological traditions and their re-activation as means of political critique.

For several years now, I have been working on the history of art practice in Iraq, in relation to the trajectory of leftist politics in the Middle East. I have come to focus on a period, in the aftermath of a coup by the Ba’ath Party in 1963, when the persecution of leftists resulted in disillusionment with political ideologies and a withdrawal from the public sphere. During that period, a number of artists and writers turned away from leftist politics, in search of new political concepts. I am currently working on a book that describes their turn to a concept derived from the history of Islam, and their rehabilitation of this concept, both as a concept of representation and a concept of politics.

I received a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2015, and an AB from the University of Chicago in 2005. In 2014-2016, I was a fellow in the EUME research program at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin. In 2016, I worked with the artist Dia al-Azzawi and the curator Catherine David to develop a part of my dissertation into a major retrospective of the artist at the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha.