Saleem Al-Bahloly

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Mergenthaler 457


My research concerns art practice in the postcolonial world, and the forms of critique it can generate, at an intellectual or political limit, and in interaction with religious traditions and other traditions of representation. I am interested in how intellectual or artistic traditions from the past are re-encountered, and in particular how concepts from theological traditions are recuperated or re-activated in secular modernity.

For several years now, I have been working on the history of modern art in Iraq, focusing on the aftermath of a coup by the Baʿath Party in 1963, when the persecution of leftists produced disillusionment with political ideologies and brought about a collapse of the liberal public sphere. That history constitutes a kind of ethnographic archive in which I explore the relationship between politics, the artwork, and religious traditions.

At Hopkins, I am working on a book manuscript that explores this relationship by examining forms of art practice that emerged in Baghdad during the 1960s, in the context of the breakdown of leftist politics, and in a turn to figures and concepts from Islamic history.

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.

“Memories of an Origin: Yahya al-Wasiti’s Illustrations of the Maqamat of Hariri and the Modern Art of Baghdad,” Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World No. 35, 2018.

Musalikha, or the Anti-Nude,” in The Arab Nude, ed. Octavian Esanu. London: Routledge, forthcoming.

“The Persistence of the Image: Dhakira Hurra in Dia Azzawi’s Drawings on the Massacre of Tel al-Zaatar,” ARTMargins 2:2 (2013), 71-97.