University of Illinois at Chicago
AHMED-THESIS-2022.pdf (29.7 MB)

Repurposing Residuals: Art, Material, and Memory in the Long War on Terror

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posted on 2022-05-01, 00:00 authored by Sarah Mostafa Ahmed
The geopolitical and military conflicts that constitute the “long war on terror,” a continuum of US state violence that stretches from the 1960s to the present, have resulted in the surveillance of individuals and organizations, erasure and withholding of information, exclusion of narratives, dehumanization of racialized social groups, partnerships along racial regimes, disappearance of individuals, and the creation of cruel conditions. Along the way, the United States and its allies have left residuals - materials that remain or are born from expressions and practices of state violence - that artists have repurposed to make sense of their conditions. This study explores how dispossessed and dissident artists have repurposed residual state materials that emerge from or uphold state violence to create relational possibilities that allow them to craft new ways of seeing and communicating, subvert the dominant archive and its silences, and engage public memory around erased histories and disappeared people. I focus on four contemporary art projects: Sadie Barnette’s My Father’s FBI File, Project 1 (2016); Chitra Ganesh and Mariam Ghani’s Introduction to an Index (2011); Razan Al-Salah’s your father was born 100 years old, and so was the Nakba (2017); and Shukri Abu Baker’s “Bread & Beads” project. I argue that repurposing residual materials of state violence provides artists with an opportunity to transcend the limitations of their precarious conditions and points to the fragility of the state’s methods.



Kapadia, Ronak KHarmanşah, Ömür


Kapadia, Ronak KHarmanşah, Ömür


Art History

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Masters

Degree name

MA, Master of Arts

Committee Member

O r t e g a , E m m a n u e l

Submitted date

May 2022

Thesis type



  • en

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