The Origins of Palestinian Art provides the most comprehensive survey of contemporary Palestinian art to date. The development of contemporary practice, theory and criticism is understood as integral to the concomitant construction of Palestinian national identities. In particular the book explores the intricate relationship between art and nationalism in which the idea of origin plays an important and problematic role. The book deconstructs the existing narratives of the history of Palestinian art, which search for its origins in the 19th century, and argues that Palestinian contemporary art demonstrates pluralistic, politically and philosophically complex attitudes towards identity and nation that confound familiar narratives of origin and belonging.
The book builds upon theories of art, nationalism and post-colonialism particularly in relation to the themes of fragmentation and dispersal. It takes the Arabic word for Diaspora, Shatat (literally broken apart), as a central concern in contemporary understanding of Palestinian culture and develops it, along with Edward Said's paradoxical formula of a 'coherence of dispersal' as the organising concept of the book. This aspect of contemporary Palestinian art is peculiarly suited to the conditions produced by the globalisation of art and we show how Palestinian artists, despite not having a state, have developed an international profile.