Embracing Difference: The Work of Art

This plenary round table brings together three Western professionals from related yet different backgrounds: art history and theory; visual and media art; and documentary and art photography respectively. This multidisciplinary arts plenary was proposed upon Emilienne Malfatto’s reception of the IAFOR Documentary Photography Award for her 2019 photo-journalistic project on Iraqi children, which comments on the discursive regimes of gender, race, class, and religion that inform the contact between East and West, the old Imperial Metropole and its margins, the European Self and non-European Other. These were eloquently addressed in Edward Said’s postcolonial writings on the academic practice and material effects of Orientalism, which offered a deconstructive, post-structuralist critique of Western identity and allowed for its reconstruction in terms of cultural diversity. Now, four decades after the publication of his foundational study, we are once again confronted with an essentialist, exclusionary Fortress Europe that closes its borders to the Other, and we wonder as to why, how to turn the tide, and how to “embrace difference” in the spirit of the conference theme. What role can art play in this debate? Does an image always speak louder than words? Is art’s mediation of meaning always for the better? By the hands of three experts in art, cultural exchange, identity, migration, globalization, the Mediterranean and the Near-East, this round table aims to tackle these questions so as to find productive interfaces that places “the work of art” in a wider political, sociological, geographical and cultural perspective.


Emilienne Malfatto
Stephen Copland
Herman Bashiron Mendolicchio
Martin Renes (moderator)

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Posted by IAFOR