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CMENAS Colloquium Series. King of Kings of Africa: Racializing Qaddafi in the Visual Output of the 2011 Libyan Uprisings

Christiane Gruber, Professor of Islamic Art, Department of History of Art and Chair, University of Michigan
Monday, September 14, 2020
4:00-6:00 PM
Off Campus Location
The 2020 CMENAS Colloquium Series theme is "The Arab Spring: 10 Years Later."
(Please register at; a Zoom link will be emailed to you the day of the event.)

About the Presentation:
During the 2011 popular uprisings in the Arab world, battles unfolded through oppositional image-worlds, in which the incumbent icons of state were mocked via visual forms of humor falling all along the comedic spectrum. In Libya, pictorial forms of ridicule had as their main target the country’s “Brother Leader” Muammar al-Gaddafi. After failing to win support from Arab governments, Gaddafi fashioned himself as a traditional sub-Saharan chief and the “King of Kings of Africa.” His bombastic title, Afro-like hairdo, and eye-catching robes made him an easy target for visual satire, which turned visibly more racist when he began using mercenaries drawn from sub-Saharan Africa to suppress street demonstrations. Throughout the uprisings, members of the opposition—including cartoonists and muralists—sought to degrade Gaddafi through the use of visual stereotypes, revealing that within the particular case of Libya, satirical contentions during the so-called “Arab Spring” were not just transgressive and factional but instrumentally racist as well.

About the Speaker:
Christiane Gruber’s primary field of research is Islamic book arts, paintings of the Prophet Muhammad, and Islamic ascension texts and images, about which she has written two books and edited a volume of articles. She also pursues research in Islamic book arts and codicology, having authored the online catalogue of Islamic calligraphies in the Library of Congress as well as edited the volume of articles, The Islamic Manuscript Tradition. Her third field of specialization is modern Islamic visual culture and post-revolutionary Iranian visual and material culture, about which she has written several articles. She also has co-edited two volumes on Islamic and cross-cultural visual cultures. She recently completed her third book, titled The Praiseworthy One: The Prophet Muhammad in Islamic Texts and Images.

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange. Contact: Kristin Waterbury at
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Type: Livestream / Virtual
Tags: arab spring, center for middle eastern and north african studies, cmenas, colloquium, Islamic Art, islamic studies, Lecture, Middle East Studies, Virtual
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, History of Art, International Institute