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In her introduction, Maasri contends that the standard paradigm of visual culture studies-one that proposes a polarity between propaganda and activism-fails in the Lebanese case. There was no grasping state apparatus to carry out the propaganda, and because each of the 20 factions in Maasri's study promoted a distinct ideal of the Lebanese nation, there was no
dominant ideology. And the various militias cannot be equated with popular resistance or grassroots activism. Instead, Maasri builds on models offered by Noam Chomsky, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Stuart Hall and Roland Barthes to understand the posters as "symbolic sites of hegemonic struggle." Hers is a critical argument: The poster does not record a fixed identity but
rather is a medium through which the identity is created and strives for supremacy. More importantly, it is the struggle itself, rather than purportedly natural differences between factions, that accounts for the antagonisms among them.


Maasri makes two observations consequential for those who study the relationship between nationalism and visual culture. First, the visual is an essential means of establishing genealogy for those vying to assert hegemony... Second, the genealogies of struggle are often in fundamental conflict.


One can only hope that Maasri's study will motivate scholars to consider more closely the critical relationship between politics and visual culture.


Sarah A. Rogers, Middle East Report, MER 252 — Fall 2009; p. 48.
Off The Wall Political Posters Of The Lebanese Civil War
By Zeina Maasri
Published by I.B.Tauris, London 2009.

Foreword by Fawwaz Traboulsi

204 pages (including 64 colored)

ISBN: 978 1 84511 951 5
In this lavishly illustrated work, Zeina Maasri tells the tumultuous story of the struggle for Lebanon through the poster wars which raged on its streets. From 1975 to 1990, different factions in Lebanon's civil conflict flooded the streets with posters to mobilize their constituencies, undermine their enemies, and create public sympathy for their cause. Showcased here for the first time, the posters display a dramatic clash of cultures, ideologies and meanings. Maasri shows how the iconography of the posters changed over time, and links this to changing political identities and communities as the war progressed. She looks at the aesthetic influences of different groups, from modern Arab visual culture to as far afield as Latin America and revolutionary Iran. She urges a radical rethink of the idea and function of political posters in civil war contexts, too often dismissed as mere 'propaganda', arguing instead that they should be seen as sites of symbolic struggle, every bit as fiercely contested as the streets they adorn. Combining in-depth knowledge of the local context with fascinating insights into the semiotics of visual media, Off the Wall is a highly original contribution to our understanding of visual culture, civil conflict, and the politics of the Middle East.

This book is in conjunction with the author's ongoing poster archive project and exhibition titled Signs of Conflict.
Maasri’s contribution lies not only in presenting us with the first scholarly book that offers a theorized and systemic analysis of the political posters of the Lebanese civil war but also in undertaking the arduous task of tracking down, collecting, and digitally archiving hundreds of posters that may be used in future studies. Off the Wall is bound to engage students and scholars from various disciplines, including visual culture, anthropology, art history, graphic design, and political science, as well the general reader interested in learning about the dynamics of internecine conflicts, outside interventions, and the merging of ethics and aesthetics in wartime Lebanon.
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Nadine Sinno, H-Levant (H-Net)
Off the Wall is important for design historians because it is one of the very few texts to discuss design in the modern Middle and Near East.
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Victor Margolin, Journal of Design History; (2009) 22 (4); pp. 426-428.
There is more than art history in this collection.
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The Economist, January 10–16, 2009, p. 75.
Off The Wall Arabic edition
By Zeina Maasri

Translated by Imad Chiha

Revised by Pierre Abi Saab