Suzi Mirgani Presents a Paper at MESA 2018
Suzi Mirgani, Managing Editor at the Center for International and Regional Studies, Georgetown University in Qatar, presented a paper at the 2018 Middle East Studies Association (MESA) annual meeting in San Antonio, TX. Participating in the "The Politics of Art and Culture in the Gulf and Beyond" panel, Mirgani's paper examined the modern national identity through Qatar Museums’ merchandise.
Enter through the Gift Shop: Signifying a Modern National Identity through Qatar Museums’ Merchandise
This study aims to show that something significant is taking place in Qatar’s museum gift shops—a reformulation of the signifiers of national identity through contemporary commodities. While traditional gifts and handmade crafts remain prized and promoted, the introduction of modern museum merchandise is a sign that Qatar has entered into a new stage of national identity formation. Souvenirs narrating the nation are no longer natural or traditional aspects of the country’s heritage, as they have been for decades, but are now made of synthetic materials that —— in an age of global neoliberalism —— are internationally recognizable. If souvenirs are meant to signify Qatar’s cultural heritage, then how do the new products on the block— iPhone covers, accessories, t-shirts—fit into the narrative? How do modern museum merchandise and commercial artifacts sold in Qatar’s museums, souqs, and shopping malls problematize Qatar’s traditional historical narrative? Or do they extend Qatari national identity into new directions—ones that are no longer beholden to the past?