Book: Zeina Maasri

Off The Wall

Political Posters of the Lebanese Civil War

by Zeina Maasri
with a foreword by Fawwaz Traboulsi
Published by I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd, London
ISBN: 978 1 84511 951 5

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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.

Zeina Maasri is an Associate Professor of Graphic Design at the American University of Beirut. She curated a critically acclaimed exhibition of political posters, entitled Signs of Conflict, as part of Lebanon’s Home Works forum 2008.

This publication was made possible with the partial support of the Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, Ashkal Alwan, through a grant provided by the Foundation Open Society Institute.

This book is in conjunction with the ongoing project and exhibition Signs of Conflict: Political Posters of Lebanon’s Civil War by Zeina Maasri. The exhibition was produced by the Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, Ashkal Alwan, with the support of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in the framework of Home Works IV: A Forum on Cultural Practices, Beirut, 12 April–1 May 2008.