Filling the void: arts and culture institutions as socio-political actors in East Jerusalem

Nufar Avni, Merav Kaddar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scholars have explored arts and culture institutions from various perspectives, including gentrification, activism, and economic development. Studies have also demonstrated how arts and culture initiatives are often at the center of conflicts concerning a city’s identity. In an ethno-nationally divided city, the already conflictual role of arts and culture is further exacerbated by national-level politics. However, so far academic literature has neglected this aspect. Our research investigates the nexus of arts, culture, and political engagement in East Jerusalem, exploring how stakeholders in the field of arts and culture perceive their approaches and strategies as political actors in a highly contested urban space. We employ a qualitative research design that builds on a case study methodology and includes in-depth interviews and ethnographic observations, complemented by a print and social media review. Our findings suggest that in contested urban environments such as East Jerusalem, arts and culture institutions cannot uphold a purely aesthetic approach or escape political questions. Nevertheless, urban and civic engagement is understood differently by various stakeholders, on a spectrum from “artistic” to “political.” Findings from this research could facilitate an examination of the role played by arts and culture institutions in other politically charged, ethnically and religiously diverse cities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalUrban Geography
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • artivism
  • Arts & culture
  • bi-national cities
  • cultural institutions
  • Jerusalem
  • political participation


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