First academic research paper co-published on Instagram shows the legacy of one of Algeria’s most influential modern artists

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The first research co-published simultaneously in an academic journal and on Instagram shows the enduring legacy of one of Algeria’s most influential modern artists.

The painter Mohammed Racim is generally known for his depictions of historical scenes made during the colonial era. Such work was used to illustrate book covers, tourist brochures, and postage stamps, and was generally considered backward-looking and artistically conservative.

Using Instagram enabled Professor William Gallois, University of Exeter, to publish nearly 200 high-quality color images with his academic article to illustrate the meaning and aesthetic value of Racim’s work.

The research is published in the American historical revieww, where there is a QR code on the Instagram account showing the pictures and the article together.

Because much of Racim’s work has been treated as having no intrinsic value, little effort has been made to record and analyze his presence in the world. Professor Gallois hopes his research will help counter this loss of cultural memory.

The rare images featured in the article come from Professor Gallois’ own archives of 10,000 photographs, postcards, advertisements, cigarette papers and other ephemera, collected over the past decade.

Professor Gallois said: “Instagram is a great platform to display an unlimited number of high-quality images, reach people all over the world and potentially a younger audience. There are already a large number of people consuming research via Twitter, but Instagram is a place where I think more productive and positive discussions can take place.

“The editors of American historical review deserve to be congratulated for their willingness to innovate; they have been very good partners in this endeavor. I am excited about using Instagram as a resource. The medium gave me the opportunity to present this research in the way that I really wanted. I think Instagram will become an important place for academic discussions in the future. “

There are a growing number of accounts on Instagram that catalog, archive and criticize images made by indigenous and colonial groups during periods of imperial rule in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia – works previously ignored, erased or misunderstood – which have tens of thousands of people engaged. followers.

Mohammed Racim, who lived from 1896 to 1975, was the son and nephew of two of its most important creators of Islamic art. His brother Omar was imprisoned from 1913 to 1921 for seditious dissemination and production of Islamist literature.

At the start of his career, Racim lived in Paris, working as an artist for Piazza Editions. Around this time, he began to create his own works on canvas, illuminated miniatures in a dominant style in the Persian and Ottoman worlds, which were admired by painters and patrons from France and North Africa. The images depict Algiers as a pre-colonial urban idyll, as well as historical figures such as the Barbarossa brothers who had successfully defended the city against European invaders.

Returning to Algiers in 1932, Racim exhibited a small number of other miniatures, while working mainly as a teacher of traditional arts. Since then, around thirty miniatures have circulated more or less regularly, serving as illustrations for book covers, tourist brochures, postage stamps and other everyday icons.

Professor Gallois’s research shows how the non-modern form of Racim’s work also effectively neutralized any potential for the paintings to be seen as politically provocative.

Nathan Draluck, editor of the American Historical Review, said: “It was an exciting challenge, as we had to think about how best, within the confines of a print journal, to direct readers to the fascinating and, frankly, cool book by William. Instagram page, which is itself the real “article”.

Alex Lichtenstein, editor of the American Historical Review, said: “When William came up with the idea of ​​presenting his research on Mohammed Racim in the form of an Instagram post, I admit I was skeptical. . But I wanted to experiment, so we made do with it. The peer review and production posed some challenges, but in the end I think the result is rigorous, fascinating and widely accessible. Plus, content matches form, meaning William uses Racim’s life to ask questioning about the nature of the story and the performance. He asks us to consider “learning to read a text whose meaning was not seen at the time it was written” – I like to think the same can be said of the use of a media platform to present historical scholarship. “

The first research co-published simultaneously in an academic journal and on Instagram shows the enduring legacy of one of Algeria’s most influential modern artists.

The painter Mohammed Racim is generally known for his depictions of historical scenes made during the colonial era. Such work was used to illustrate book covers, tourist brochures, and postage stamps, and was generally considered backward-looking and artistically conservative.

Using Instagram enabled Professor William Gallois, University of Exeter, to publish nearly 200 high-quality color images with his academic article to illustrate the meaning and aesthetic value of Racim’s work.

The research is published in the American Historical Review, where there is a QR code on the Instagram account showing the images and the article together.

Because much of Racim’s work has been treated as having no intrinsic value, little effort has been made to record and analyze his presence in the world. Professor Gallois hopes his research will help counter this loss of cultural memory.

The rare images featured in the article come from Professor Gallois’ own archives of 10,000 photographs, postcards, advertisements, cigarette papers and other ephemeral forms, collected over the past decade.

Professor Gallois said: “Instagram is a great platform to display an unlimited number of high-quality images, reach people all over the world and potentially a younger audience. There are already a large number of people consuming research via Twitter, but Instagram is a place where I believe more productive and positive discussions can take place.

“The editors of American historical review deserve to be commended for their willingness to innovate; they have been very good partners in this endeavor. I am excited about using Instagram as a resource. The medium gave me the opportunity to present this research in the way that I really wanted. I think Instagram will become an important place for academic discussions in the future. “

There are a growing number of accounts on Instagram that catalog, archive and criticize images made by indigenous and colonial groups during periods of imperial rule in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia – works previously ignored, erased or misunderstood – which have tens of thousands of people engaged. followers.

Mohammed Racim, who lived from 1896 to 1975, was the son and nephew of two of its most important creators of Islamic art. His brother Omar was imprisoned from 1913 to 1921 for seditious dissemination and production of Islamist literature.

At the start of his career, Racim lived in Paris, working as an artist for Piazza Editions. Around this time, he began to create his own works on canvas, illuminated miniatures in a dominant style in the Persian and Ottoman worlds, which were admired by painters and patrons from France and North Africa. The images depict Algiers as a pre-colonial urban idyll, as well as historical figures such as the Barbarossa brothers who had successfully defended the city against European invaders.

Returning to Algiers in 1932, Racim exhibited a small number of other miniatures, while working mainly as a teacher of traditional arts. Since then, around thirty miniatures have circulated more or less regularly, serving as illustrations for book covers, tourist brochures, postage stamps and other icons of everyday design.

Professor Gallois’s research shows how the non-modern form of Racim’s work also effectively neutralized any potential for the paintings to be seen as politically provocative.

Nathan Draluck, editor of the American Historical Review, said: “It was an exciting challenge, as we had to think about how best, within the confines of a print journal, to direct readers to the fascinating and, frankly, cool book by William. The Instagram page, which is itself the real “article”.

Alex Lichtenstein, editor of the American Historical Review, said: “When William came up with the idea of ​​presenting his research on Mohammed Racim in the form of an Instagram post, I admit I was skeptical. . But I wanted to experiment, so we made do with it. The peer review and production posed some challenges, but in the end I think the result is rigorous, fascinating and widely accessible. Plus, content matches form, meaning William uses Racim’s life to ask questioning about the nature of the story and the performance. He asks us to consider “learning to read a text whose meaning was not seen at the time it was written” – I like to think the same can be said of the use of a media platform to present historical scholarship. ”


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More information:
William Gallois, Illumination of a Floating World, The American Historical Review (2021). DOI: 10.1093 / ahr / rhab221

Provided by the University of Exeter


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