This paper investigates the history of the two Arab Exhibitions held in Jerusalem in 1933 and 1934, when Palestine was under British colonial rule. The exhibitions came as a direct response to Palestine’s representation in colonial exhibitions both locally and internationally. But more than merely responding to these representations, as this paper shows, these exhibitions also carried a vision of their own: affirming Palestine’s position in the project of an Arab economic and cultural nahda (‘renaissance’) in the interwar years. The paper is based on five years of archival research into their forgotten history in archives and private collections around the world.
This paper is organized into three main thematic sections. The first section tackles the history of the exhibition site, the Palace Hotel built in the 1920s in Jerusalem. Tracing the building’s conception and realization offers a lens unto the transnational networks at the heart of Palestinian national projects before the pan-Arab Exhibitions were hosted in the 1930s. The second section moves on to discuss the Arab exhibitions’ relationship to the Zionist exhibitions in Palestine and abroad. The third section takes a further step in its analysis of the pan-Arab exhibitions. It pays a closer attention to the exhibitions’ spirit and ethos beyond their relationship to the colonial exhibitions. Instead, it analyzes the pan-Arab exhibitions in their own right, highlighting their role in forging an imagination for the future of the Arab nation. Together, these three sections offer an understanding of how transnational contact surrounding the Arab exhibitions in Palestine offered new possibilities confronting but also transcending the confines of colonial rule in the first half of the twentieth century.
Architecture & Urban Planning