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Self-Portrait of a Nation: The Arab Exhibition in Mandate Jerusalem, 1931-34

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This article traces the conception, planning, and execution of the 1931 Arab Exhibition in Jerusalem, followed by a Second Exhibition in 1932. The two Jerusalem exhibitions were held during a critical political period, as several Arab countries were at the height of their struggle against British and French colonial rule. In Palestine the timing was all the more acute. Executed between the two major Palestinian revolts of 1929 and1936, the exhibitions were held at a time of direct and violent Arab confrontation with the Zionists and the British, but also at a formative moment when Palestinians were articulating their national identity and making real attempts to establish national institutions. The two Jerusalem exhibitions were events of profound importance for both Palestine and the Arab region. Drawing on historical Arabic newspapers, memoirs, and photographs, this article shows that the exhibitions were intended to demonstrate that Arab countries were witnessing remarkable innovations in the industrial and agricultural sectors despite, and not because of, European colonization. Further, the pan-Arab nature of the exhibitions facilitated an exceptional opportunity for the exchange of knowledge and expertise among the Arab countries in the face of their geopolitical division following the Great War.



Journal Title

Jerusalem Quarterly

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Institute for Palestine Studies

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