Letter from the Editor

From personal mementos to institutional collections, the process of selecting is most important in deciding what is kept or what is overlooked. The archive defines history through the creation of collective memory. In this issue, Bidoun focuses on this theme to raise questions relating to identity and representation throughout the Middle East and beyond. One outstanding initiative featured is the Arab Image Foundation (FAI), who sends out members to collect photographic traces, often forgotten. Young men going to war, newlywed couples, women who wanted to be immortalized as beautiful — images of proud people who sought to fix themselves in history, but whose images have fallen by the wayside. The FAI dusts these photos off and reconnects the past and the present through their stories. And they do it themselves, at home. Now, these pieces from the past belong somewhere again.

This issue also marks the beginning of a three-part series that traces the historical development of written Arabic, from classical calligraphy to modern Arabic typography. The illustrated essay by Huda AbiFarès is a foundation for a wider discourse on scripture, the origins of the alphabet, and its forays into contemporary graphic design.

Exploring another aspect of archiving, Bidoun considers the widespread trend to reorganize Islamic Arts collections by major museums throughout the world. Will this renewed focus establish responsible and unbiased insight or will it be adding yet another layer of dubious history written by the Other?

This issue of Bidoun documents a marked shift in the history of history-writing — the initial stirrings of a paradigm shift.