Dr Ghalya Saadawi

Staff details

Position Senior Lecturer in Research Architecture, 2019-21
Department Visual Cultures
Email G.Saadawi (@gold.ac.uk)
Dr Ghalya Saadawi

Ghalya Saadawi is a senior lecturer with an interest in critical theory, contemporary art and its political economy; critical human rights; witnessing and testimony, among other areas. Well before embarking on the PhD, Saadawi received an MSc. From the London School of Economics and Political Science and worked as a freelance researcher and consultant for various NGO and organizations in Lebanon between 2001-2006, including the Lebanese Centre for Policy Studies, the regional office for Arab States of the UNDP, the then sustainable democracy centre, among others.

Ghalya earned a PhD from Goldsmiths in 2015 in sociology, working primarily on art. Her doctoral dissertation underscored the art practices and theoretical considerations that informed a rethinking of witnessing after the declared end of the Lebanese civil wars.

Against the backdrop of the Cold War and neoliberalism, and an overriding tendency to read the post-war as memory effacing, the thesis read select art and documentary practices through the political, economic and historical entanglements of the mid-to-late 20th century, paying attention to formal tactics through the lens of an extended political modernism.

Between 2011-2019 she was adjunct lecturer at the fine art and art history department of the American University of Beirut, and the University of St. Joseph and the Balamand University’s art programmes in Beirut, offering courses on Lebanese art and politics, and 20th and 21st century art theory with an emphasis on social art history, critical theory and post-Marxist theory.

Saadawi was Resident Professor of the Ashkal Alwan Home Workspace Program in Beirut between 2015 and 2017, where she organized a programme around art, finance and the future. In 2018, she was Mercator Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Cultures of Critique Research Training Group at Leuphana University and began as theory tutor at the Dutch Art Institute. She is affiliated with makhzin magazine and BICAR, Beirut.

She has written for art magazines such as Bidoun, frieze, Art in America, e-flux, and others, as well as periodicals such as Third Text, Art Margins, PhiloSOPHIA (forthcoming) and Journal of Visual Cultures (forthcoming).

Now disinterested in mainstream contemporary art ‘criticism’, and making time under zero hour contract conditions and a considerable teaching load, she is at work writing: a speculate left art protocol that considers the repurposing of contemporary art infrastructures and flows (coming out in Between the Material and the Possible: Infrastructural Re-examination and Speculation in Art edited by Bassam Baroni); an auto-theory manuscript on the dialectics of hypochondria; a short story-essay that considers ‘capital as a state of mind’ as not only the unconscious informed by capital abstractions, but also, broadly speaking, the homologies that exist between structures and categories of capital and those of personal relations; among other projects.


  • Conflicts and Negotiations (MA Research Architecture)
  • BA Fine Art and History of Art (3rd-year special topics in Research Architecture)
  • Critical Methods Workshop (PhD Roundtable)

Select recent panels

Panel “What Representations?" with Marwa Arasanios, Tony Chakar, Hicham Ashkar and Hanan Toukan. Witte de With Contemporary Art Museum, Rotterdam, Holland, May 26, 2016.

“To Make Mountains Out of Fields: One Rewriting of 'Beirut's Postwar Contemporary Art'", talk at the Beirut Art Center (BAC), Beirut, March 1, 2017.

“Beirut: Art, Education, Institutions, Politics", panel organizer and speaker, School of Visual Arts (SVA), New York City, March 16, 2017.

“Borrowing Enjoyment", paper presented as part of the Dutch Art Institute's Roaming Academy, October 22, 2017.

“The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: Salon, Anti-Salon, Contemporary Art", paper presented as part of Contextualizing the Art Salon in the Arab Region Conference, Sursock Museum and Orient Institute Beirut, October 27-28, 2017.

“The Witness, Art and Social Reproduction", paper presented as part of The Afterlives of Witnessing: Moving Images from the Levant and the Political Imagination Symposium, Brown University, Providence Rhode Island, November 4, 2017.


Research Interests

Research, teaching and/or supervision: critical theory; critical human rights; theories of witnessing and testimony; the body, health and illness; the intersections of art and politics; Marxist and post-Marxist art history and theory; contemporary art and cultural politics; Lebanese art and film; among others.