Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency, and Cultural Production

Authors: Estefan, Kareem, Kuoni, Carin, Raicovich, Laura

Publication Date:




Original language and publisher

English (USA) | OR Books

Territories Handled

France, Netherlands, Scandinavia



Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency, and Cultural Production

Authors: Estefan, Kareem, Kuoni, Carin, Raicovich, Laura

  • 2 Seas Represents: Dutch, French, and Nordic rights.


“Artistic resistance has seldom proven so socially useful, or as complicated. This intellectually engaging study targets the paradoxes, limitations, and media spectacle of organized cultural boycotts and state-sponsored censorship from South African apartheid in the 1980s, to present day Israel, Palestine, Cuba, the Gulf States, UK, and USA among other geopolitical zones of conflict.” —Gregory Sholette, artist and author of Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism

“Boycotts in art make institutions and the art world more sensitive, more vulnerable and more apt to change. And institutions should not suppress them but perhaps consider the claims. Assuming Boycott makes an excellent case for such nuanced engagement.” —Joanna Warsza, curator and editor, I Can’t Work Like This: A Reader on Recent Boycotts and Contemporary Art

“Assuming Boycott defiantly holds the best arguments regarding boycott. It shows that boycott is not only sanctions but also an invitation for a dialogue. The collection of essays presents to the reader a historical perspective with comparative case studies, making it the ultimate apparatus to help make up one’s mind about where to draw the ethical line.” —Galit Eilat, writer and curator, co-curator of 31st São Paulo Biennial

“Assuming Boycott is an essential contribution about how artists, writers, and thinkers have time and again created subtle, meaningful, powerful and vibrant ways to engage the political sphere with their works. This book is a valuable guide to cultural boycotts from South Africa to Palestine.” —Walid Raad, artist, professor, Cooper Union

Boycott and divestment are essential tools for activists around the globe. Today’s organizers target museums, universities, corporations, and governments to curtail unethical sources of profit, discriminatory practices, or human rights violations. They leverage cultural production – and challenge its institutional supports – helping transform situations in the name of social justice.

The refusal to participate in an oppressive system has long been one of the most powerful weapons in the organizer’s arsenal. Since the days of the 19th century Irish land wars, when Irish tenant farmers defied the actions of Captain Charles Boycott and English landlords, “boycott” has been a method that’s shown its effectiveness time and again. In the 20th century, it notably played central roles in the liberation of India and South Africa and the struggle for civil rights in the U.S.: the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott is generally seen as a turning point in the movement against segregation.

Assuming Boycott is the essential reader for today’s creative leaders and cultural practitioners, including original contributions by artists, scholars, activists, critics, curators and writers who examine the historical precedent of South Africa; the current cultural boycott of Israel; freedom of speech and self-censorship; and long-distance activism. Far from withdrawal or cynicism, boycott emerges as a productive tool of creative and productive engagement.

Including essays by Nasser Abourahme, Ariella Azoulay, Tania Bruguera, Noura Erakat, Kareem Estefan, Mariam Ghani with Haig Aivazian, Nathan Gray and Ahmet Öğüt, Chelsea Haines, Sean Jacobs, Yazan Khalili, Carin Kuoni and Laura Raicovich, Svetlana Mintcheva, Naeem Mohaiemen, Hlonipha Mokoena, John Peffer, Joshua Simon, Ann Laura Stoler, Radhika Subramaniam, Eyal Weizman and Kareem Estefan, and Frank B. Wilderson III.


Kareem Estefan is an art critic, writer, editor, and doctoral candidate in Brown University’s Modern Culture and Media department, where he researches contemporary visual culture and the intersections of art, media, and politics, with a focus on the Middle East. His writing on contemporary art and cultural activism has appeared in Art in America, Art-Agenda, BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail, Frieze, Ibraaz, and The New Inquiry, among other places. From 2012–2015, Estefan was Associate Editor of Creative Time Reports, an online magazine of the New York-based public art nonprofit Creative Time, where he worked closely with artists such as James Bridle, Mel Chin, Molly Crabapple, Mariam Ghani, Emily Jacir, Naeem Mohaiemen, and Ahmet Öğüt on texts that addressed pressing political issues.

Carin Kuoni is a curator and editor whose work examines how contemporary artistic practices reflect and inform social, political and cultural conditions. She is Director/Curator of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School and teaches there. A founding member of the artists’ collective REPOhistory, Kuoni has curated and co-curated numerous transdisciplinary exhibitions, and edited and co-edited several books, among them Energy Plan for the Western Man: Joseph Beuys in America; Words of Wisdom: A Curator’s Vademecum; Speculation, Now; and Entry Points: The Vera List Center Field Guide on Art and Social Justice. She is the recipient of a 2014 Andy Warhol Foundation Curatorial Fellowship, directed “SITAC XII: Arte, justamente” in Mexico City in 2015, and is a Travel Companion for the 57th Carnegie International in 2018.

Laura Raicovich is President and Executive Director of The Queens Museum of the City of New York. A champion of socially engaged art practices that address the most pressing social, political, and ecological issues of our times, she has defined her career with artist-driven projects and programs. Recent projects at the Queens Museum include “Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art”; “William Gropper: Bearing Witness”; “Mickalene Thomas: Untitled”; “Mariam Ghani: Garden of Forked Tongues”; “Duke Riley: That’s What She Said”; “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk,” as well as a series of programs designed with Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly Shapiro to launch their “Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas.” She lectures internationally, has contributed regularly to The Brooklyn Rail, and is the author of A Diary of Mysterious Difficulties and At the Lightning Field.