Summer Academy participant Koenraad Bogeart has published an article titled “Paradigms Lost inMorocco: How Urban-Mega Projects Should Disturb our Understanding of Arab Politics” at Jadaliyya.com. Bogeart describes in his article urban mega projects, such as Casablanca’s Marina.
He says: “Urban mega-projects such as Casablanca Marina are all about the promise of a better world. If the project manages to ‘bring in’ globalization then it will stimulate growth, generate employment, and bring about development. Of course, the urban developer’s story is not neutral or apolitical. It represents a particular kind of development, a particular kind of urbanism. The regeneration of Casablanca reflects a hegemonic project, one that very much resembles other urban projects around the globe and fits perfectly within neoliberal strategies of development.”
The uprisings in the Arab world have challenged traditional paradigms for understanding culture and politics in the region and have opened up new sets of questions in both spheres. The 2014 Summer Academy in Rabat on “Conflict and Mobility in the City: Urban Space, Youth, and Social Transformation” was part of an ongoing interest of the research program Europe in the Middle East – The Middle East in Europe (EUME) in Berlin and the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies (CNMS)in Marburg in investigating the interplay between culture and aesthetical practices, new social movements and revolutionary processes in the Middle East.
The 2014 Rabat Summer Academy had been a follow-up of the EUME 2012 Summer Academy at the American University in Cairo, and of a series of seminars and workshops dealing with the current transformative processes in the Middle East and their impact on the scholarship on the region. Under the title “Aesthetics and Politics” the 2012 Cairo Summer Academy addressed “Counter-Narratives, New Publics, and the Role of Dissent in the Arab World”. “Aesthetics and Politics” and “Culture and Politics” were also the themes of the regular EUME Berliner Seminar in the Winter Term 2012/13 and the Summer Term 2013. Seminar sessions included presentations by EUME fellows such as Tarek El-Ariss on “Fiction of Scandal: Literature, New Media and Revolutionary Politics in the Arab World” or round-tables on “Culture, Class, Youth, Performativity and the Transformation of the Public Sphere in the Arab World”, where a group of scholars from the CNMS in Marburg presented their work to colleagues in Berlin. Questions of the intellectual, the role of literature, and artistic production in the political process that had been addressed at the 2012 Cairo Summer Academy were further investigated in a joint EUME-CNMS workshop on “Commitment and Dissent in Arabic Literature since the 1950s” that took place on June 27-29, 2013 in Marburg. The proceedings of this workshop will be published in an edited volume under the same title by early 2015. Questions of conflict, violence and mobility in the cities around the Mediterranean are central questions of the regular “Urban Studies Seminar”, which is chaired by Nora Lafi and Ulrike Freitag (both Zentrum Moderner Orient) and organized in a cooperation between EUME and the ZMO.
The 2014 Academy in Rabat took up several threads and questions developed in these contexts and enlarged the focus on the city and urban studies, various forms of mobility and conflict, not only in the Middle East and North Africa but also in neighbouring regions or countries.
The EUME Summer Academy 2014 “Conflict and Mobility in the City: Urban Space, Youth and Social Transformations” took place at Ecole de Gouvernance et d’Economie (EGE) in Rabat, Morocco from 25 August through 5 September 2014. The Summer Academy was organized within the framework of “Europe in the Middle East – the Middle East in Europe” (EUME), a research program at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin. The Academy was organized in close cooperation with the research network” Re-Configurations. History, Remembrance and Transformation Processes in the Middle East and North Africa.” The aim was to explore current transformations in North Africa and the Middle East through interdisciplinary perspectives and research methods in the humanities, cultural studies and social sciences.
The article “Forat de la Vergonya” (Catalan for “The hole of Shame”) by Summer Academy participant Stefano Portelli at the blog The Cairo Observer describes the peaceful struggle of a neighbourhood in Barcelona between the Community and the City Council against gentrification. In the words of Portelli: “The ‘hole’ became an arena for urban struggle: the City Council wanted to turn it into a four-story subterranean parking lot, but the residents wanted to keep it public. The residents didn’t only ask for it, but actually built a public space, planted trees, sat around, organized parties and concerts in it. The square became alive.”
The EUME Summer Academy 2014 has ended on Friday, September 5 and everyone has left Rabat, hopefully taking feedback on their research, interesting suggestions, new ideas and fond memories of the time in Rabat with them. However, posts will keep coming in various forms (movies, articles etc.) from participants to share their impressions and their resumees of our Summer Academy.
As the participants are now part of the EUME community, we would love to hear from them about the Summer Academy and of course stay connected with them in the future.
While researching a topic, it is always helpful to get input from other scholars who will share their experiences, or view the research from a different angle because they come from a different field.
During the Summer Academy, intensive learning communities develop in which the participants mutually advance their respective research agendas through small groups conceived as “peer-coachings”. The EUME Summer Academy offers a platfrom to share one’s own research so it can expand in directions, one might not have anticipated. Discussions may have been lively but always friendly, interesting and inspiring as participants have described them.
Hannah Elansary, student in Georgetown University’s Arabic and Islamic Studies program, analyzed on Jadaliyya the role graffiti and street art played in the Egyptian uprisings and revolutions since 2011.
Read the complete text here: Revolutionary Street Art: Complicating the Discourse
An interesting topic, finds Jimena Ponce de Leon, participant of the Summer Academy as well. Her research is entitled “Youth and Street Art: Strategies Developed in a Changing City”.
During the EUME Summer Academy participants from several countries, studying and reasearching in different fields come together to discuss their current research projects.
It is already in the planning phase of the Summer Academy that the concrete research interests of the participants are integrated into the program by the Steering Group, for instance by using certain themes and texts proposed by them or in having them head individual sessions. Before the Summer Academy started in Rabat a reader with introductory texts was distributed to give everyone a basis for thematic discussions.
Najib Bounahaj, professor at the EGE Rabat, talked about performance and politics when he introduced the Panel Discussion on “Performance, Politics, Space in Youth Subcultures“, which took place on Wednesday September 3, 2014 at the EGE Rabat.
Performance is no longer an accessoiry of power in Morocco and the Arab world. Bounahaj relates that one cannot understand the history of the contemporary Arab World without considering the development of cinema, music and the arts that produce new politics. The revolution in Tunisia (and consequently in the whole Arab World) for example was started by an act of political performativity, the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in December 2010.
It seemed the Arab World was headed towards a greek tragedy, a performance with a quick end, however it is stuck in 1001 nights and currently in a liminal space.
Rachid Ouaissa, professeur à l’université de Marburg et participant de l’académie d’été “Conflict and Mobility in the City”, et Jörg Gertel, professeur à l’université de Leipzig, ont récemment édité le livre “Jugendbewegungen.Städtischer Widerstand und Umbrüche in der arabischen Welt” (Mouvements de Jeunesse. La résistance urbaine et les bouleversement au monde arabe).
Rachid Ouaissa, Professor am Centrum für Nah- und Mittelost-Studien der Philipps-Universität Marburg und Teilnehmer an der Sommer Akademie “Conflict and Mobility in the City”, und Jörg Gertel, Professor für Wirtschaft und Sozialgeographie an der Universität Leipzig , haben kürzlich den Band “Jugendbewegungen. Städtischer Widerstand und Umbrüche in der arabischen Welt” herausgegeben.
“Die arabischen Großstädte sind prominente Orte, an denen sich Widerstand und Protest gegen Ungerechtigkeit, Willkür, Armut und Ausgrenzung artikulieren und öffentlich sichtbar werden. Jugendliche, die Hauptinitiatoren des Arabischen Frühlings, stehen dabei im Mittelpunkt.
Der Band beleuchtet ihre alltäglichen Handlungsspielräume im Rahmen wirtschaftlicher Zwänge und staatlicher Kontrolle sowie ihre Rolle in politischen Ordnungen. Die Beiträge zeigen, wie Widerstand und neue Initiativen die aktuellen Gesellschaftsentwürfe verändern und wie neue Vorstellungen von Heimat verhandelt werden. Die intensiven Studien vor Ort bieten einen differenzierten Blick auf das breite Spektrum des Jugendlichseins in den Städten der arabischen Welt.”
As part of the public program of the EUME Summer Academy in Rabat, Mohammed Tozy (EGE) will deliver his lecture on “Casablanca: Une Métropole au Défi du Référentiel Ethnique” as the last public event of the Academy. It will take place today on
Wednesday September 3, 4:00pm-5:30pm at the L’Amphithéâtre at the EGE Rabat
Amir Moosavi is presenting his current work on “Reimagining a War: Negotiating Ideology and Disenchantment in Literary Narratives of the Iran-Iraq War” that looks at the literature produced by the Iran-Iraq War in Arabic and Persian prose-fiction. Moosavi compares war time literature and cultural policies of the Iraqi Ba’thist regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran during the 1980s and the ways that official government-sponsored narratives of the war used by both regimes affected cultural production at that time and in the postwar era.
Moosavi shows through close readings of literary texts also how writers in Iran and Iraq have attempted to subvert, through literature, authoritarian discourses that exploit religion and nationalism in both countries. The city and memory of the war have been and become the sites to challenge the ideologies of official literature and propaganda, turning war literature in the urban setting into a literature of mourning and trauma.
Amir Moosaviis currently completing his PhD in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. He holds an MA in Near Eastern Studies from NYU and a BA in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During the 2013-14 academic year he was visiting instructor of Arabic language and literature at Bard College and during the 2014-15 academic year he will be a fellow at the NYU Humanities Initiative.
Georges Khalil is the Academic Coordinator of the Forum Transregionale Studien Berlin and Scientific Coordinator of the research program Europe in the Middle East – the Middle East in Europe (EUME).
As a reading suggestion, we would like to pull your attention to Summer Academy participant Rachid Ouaissa‘s essay “Blocked Middle Classes as an Engine of Change in the Arab World?”, published in the book “Euro-Mediterranean Relations after the Arab Spring. Persistence in Times of Change” by editors Jakob Horst, Annette Jünemann and Delf Rothe (published by Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2013).
Ouaissa examines the uprisings of 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa and their reasons, paying special attention to a rising middle class. He comes to the conclusion that there have been episodes of riots and protests in the past, thus the riots of 2011 are not unique but happen through intervals of time and the incongruety of the Middle East’s economies with the global economy.