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.
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”.
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.”
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).
With their background in different disciplines – political science, Arabic Literature Studies, Anthropology, Sociology and Cultural Studies – the speakers offered a variety of perspectives on the questions raised by Tripp’s article. While Ines Braune and Felix Lang stressed the idea of power relations as inherent to processes of cultural production, Rachid Ouaissa asked how artistic products could be used in political analysis. Christoph Schwarz sketched an approach foregrounding the interactional aspects of the relation between artwork, art and audience while Jamal Bahmad showed how the Moroccan Kings’ portraits have been used subversively in Moroccan cinema. The ensuing discussion centred around problem of definitions of ‘art’, the ways artistic production could be delimited from activism and the autonomy of the artist and artistic discourse.
Felix Lang Studied Arabic and Social Anthropology at the University of St. Andrews from 2005 to 2009, before writing his M.A. dissertation on the impact the commodification of the music of the Sufi Gnaoua brotherhood has had on the soundscape of the Moroccan town of Essaouira. In 2014 he completed a PhD in Arabic Literature and Culture at the University of Marburg with a thesis entitled “Imperative to Remember? The Lebanese Literary Field and the Post-Civil War Novel”. He is now a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of Arabic Literature and Culture at the University of Marburg and coordinator of the “Figures of Thought | Turning Points” research group (DFG-Leibniz).
Meriem El Haitami has presented yesterday her research project entiteled “Islamist Feminism in Morocco: (Re)defining the Political Public Space” during the Summer Academy “Conflict and Mobility in the City” in Rabat.
Project description: The gradual but marked Islamization of the public sphere in Morocco since the 1980s has redefined the spatial dynamics of public activism. Women have played an important role in this process ; their activism was conducted in ways that are spatially private but significantly public in effect. Their success in shaping a public discourse on women’s political participation has expanded the range of opportunities for women’s activism.
In 2011, female Islamist activists have particularly gained legitimacy in the context of the Arab spring which has brought the conservative Justice and Development party into power. This has contributed to a shift from liberal elite state feminism to a more legitimate religious activism and has introduced new spaces for contention, such as the emerging nuanced female political and civic expression(s), as well as the prospects for Islamist and secular women’s movements to co-operate, negotiate and strategize, in order to ensure a democratic approach to gender issues. Therefore, this project explores how female Islamist activists are positioning themselves vis-à-vis discourses of liberal democracy and universal debates of gender justice.
This project positions itself in relation for recent scholarship that suggests, that Islamist or more accurately ‘post-Islamist’ movements (Asef Bayat, 2013) are not necessarily anti-democratic. Rather, such movements may figure as important forces toward a more democratic transition. This paper also addresses the redefinition of liberal feminism and Islamist feminism in the light of the transformations that political Islam is undergoing in Morocco and how this figures as an essential part of the contentious relationship between religion and the state and the regulation of the religious public space.
Meriem El Haitami is a doctoral student at the University of Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah in Fez, Morocco. She has been a Fulbright Scholar for the year 2012-2013 at SUNY Binghamton. Her PhD research addresses the dynamics of female religious authority and activism in contemporary Morocco. She has published articles on the role of the state-sponsored women religious guides (murshidat) and scholars (‘alimat) in shaping new forms of religious leadership and activism.
Omar Al-Ghazzi is presenting currently at the EUME Summer Academy his project about the communicative practices and tactics in Arab discourses during the uprisings which use the trope of ‘the historic’ for political positioning and mobilization.
Project Description: Through the methods of discourse analysis of Arab media and textual analysis of literature on collective memory, modernity, postcolonialism, and contentious politics, my dissertation explores the political significance of conceiving and contesting different meanings of history in Arab discourses. Against the backdrop of the uprisings, I interrogate episodes of contention about history among individual and collective political actors. I examine struggles over the meanings projected on symbols of past events, which are construed as originary moments for the temporal progression of imagined collectivities, and used discursively to influence political events, mobilize collective action, and express new collective identity projects. For the Summer Academy, I would like to focus on the case-study of Syria, particularly the use of flags, as temporal and spatial markers, in the Syrian uprising and the ongoing civil war in the country.
Omar Al-Ghazzi is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. His research interests include global communication, Arab journalism, and the intersection of politics and popular culture.
Omar holds a Master’s degree in International Communication from the American University in Washington DC and a BA in Communication Arts from the Lebanese American University in Beirut, Lebanon. Omar comes from a journalism and media analysis professional background and has previously worked for the BBC and Al-Hayat Arabic daily.
Koenraad Bogaert referes in an article from March 2014 to Henri Lefebvre’s concept of “the right to the city”. In his contribution he asks how we translate the revolutionary project of the right to the city into concrete action on the ground.
Koenraad Boegart is currently participating in the EUME Summer Academy “Conflict and Mobility in the City” and chaired a panel discussion about “From Carbon Democracy to the Right to the City”.
He is a post-doctoral researcher at the Middle East and North Africa Research Group (MENARG) at Ghent University (Belgium). He is doing research on urban neoliberalism in Morocco and tries to link the political and economic changes of the last thirty years in a country such as Morocco with social protest.
Koenraad Boegart’s project:
Urban Politics in Morocco: A Political Economy of Uneven Development
A Comparative Study on Egyptian Youth Groups by Dina El-Sharnouby
A revolution is more than an overturn of the existing legal and political system. With the Egyptian revolution important taboos and ways of thinking have been challenged and are in the process of being redefined. It is not the revolution that creates new ideas or ways of being per say but rather surfacing ideas and ways of communication while allowing for new spaces of interaction.
The Egyptian revolution in that respect has surfaced an existing youth culture that is affected by and is affecting youth politics. While an active youth political participation started before the revolution it was still dominated by the few and remained largely unchallenged. With the revolution youth became visible to Egypt’s process of transformation who have been celebrated as the “makers of the Egyptian revolution” by the public.
How has the presence of one of the world’s most contested and vital waterways in the backyard of three of Egypt’s cities influenced the productions of those cities’ publics and spaces? The three Suez Zone cities offer unique and extreme examples of spaces of struggle to investigate how urban publics resist urban futures determined by militarized states and global/Gulf capital. The Suez Canal is a vital strategic asset to Egypt and the country’s main source for constant flow of hard currency. The canal’s significance to global trade and economy has made it a particularly thorny asset to Egypt as it was of interest to global powers in the nineteenth century and a fundamental cornerstone in Britain’s colonization of Egypt. It was also at the center of a series of military battles between Egyptian, French, British and Israeli forces in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Today, the canal is a highly militarized waterway managed by the opaque Suez Canal Authority supervised by the military. The history of the canal and its relation to global economy directly impacts three cities, two of which were founded with the building of the Canal in the 1850s. Port Said in the north, Ismailia in the middle and Suez in the southern end of the canal are vital strategic points where the Suez Canal Authority maintains its offices and facilities. The history and the shape of those cities, particularly Port Said and Ismailia, have been directly linked to the colonial struggle to control the canal, the subsequent nationalization of the facility and the wars that followed as well as the political and economic policies of post-Camp David Egypt and subsequent neoliberal global economy. This project focuses on Suez Canal cities and the social movements within them to trace spatial practices, visual culture and public embodiments as ways to counter globalization, violence and political marginalization.
Aujourd’hui l’école d’été “Conflict and Mobility in the City: Urban Space, Youth and Social Transformation” commence à l’Ecole de Gouvernance et d’Economie de Rabat (EGE). Merci de vous renseigner sur notre programme public sous le point “schedule”. Le programme commencera demain, 26 Aout.
Today the EUME Summer Academy “Conflict and Mobility in the City: Urban Space, Youth and Social Transformation” starts at the Ecole de Gouvernance et d’Economie de Rabat (EGE). Please check our schedule for the public program which will start tomorrow, August 26.
What is the right to assembly? Is it a right conferred by a government to its people? Or is it a right independent of any and every government? Can the people defy a government that confers its right to assembly? And can a government attack the people for exercising the right to assembly that it is meant to protect? Judith Butler explores these fundamental political-philosophical questions in her lecture delivered this past September in Istanbul. Her remarks are set against the backdrop of the protests in Gezi Park and link together Hannah Arendt, Tahrir Square and Occupy Wall Street as sites crucial for thinking contemporary political formations. As we endeavor to explore the meaning of publics, space and protest, in our Summer Academy, Butler’s remarks furnish a framework and vocabulary for thinking about collectivities, dissent and political transformation.
“CONFLICT AND MOBILITY IN THE CITY: URBAN SPACE, YOUTH AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATIONS”
25 Aug—05 Sep 2014 at the École de Gouvernance et d’Économie (EGE) in Rabat
The uprisings in the Arab world both challenge traditional paradigms for understanding culture and politics and raise new sets of questions. While some urban spaces such as Tahrir Square, Taksim Gezi Park, and Pearl Roundabout have acquired almost global iconic status, how might we understand that it was self-immolation in a public space and graffiti on walls in provincial towns that marked the beginnings of the Tunisian and Syrian uprisings respectively? In what ways do cultural forms inflect the political imaginary in these contested urban spaces? Is it possible to trace echoes of this political vocabulary in novels, art, poetry, songs and films of the last decades? How might we understand public space not solely as stages of protest and politics, but also of everyday life? The city serves as a site of negotiation between cosmopolitan consumerism and local traditions, but what is its role as a site for experimental living and utopias? The city is an urban and social structure that facilitates the imagination and proliferation of citizenship and social mobility. Its gated communities, stalled avenues of mobility, the dreams and nightmares of migration are just as prevalent as alternative forms of solidarity and mechanisms of control and survival.