Discussing in Thematic Sessions
By Anne-Linda Amira Augustin
Besides having the great chance to present individual research projects in smaller workshop formats, the participants of the Summer Academy Tunis met every day in thematic sessions to debate various topics related to research in the MENA region, covering both, theoretical concepts and methodologies of different disciplines.
In each time slot, the participants could choose from two sessions to take part in. Thus Anahi Alviso-Marino, post-doctoral associated researcher at CESSP/CRAPUL, prepared a session on methodologies in the study of unidentified political objects. She inspired the group to rethink their own research projects in relation to objects such as cultural practices, their products and their effects that are not usually taken into consideration by political science.
Michael Allan, assistant professor from the University of Oregon, focused on the work of the contemporary Palestinian video artist Larissa Sansour in the session “Envisioning Futures Past: Contemporary Arab Video Art”. The discussion aimed at developing an understanding of politically engaged art, as well as discussing the potentials and limits of looking at art through the analytical lens of area studies.
Laura Galian, PhD candidate at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and Naomi Ramirez, postdoctoral fellow at the same university motivated discussions on ethics and risks of doing research in the Middle East and North Africa. Participants exchanged personal fieldwork experiences and discussed methodologies that they had to use in difficult fieldwork situations.
Rüstem Ertuğ Altınay, postdoctoral candidate at New York University, discussed “Gender, Performance and Borders in the Middle East”. The group explored the role of everyday and artistic performances in the processes through which both spatial and cultural borders are (re)produced and challenged in the region and its Diasporas. Furthermore, the team thought about how the researcher’s senses of temporality and belonging are negotiated in ways that are gendered and sexualized, while examining how the MENA region has been imagined and constructed by different actors.
Perrine Lachenal and Christoph Schwarz, two postdoctoral fellows at the research network “Re-Configurations” at the Philipps-University Marburg, discussed the concept of “Moral Economy”, debating the analytical range of the concept and connecting it to the summer academy’s overarching theme of the re-configuration of the ‘(non)political’.
Chiara Loschi, PhD candidate from the University of Turin, asked in her thematic session “Where Have All the Salafists Gone?” and intended to reorganize theoretical debates about the non-institutionalized Islamic movement that emerged in the Tunisian transition period and partially disappeared from the political scene. Particular attention was paid towards non-institutionalized forms of mobilizations and the definition of identities of the groups in the changing political context.
Helena Nassif, also postdoctoral fellow from Marburg’s Re-Configurations, inspirited the group to reflect on personal moral underpinnings and the political positionality as researchers. The attendants reflected on three aspects: the interest behind their research topics, the values as well as the affects and emotions that are related to their research.
In the same time, Valentina Marcella, postdoctoral candidate at Kadir Has University Istanbul, reflected with the team on the relationship between art and politics in contexts of political crisis and framed “Creativity Under Protest”. She invited the female rapper Medusa as well as Zied, the founding member of Ahl Alkahf, the first street art movement in Tunisia, to give more insights about their work.
Christian Junge, postdoctoral candidate at the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Marburg, gave new theoretical perspectives on the body, affects and emotions. The workshop group discussed the dimension of ‘feeling’ in understanding the ‘political’, bringing together different theoretical perspectives on ‘feeling’ in social and literary studies. The participants discussed the relevance of feeling for their research projects.
Felix Lang, also postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies of Marburg spoke about “Digital Humanities and Methods of Quantitative Textual Analysis” of Arabic texts. The session addressed the question of how social scientist and/or literary scholars can make use of the fact that computers can find and count words across a greater body of texts than researchers will ever be able to read.