Impressions of the first week of the Transregional Academy “Fragment – Power – Public: Narrative, Authority and Circulation in Archival Work”

The first week of the Transregional Academy “Fragment – Power – Public: Narrative, Authority and Circulation in Archival Work” has passed with inspiring presentations and discussions on archives, film screenings, a walking tour through the Jafet Library, exhibition visits at the Beirut Art Center and Orient-Institut Beirut, a lecture performance and panel discussion with scholars and artists. The Academy takes place from August 26th to September 6th at the American University of Beirut (AUB).

In addition to the project presentations, thematic discussions and film screenings prepared and organized by the participants and extending into evening discussions in Beirut’s bars and restaurants, Rana Issa, Assistant Professor in the Department of English at AUB, introduced the participants on the second day of the Academy to the holdings of the AUB’s Jafet Library known for its huge collection of Nahda materials. She hinted at unexplored sources in the archive awaiting excavation and their potential in shaping new views on certain aspects of history writing.

In the evening, the group visited Ala Younis’ (artist and member of the steering group) and Maha Maamoun’s (video artist) exhibition “How to Reappear: Through the Quivering Leaves of Independent Publishing” at the Beirut Art Center. This exhibition on independent publishing initiatives questions the access and right to publish and thus, the archive of what is published from the “margins”.   

On Thursday evening, the group was invited by the Orient-Institut Beirut for the exhibition opening of “Contested Landscapes, Emergent Archives” curated by Liliana Gómez, director of the research project “Contested Amnesia and Dissonant Narratives in the Global South: Post-Conflict in Literature, Art, and Emergent Archives” in collaboration with Iris Fraueneder (both University of Zürich). The opening was followed by Gómez’ lecture on “Critical Ecologies: Aesthetic Practices and the Archive” and a reception in the garden of the institute. Both the exhibition and the lecture addressed landscape as archive and memory repository of environmental and political violence, as well as of economic history.

The program of the first week concluded with Ala Younis’ lecture performance “High Dam, 2016 – ongoing” and a panel discussion on “Arts, Humanities and the Archive” with independent researcher and writer Kristine Khouri (Arab Image Foundation), historian Pascale Ghazaleh (American University in Cairo / EUME Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 2017-19), anthropologist Lamia Moghnie (EUME Fellow of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation 2019-20) and artist Ala Younis and chaired by Rasha Chatta (EUME Fellow 2017-20). It addressed some of the most vibrantly discussed questions raised during the first days of the Academy, especially what we consider an archive, what the limits of archives and archiving, but also of accessibility of the archive(s) are, and what the multiple ways of approaching archives are. These questions will be delved into more deeply in the second week of the Academy to which we are looking forward now. Keep on following the blog to discover more.

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