“Archiving the Nile: A Look and ‘Ear’ into Nubian Historiography of an Undammed River” – Lecture by Alia Mossallam

On August 26th to September 6th, 2019, the Transregional Academy “Fragment – Power – Public: Narrative, Authority and Circulation in Archival Work” took place in Beirut, Lebanon. The Academy was organized by the Forum Transregionale Studien in the framework of its research program Europe in the Middle East — The Middle East in Europe (EUME), the Max Weber Stiftung and the Department of Arabic and Near Eastern Languages of the American University of Beirut (AUB).

Alia Mossallam was part of the Academy’s Steering Committee and on September 3rd, 2019, she gave a lecture entitled “Archiving the Nile: A Look and ‘Ear’ into Nubian Historiography of an Undammed River”. The introduction to this lecture is presented by Leyla Dakhli (CNRS/Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin).

How do communities document their histories when they are drowned in the din of larger battles and Nationalist achievements? And what vocabulary can express geographies and waterways that are vanished or irreversibly changed? Nubian archives of the Nile before the construction of the Aswan High Dam document the flowing river before it became a lake, and life on the gushing unpredictable, untamable body of water before it disappeared. This talk explores samples of family archives and the narratives they produce, and finally asks how researchers accessing these archives can curate or re-narrate such historiographies that tell geography through cartography, sound and images of that which is no more.



Alia Mossallam is a EUME Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation from 2017 to 2020, and a Visiting Scholar at Humboldt University’s Lautarchiv, where she is working on a book on a popular history of the building of the Aswan High Dam. Alia is interested in songs that tell stories, and stories that tell of lesser known struggles behind better known events that mark World History. She has taught at the American University in Cairo, the Cairo Institute for Liberal Arts and SciencesFreie Universität Berlin and held the series of history workshops “Ihky ya Tarikh” with students, activists and artists in governorates all over Egypt as an experiment in history-telling.


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