I: Dissident Creativity under Presidents for Life

Chair: Walter Mignolo, Literature, Duke University

“Revolution and Disaster in Haiti: The Panopticon of Global Intervention Models”

Deborah Jenson, Professor of Romance Studies, Duke University

The Arab Spring uprisings obviously present complex parallels to many global and historical models of insurgency and revolution.  The Haitian Revolution, as an afro-diasporic  appropriation of  Euro-American “age of revolution” models for purposes of undoing Euro-American hegemony, is a resonant yet troubling comparison case. In this presentation I consider examples from the historical continuum of rhetoric portraying Haitian revolutions as disaster, and Haitian disasters as potentially revolutionary. In particular, I ask whether it is possible to have a non-“disastrous” revolution in the contemporary world of interventions by GO’s (governmental organizations), NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) and INGO’s (international non-governmental organizations). How does the humanitarian “panopticon” see revolution and disaster?

Deborah Jenson is Professor of French and Romance Studies at Duke University, Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and co-Director of the Haiti Lab. She has focused on the “French era” in the Dominican Republic (1804-1808), revolutionary texts by Haitian leaders, Latin American independence movements, cultural history of trauma in Haiti, and reconstruction ideologies. Her 2011 Beyond the Slave Narrative: Politics, Sex, and Manuscripts in the Haitian Revolution introduces Haitian literary legacies and Creole popular poetry related to the libertine milieu. She is editor of the 2005 “Haiti Issue” of Yale French Studies. She co-edited Unconscious Dominions (2012).


“Evasive Dissidence in Contemporary Iraqi Fiction Writing”

Zaid N. Mahir, Instructor of Arabic, University of Missouri-Columbia

Arguably, contemporary Iraqi fiction writing is stuck in its old dissident sensibilities; its hectic endeavor to depict recent history proceeds alongside the historic phenomenon of the Arab Spring, rather than problematizing it. As Iraqi fiction writers appear keen on benefiting from the relative freedom of speech following the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, their literary production does not seem to be engaged by the dramatic changes in the region. Their creative energy, which was once brimming with dissident sensibilities, is currently directed toward historical reality under deposed presidents-for-life. Ironically, eleven years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is in the grip of a Premiere-for-life whose totalitarian regime is suppressing dissident intellectuals. Iraqi writers seem to repeat older forms of evasive dissidence through experimentation, rather than investing in the transformation of a people in the historic moment of the Arab Spring.

Zaid N. Mahir, Arabic instructor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, taught English at the University of Baghdad (College of Languages). His literary translations have appeared in Iraq and other Arab countries. His MA (Iraq, 1993) compares pre-Islamic poetry and Old English poetry; his PhD (US, 2006) applies oral performance theory to the 1001 Nights. He is working on a comparative study of the contemporary American and Iraqi novel. He published his war memoir, The Way to Baghdad: Day 18 of the War, in 2011. Mahir’s research interests are cultural politics, modernity, and cross-cultural influences on literary texts.


“The Peaceful Syrian Revolution”

Malek Jandali, Composer/Pianist

He will discuss the situation for music musicians in Syria during the revolution, how the soft power of music/art has been a vital tool in revolutions, his experiences in being a musician in an oppressed country, and the obligation of artists in these situations to be the voice of the people.

Malek Jandali is an award-winning Syrian-American composer and pianist, Malek Handali, is recognized as a leading figure in today’s piano world. His outstanding recordings and extensive concert tours receive abundantly glowing praise.  His musical career as a concert pianist began in 1988 after winning the first prize at the National Young Artists’ competition followed by the 1997 “Outstanding Musical Performer Award” in the United States.

Malek currently resides in New York City and is a member of The Recording Academy and The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).  His music is published by Soul b Music and can be found on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon and at Virgin Megastores worldwide.


II: Performance

“Collective Performance” 

Hayv Kahraman, Iraqi Artist

My process begins by narrating personal memories that unarguably are specific yet could be part of a collective history. The self is used as a formal/lingual vehicle to communicate and share the life/lives of the other/s. I am concerned with the multitude not the self. This is not only my story. It can be the story of more than 5 million people within the Iraqi diaspora or any diaspora. I do not intend to generalize. It is merely a recreation of what I have experienced and what I see people around me experiencing.

With this collective lecture performance the emphasis isn’t put on the individual artist giving the lecture. That is a small ingredient of the work. The lecture is devised and structured based on the subtraction of the individual artist. It is meant to highlight the collective by using the collective to narrate a story that is concurrently specific and non specific. It is a story from another perspective. A perspective that perhaps was once foreign and distant or that one has heard many times on the radio or on TV but ultimately it is the perspective of millions of people around the world. It is a perspective of a woman who is an immigrant. Her process and approach to survival after war, coping with a foreign land and an abusive relationship. This is her story but it is also her and her and her and her story. It is the story told from the perimeter encompassing the core.

Hayv Kahraman was born in Baghdad, Iraq 1981. Recent solo exhibitions include “Let the guest be the Master,” Jack Shainman, “Extimacy,” The Third Line Gallery, Dubai; “Waraq,” Frey Norris, San Francisco; “Seven Gates,” Green Cardamom, London. Recent group exhibitions at Istanbul Modern; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; San Antonio Museum of Art; Cantor Art Center, Stanford; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Casa Arabe, Madrid ; Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, Princeton ; Kazerne Dossin Museum, Mechelen ; Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki, State Museum of Contemporary Art, Greece; Villa Empain Center for the Arts, Brussel; Taswir, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin Germany; Saatchi Gallery, London (2009).  Hayv was shortlisted for the 2011 Jameel Prize at the Victoria and Albert Museum.


III: Film


Halil Altindere, Turkish Artist/Filmmaker

Artist Halil Altındere will present his video “Wonderland” (February 2013, 8 minutes) made together with local Roma rap group Tahribad-ı Isyan from Sulukule (Roma region of Istanbul). Sulukule people are symbols of the sufferings recent urban transformation caused in Istanbul. Altındere will show related images and talk about his video “Wonderland” which was shot months before the Gezi Park resistance in Istanbul. He will address themes surrounding urban transformation, resistance strategies, creativity at Gezi Resistance touching on the differences from other alternative social movements.

Halil Altındere (born in 1971 in Mardin, lives in Istanbul) is a contemporary artist focusing on the resistance to repressive structures within official systems of representation, such as humorously manipulating state documents and official insignia such as flags, passports and banknotes. His later work explores the everyday life and the humorous codes of subcultures in Istanbul. He has particcipated in major international exhibitions including Documenta 12 (2007), Manifesta 4 (2002), Kwangju Biennial (2002), Sao Paulo Biennial (1998, 2014), Istanbul Biennial (1997, 2005, 2013). Altındere is also the publisher and editor-in-chief of art-ist Contemporary Art Magazine, Istanbul.


IV.  Art and Activism

Chair: Claudia Koonz, History, Duke University

“Theater Inside the Church: Dramatizing Identity for the Coptic Minority in Egypt”

Mohammed Albakry, Professor of English and Applied Linguistics, Middle Tennessee State University

Like their fellow protestors in the mass demonstrations of 2011, Egyptian theater artists were also active participants. Only days after Mubarak’s fall from power, artists began to develop theatrical works to question, criticize, and contemplate the shifting social, cultural, and political landscape in post-revolutionary Egypt. The Copts were part of this theatrical output even though most of the drama they produced remained hidden. In this presentation, I will document and analyze this overlooked cultural phenomenon within the larger sociopolitical context. The relative safety of church theaters, I argue, affords Coptic playwrights a discursive space where they can interrogate different forms of perceived subjection and re-enact their in-group solidarity and cultural distinctiveness. Theater provides Copts with the perfect stage where identity politics and such symbolic resources as language, history, and religion could be dramatized and reaffirmed.

Mohammed Albakry is an Egyptian-American academic and translator of contemporary Arabic literature. He is currently a professor of English and applied linguistics at Middle Tennessee State University and a Fellow at the University of Connecticut‘s Humanities Institute. He authored numerous peer-reviewed articles published in Journal of Language & Literature, Arab Studies Quarterly, English World-Wide, among others. His translations of Arabic fiction have appeared in various literary publications, and some of his translations of Egyptian drama have been performed in major U.S cities including New York, Boston, and Chicago. His project of translating post-revolutionary Egyptian drama has won a grant from the NEA.


“Gezi Resistance: 1968 or a whole new world?”

Süreyyya Evren, Turkish Writer/Activist

On 31 May, Turkey awoke to a huge revolutionary moment. Taksim Square and Gezi Park (in central Istanbul) were ‘captured’ on 1 June and remained government-free zones for two weeks. Gezi Resistance fits Emma Goldman’s description of a revolution that you can dance to. There was always someone dancing in Taksim and Gezi. The first completely grassroots Turkish social movement, it surprised everyone involved. We never saw ourselves like this: testing our limits from a small park, rioting without a plan, without a program, without a leader, and trying to create a new life. Without a single center, our anarchic encounters and flows of ideas played an important role for all participants in shaping a common politics. There is no single starting-point, no point of origin for the Gezi Resistance. It has no birth certificate, no figuration. It has no end. And that creates a very fruitful platform for all kinds of creativity. One question to ask would be: is Gezi Resistance a late Turkish 1968 or a whole new world?

Süreyyya Evren (born in Istanbul in 1972), is a writer working in Istanbul on literature, contemporary art and anarchism.  His literary works include several novels, short story collections, poems and critical essays published in Turkish. His writings have also been published in various languages including English, German, French, Czech, Serbian, Icelandic and Albanian. He earned his PhD at Loughborough University, UK, on the history and canon of anarchism. He edited Post-Anarchism: A Reader (together with Duane Rousselle, Pluto 2011). He has worked for several anarchist magazines, the latest being Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies. Evren wrote about Gezi Resistance during and after the events.


“Reclaiming Bahrain”

Amal Khalaf, Assistant Curator, Serpentine Gallery, London

Since 2011, there has been a monumental shift in the relationship to the streets and public spaces of Bahrain.  While violence ebbs and flows between protestors and security forces, the streets become the witnesses and the archives of a battle of ideas as graffiti is written and re-written on the walls across the island. Most visible is Lulu roundabout, the site of anti-government demonstrations between 14 Feb and 16 March 2011. When the state tore down the pearl shaped monument in an effort to erase both the space and symbol of the uprising, the image began to circulate virtually in an endless argument of representation and re-representation.  The battle for representation goes beyond walls and websites as is seen in the short-lived “Museum of Revolution” set up by opposition party Al Wefaq in October 2013.  Here the institution of the museum, exclusively reserved for dioramas of state sanctioned memory, is another structure that is reclaimed for dissent.

Amal Khalaf is a researcher, artist and Projects Curator for the Edgware Road Project at the Serpentine Galleries, London. With an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths, her research addresses urbanism, community, media activism and art through participatory projects, and media initiatives. She has worked with Al Riwaq Gallery, Bahrain, and participated in setting up an art space in an abandoned railway arch in East London.  Her writing appears in journals such as Ibraaz, ArteEast and Middle East Critique and are included in two 2014 publications: Uncommon Grounds: New Media and critical practice in North Africa and the Middle East and Moving Image and Everyday Life.


V. If I Can’t Dance, It’s Not My Revolution Roundtable

Chair: Ellen McLarney, Asian & Middle East Studies, Duke University

Sinan Goknur, Literature, Duke University

Karim Wissa, Literature, Duke University

Safa al-Saeedi, Asian & Middle East Studies, Duke University

Layla Quran, Global Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill

Courtney Murray, Asian & Middle East Studies, Duke University

Rosie Williams, Asian & Middle East Studies, Duke University


VI. Art, Revolutions, and the Ethics of Alternative Social Projects

Chair: Erdağ Göknar, Slavic & Eurasian Studies, Duke University

“Hybrid Regimes, Hybrid Social Movements, and Chaos: Post-Arab Spring Conditions,”

Abdelhay Moudden, Professor, Political Science, Mohamed V University in Rabat, Morocco   

This paper, written with Taieb Belghazi, will analyze the contrasting ways art constituted a site of struggle between the Hybrid MENA States and the dissident voices. While the state asserted itself through the deployment of art as a means to project power onto public space, its detractors staged mass demonstrations that transformed the public spaces into sites of popular power. We will elaborate on the ways art both informs, and is part of the current situation of hybridity of regimes and social movements. It will discuss the transformation of the Arab street from an “apathetic” and “irrational” space into a public sphere where debates and artistic expressions were staged early during the Arab Spring uprisings. We focus on state mobilization of mega artistic events like Mawazin in Morocco and on the stratagems deployed by its detractors to oppose it. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, how did dissident voices change from celebration to frustration or ihbat, a term widely used in current debates.

Dr. Abdelhay Moudden holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Michigan.  He teaches political science at the Mohamed V University in Rabat, Morocco; is the founder and Academic Advisor of the Center for Cross Cultural Learning (CCCL), Rabat Morocco; and co-founder of the Arabic electronic book review journal www.ribatalkoutoub.ma. Dr. Moudden published several articles on Moroccan politics, culture, modernity and transitional justice, as well as two novels.  Farewell in Tangiers won the Morocco book award in 2004.


“Scarabs, Buraqs and Wings: Egyptian Identity in the Street Art of the Revolution”

Basma Hamdy, Assistant Professor, Graphic Design Department, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar

In February 2012, 74 people were killed in the Port Said Massacre. Most of them were young fans attending a popular football match. In the days that followed, fury erupted in Tahrir Square and overflowed into Mohamed Mahmoud Street.  Security forces used tear gas, gunshots, and rubber bullets against protesters. It was a warzone, yet amidst the chaos two artists sharing one gas mask continued to paint a giant mural. Ammar Abubakr and Alaa Awad would go on to transform Mohamed Mahmoud Street–considered the aorta of Tahrir Square– into a memorial space. The murals they created exploded with powerful messages and borrowed from Ancient Egyptian, Islamic and Coptic references becoming an expression of the multi-faceted Egyptian identity. In the following two years, the walls of Mohamed Mahmoud Street continued to be painted and repainted creating works that echoed the revolution’s dreams and commemorated its martyrs.

Basma Hamdy is an Egyptian artist and designer researching and collecting street art of the Egyptian Revolution for the past three years. She earned her MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2003.  Her research interests include cultural preservation, Arabic Typography and Egyptian Pop Culture. Her work was recently featured in the Khatt Foundation “Arabic Type Design for Beginners”. She has been teaching Art & Design in the Middle East for over 9 years and is currently Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. Her book Walls of Freedom: Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution will be published this spring.


 “The Politics of Gender and Dignity in Post-Uprising Syrian Television Drama”

Rebecca Joubin, Professor of Arab Studies, Davidson College

Political opposition through the lens of gender is not new to Syrian drama, and today television drama continues along this critical trajectory. In 2011, the number of miniseries dropped to 23, amid increased violence, but rose to 26 in 2012. For the 2013 season, filming was confined to fairly calm areas such as Tartus and Sweida, and outside Syria, in particular, Lebanon, giving rise to the new phenomenon of the Syrian-Lebanese production. 34 miniseries were broadcast in 2013. These miniseries fall in several categories ranging from total detachment to complete immersion in the trauma of war. This paper examines several miniseries in the latter category: Samer Radwan’s Minbar al-Mawta (Platform of Death), Sukkar Wasat, Watan Haff, and al-Ha’irat. Each story offers a rare glimpse into the multifaceted ways in which intellectuals have employed the politics of gender and dignity to engage in artistic forms of protest.

Rebecca Joubin is Malcolm O. Partin Assistant Professor of Arab Studies at Davidson College. Her articles in Arabic and English have appeared in The International Journal of Middle East Studies, The Arab Studies Journal, The Middle East Report, al-Kifa al-Arabi, and al-Mada. Her most recent publications include The Politics of Love: Sexuality, Gender, and Marriage in Syrian Television Drama (2013), and the translation of Moniru Ravanipur’s novel Afsaneh (2013). She is currently researching the politics of paternity in Syrian television drama and gender dynamics and media in Iran.


VII.  Vision out of Chaos

Chair: Pedro Lasch, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Duke University

“A Tent for Henrik Ibsen: Working on Transition Culture in Libya”

Khaled Mattawa, English Language & Literature, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

I will speak about my work as a cultural activist in Libya, a calling that I have developed since the revolution. A poet, translator, and academic, I have developed a renewed sense of hope in the arts that the revolutions in North Africa have ignited, a hope that has in turn taken me toward the path of cultural management rather than practicing my own art per se, and from an artist expressing his own voice to an artist presenting what he considers essential works of art to a wounded and fractured nation.

Khaled Mattawa was born in Benghazi, Libya in 1964 and immigrated to the U.S. in his 1979. He is the author of four books of poetry, Tocqueville (2010), Amorisco (2008), Zodiac of Echoes (Ausable), and Ismailia Eclipse (1996). Mattawa has translated nine volumes of contemporary Arabic poetry, Selected Poems of Adonis (2010); Shepherd of Solitude by Amjad Nasser (2009); These Are Not Oranges, My Love by Iman Mersal (2008); A Red Cherry on A White-Tiled Floor by Maram Al-Massri (2004, 2007); Miracle Maker (2003)  and In Every Well A Joseph Is Weeping (1997) by Fadhil al-Azzawil; Without An Alphabet Without A Face by Saadi Youssef (2002); Questions and Their Retinue  by Hatif Janabi (1996). Mattawa also co-edited Dinazad’s Children: Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Fiction (2004, 2009) and Post Gibran: New Arab American Writing (1999). He has received a Guggenheim fellowship, an NEA translation grant, the Alfred Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, the PEN American Center Poetry Translation Prize, and three Pushcart Prizes. Mattawa is an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He served as the President of RAWI (Radius of Arab American Authors) from 2005-2010. In 2012, he and his wife, the artist Reem Gibriel, founded the Arete Foundation for Arts and Culture in Tripoli, Libya.


“On the Matter of Greece”

Stephanie Bailey, Managing Editor of Ibraaz, www.ibraaz.org

In this paper I propose a repositioning of Greece, a nation located on a geopolitical periphery. Currently embedded within the European Union’s sphere of influence, it remains within the remit of the “Global South.” I will read the visual cultures in development within Greece and other nations located within the Global South. I will draw out cultural and historical relationships that align Greece with countries like Turkey, Egypt or Lebanon. Finally, to explain the relevance of relocating Greece, I will consider how its political, economic and social situation ‘crisis’ connects to the other Middle East movements beginning in late 2010.

Stephanie Bailey is Managing Editor of Ibraaz. She has an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths College and a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design from Camberwell College of Art (London). Between 2006 and 2012, she lived in Athens, where she played a formative role in designing and managing the BTEC-accredited Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at Doukas Education. As art and culture editor of Insider Publications, she wrote on international art production. Currently on the editorial committee for Naked Punch and a correspondent for Ocula.com, she has published in ART PAPERS, ARTnews, Artforum, LEAP, Modern Painters, Notes on Metamodernism, Whitewall and Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art.


“Spaces for Time: Aesthetics, Politics, and Subjectivity in Lebanon”

Shea McManus, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Int’l Studies, North Carolina State University

How do construals of the past inform the present? How do experiences of the present shape perceptions of the past? What is the role of “art” in making the link between past and present? The question of how to make sense of the civil war is an issue of concern in Lebanon. Since the government chose to ‘close the files’ on the past, no official history of the conflict was written. A multi-billion-dollar re-development effort erased the physical traces of war from Beirut’s city center. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper examines two urban art interventions that articulate the past and the present as mutually constitutive. In her “Haven’t 15 Years of Hiding in the Toilets Been Enough?!” (2008), Nada Sehnaoui placed 600 toilets in downtown Beirut and invited the public to share their war memories. The second is the Feel Collective’s “In a Sea of Oblivion” (2010), a multi-media exhibit and performance that encouraged visitors to remember the war and commemorate the dead. These interventions engage questions about past and present and render sensible their mediation, work to constitute subjects that can articulate and perform this mediation, and give voice to new forms and visions of social and political life.

Shea McManus is an assistant professor of anthropology and international studies at North Carolina State University. Her current book project focuses on politics and aesthetics in the context of shifting articulations of local governance, artistic practices, and social activism in Lebanon. She received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the CUNY Graduate Center in 2012.