Middle East Studies

Symposium | "Afterlives of Witnessing: Moving Images from the Levant and the Political Imagination"

event poster

Saturday, November 4, 2017

9:15am – 4:30pm

Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute

Registration is required

Organized by Hanan Toukan, Adrienne Minassian Visiting Assistant Professor in the History of Art and Architecture and Middle East Studies, and Kareem Estefan, PhD student in Modern Culture and Media.

For funding partners, view list below.

The act of bearing witness, associated with the visual documentation of state violence and cultural practices of “speaking truth to power,” is central to international human rights discourse after World War II. But it has come under increasing scrutiny from artists, writers, and scholars working on and amid the political conflicts of the Levant region, who have questioned the impact that images of suffering have on global publics and critiqued the exceptionalization of the figure of the "witness" as a neutral, truth-telling individual. This symposium will examine the uneven, retrospective, and intergenerational temporalities of witnessing, the archival constructions and mediations involved in representing what are often traumatic moments of violence and rupture, and the ways in which artists filter these personal and collective histories through processes of fabulation and speculation. It does so in the context of urgent political events in Syria, Palestine-Israel, and the broader region, which demand witnesses, but perhaps even more so, new methods of representation, mediation, distribution, and translation that can extend and deepen the meaning and impact of bearing witness. 

The symposium will be preceded by a program of contemporary film/video works from the Levant to be screened at ListArt120 on November 3, 5:00 p.m., the evening before the main event.

Arts & Social Change
Workshops, Conferences, Seminars

Conference Schedule:

Friday, November 3, 2017:

5:00 p.m. Film/video program
Q&A with artists Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou Rahme

Saturday, November 4, 2017:

This symposium will consist of three panels, each featuring four speakers giving 20-minute presentations.

9:00 a.m.Registration, welcome, and introduction 
9:30 a.m. Panel 1: Archival Afterlives

Ghalya Saadawi, Independent Scholar, Beirut | “The Witness, Art, and Social Reproduction” 

Gil Hochberg, Hebrew and Comparative Literature and Middle East Studies, Columbia University | “Filming Sound Memory: Between Past and Present, Failure and Hope”

Stephen Sheehi, Middle East Studies, The College of William and Mary | “Decolonizing Camera Palaestina: Wasif Jawharriyeh and the Surviving Image”

Lamia Joreige, Artist and co-founder of the Beirut Art Center, Beirut | “Records for Uncertain Times”

Moderator: Ariella Azoulay, Modern Culture and Media and Comparative Literature, Brown University  

11:15 a.m. Coffee break 

11:30 a.m. Panel 2: Speculative Images, Potential Histories 

Chad Elias, Art History, Dartmouth University |  “Images of Futures Past: The Lebanese Rocket Society”

Laura U. Marks,  School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University | “The Feelings of Fabulation”

Nadia Yaqub, English and Comparative Literature, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill | “The Afterlives of Revolutionary Images”

Kamran Rastegar, Arabic and Comparative Literature, Tufts University

Moderator: Kareem Estefan, PhD Candidate, Modern Culture and Media, Brown University

1:15 p.m. Lunch for invited participants

2:30 p.m. Panel 3: Traveling Images 

Kay Dickinson, Film Studies, Concordia University |  “Funding the ‘Creative Documentary’: An Art Cinema of Refugees”

Nat Muller, Independent curator and critic, Amsterdam | “Time Machines: Sci-Fi as a Time Travel Tactic”

Helga Tawil-Souri, Media, Culture, and Communication and Near Eastern Studies, New York University | “Palestinian Territory and Cinematic Space”

Stefan Tarnowski, Anthropology, Columbia University |  “Political Economies of Images from Syria”

Moderator: Hanan Toukan, Middle East Studies and Visual Arts, Brown University

4:15 p.m.   Closing Discussion

Visiting Speakers: 
Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou Rahme
Kay Dickinson 
Chad Elias 
Gil Hochberg 
Lamia Joreige 
Laura U. Marks 
Nat Muller 
Kamran Rastegar 
Ghalya Saadawi 
Stephen Sheehi 
Stefan Tarnowski
Helga Tawil-Souri
Nadia Yaqub

Speakers from Brown University: 
Ariella Azoulay 
Beshara Doumani 
Kareem Estefan 
Hanan Toukan

Organized by Middle East Studies with generous funding through the Adrienne Minassian gift in honor of Dr. Marilyn Jenkins-Medina '62

Cosponsored by:
The Cogut Institute for the Humanities
The Pembroke Center
The Department of History of Art and Architecture
The Department of Comparative Literature
The History Department
The French Department
The English Department
The Photographic Archives Research Group
The Department of Modern Culture and Media
The Malcolm S. Forbes Center for Culture and Media Studies