May 14-15-16, 2019
College Hall, B-1

Post-WWI treaties not only carved nation-states out of two great empires in Europe and the Middle East but also authorized these nascent states to displace and dispossess populations in the name of peace and order. These two regions have witnessed, over the course of a century, recurrent invocation of this prerogative by states, supplemented by the erratic movements of peoples that permeated the global history of human displacement and dispossession. The Syrian refugee crisis marks yet another tragic episode in this century-long history. Much like earlier protracted cases of massive displacement, it is beset with pain and suffering of women, men and children who experience an existential limbo with a destroyed past, no future and a precarious present. Their precarity lingers-on as the international public discourse continues to view them predominantly through the prism of securitization. Be that as it may, it is now widely acknowledged that both global and local refugee regimes have failed to effectively manage “the most dramatic humanitarian crisis,” galvanizing in turn the precarity of the displaced. The countries of the Middle East such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, which have received the lion’s share of the Syrian refugee population and already covered with refugees of diverse backgrounds, are now particularly strained by the cost of their engagement, while the impact of the influx on their societies and economies becomes increasingly more visible. European countries also experience an impact as the ultra-right wing political parties are on the rise. All those countries in the Middle East and Europe are locked in a search for a new set of institutions, policies and practices to facilitate the solution of the problem and minimize the negative externalities of the refugee phenomena upon their societies. Although several international organizations such as UNHCR, UNICEF and UNESCO implemented their normative agendas to assist the national regimes, the latter has been generally left to their own devices in their handling of the refugee matters. There is increasing realization that there is need for more cooperation and collaboration on international level and certainly a necessity to develop an interpretive framework for a holistic approach to human displacement and dispossession. The refugee pact recently adopted by the UN General Assembly and approved by 181 countries except for the United States and Hungary should be seen as an attempt at this direction. Whether it is possible to form a common vision on a global level and especially between the countries of the Middle East and Europe for the current and prospective challenges is the question that provides the leitmotiv of this conference project.
The Syrian refugee phenomenon provides a good opportunity to take stock of the history of human displacement and dispossession at local, national and international levels and put in dialogue multiple lanes of scholarship developed in Europe and the Middle East on the Syrian refugee case and other instances of massive displacements and dispossession in these regions. In pursuit of this goal, the conference is intended to provide a platform for a critical discussion of the workings of the global system while assessing the role of the national refugee regimes, instruments, policies and practices. The conference pays particular attention to the intellectual debates and discussions on the population transfers and refugee phenomena from the end of WWI to the present and aims to trail the evolution of national and international refugee systems over a full century. As it pursues those macro goals, the conference aims to bring to the fore individual, familial and collective experiences of persecution, internment and mass displacement in diverse contexts. One of the prime goals of the conference is to provide a setting for scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds to reflect on earlier experiences as well as on the most recent ones including but not limited to the Syrian refugee crisis. The practitioners from the field will enrich this dialogue through their personal observations and engagements. In brief, the conference seeks to lay the foundation for a more balanced regional and international discussion on human displacement and dispossession in the past century.

Listening from the Balcony: Affective Resonances of the Contemporary Time


When: April 18                                  Where: BLDG. 37, Conference Room

Writing from the Provinces​: Reconsidering Ottoman History and Historiography​

When: 25 – 26 March 2019                                  WhereCollege Hall, Auditorium B1

The study of Ottoman provinces has experienced a major upsurge over the past few decades. The declining grip of nationalist scholarships, the discovery of the new archival materials, the diversification of research topics and particularly the growth of interest in micro-historical research have combined to generate a new corpus of literature that offers a refreshing view of Ottoman history as it unfolded at provincial level. Although this new wave of scholarship has made the place of each province of the empire more visible on the map of the Ottoman Empire, it has not so far challenged the command of Istanbul and Anatolia over the main narrative of Ottoman history. This also means by implication that the ruling elite continues to occupy the central place in this dominant narrative. Thus, the majority of the general histories of the Ottoman Empire, intended for textbook purposes or public audience, operates through the prevalent periodization and narration of historical change circumscribed by the ebb and flow of political authority centered in Istanbul and its immediate vicinity, namely, Anatolia. This tendency also manifests itself clearly in the bulk of scholarship that has focused on events and themes that are more specific. Although the recent research has highlighted the enormous role of social and economic developments, originating mainly in the remote provinces, in the transformation of the Ottoman Empire, the integration of the new findings and arguments into the mainstream narrative has taken place primarily according to the terms of the scholarship advocating the political-centric conceptualization of Ottoman imperial history. Thus, the tone of relationship between the central and the provincial elites continues to be viewed as the pulse of the Ottoman imperial power while scholars continue to navigate between the negotiating skills of the latter and the pragmatic moves of the former. The emerging histories of the urban and rural communities in the provinces have shown that there is life beyond the gates of elite households and more to the history of provinces than the constant maneuverings of those elites. In fact, the answer to the very question of how the provincial power-brokers accrued so much fiscal, administrative and, in some instances, diplomatic leverage lies as much in the life stories of provincial communities as in the vices and virtues of the individual brokers. Thus, this workshop is based on the premise that the erosion or consolidation of the Sultan's authority in the provinces must be understood through the provinces' changing socio-economic conditions. Against the background, the workshop has the twofold purpose of, firstly, taking stock of the scholarly research on Ottoman provinces and, then, bringing together the histories of provincial communities from different parts of the Empire.

​Connecting Reson​ances I: Beirut Sound, listening and sonic practices across sites, borders and cultures​​


When: 20 – 27 February 2019                                  WhereBuilding 37, AUB

Workshop and Seminar at the American University of Beirut, in collaboration with the Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design at the University of Bergen (Bergen Academy of Art and Design), Norway; Tuned City, Berlin; Neighborhood Initiatives (AUB); and The Center for Arts and Humanities (CAH).  

 Workshop: 20 – 27 February 2019, The Center for Arts and Humanities, American University of Beirut.

 Site-specific interventions: TBA, AUB; Barzakh, Hamra; Oscar Niemeyer Dome, Tripoli; and elsewhere

Agora and Seminar with presentations and live performances: 26 February, Auditorium A (AUB), and Zoukak Studio, in collaboration with Irtijal | International Festival of Experimental Music in Lebanon

With Prof. Brandon LaBelle and the students of Bergen Academy of Art and Design; and

Dr. Budhaditya Chattopadhyay (CAH) and students of American University of Beirut

Joined by Stuart Hyatt, Nadim Mishlawi, Carsten Stabenow, Matteo Marangoni and others

Seminar is open to public. To register for the workshop please send an email to mail@budhaditya.org

The Druze: Celebrating a Thousand Years of Diversity

When:  October 30th and 31st, 2018 - All Day          Where:  College Hall, Auditorium B1 AUB

The Center of Arts and Humanities at the American University of Beirut is organizing an international conference which will bring together leading researchers who have contributed to the field of Middle Eastern Studies with particular reference to the Druze. The conference will focus on the political, social and cultural evolution and/ or political role of the Druze over the past millennium. This two-day conference which will be held at the American University of Beirut in October 30 & 31 2018 will also feature a number of activities covering art, food and culture allowing the public to become more familiar with these socio-cultural tools which help the Druze community to maintain a distinct identity while simultaneously being part and parcel of their societies..

While this conference essentially focuses on the Druze, it will certainly incorporate the stories of many of the groups which inhabited the same regions and which through conflict and often accommodation and cooperation came to define the rich history of the Druze and of the region as a whole.


Affective Atmospheres: Site-specific sound, neighborhood music and the social formation

When:  November 29th and 30th, 2018 - All Day                Where:  Building 37, AUB

The seminar invites scholarly and artistic contributions that make thought-provoking connections between sound and the society. The aim is to consider the idea of social formation that comprises an ever-evolving atmosphere of a place. Sonic atmosphere (aka ambience or ambient sound) indicates the essential background sounds, which are present in a site, place, area or location. It is therefore crucial to understand how the emergent and contingent sonic atmosphere of a site is constituted with multiple influences, including but not limited to neighboring and socially diffused music and site-specific sounds that are part of the everyday ambience, which is historically transformative. Likewise, social music (LaBelle 2001), as well as sounds and music diffused in urban or rural environments (e.g. Azaan) generate site-specific associations such as ones emanating from and reflected within a specific street, area or a room. These elements are necessary for critical listening and investigation not only to understand the atmospheric elements they may suggest, but also to speculate their historical constituents, as well as their contribution to or influences from the processes of social formation. Often such an inclusive idea of atmosphere proliferates a sense of plurality and multiplicity embedded in the public and social life of a site engaging the sociality in a more effective means. In this seminar, the various everyday iterations and social aspects of site-specific music and sound will be examined to locate how they engage with the contingent collectivity and fluid historicity of the site within a spirit of inclusion, contributing to the studies of sound, ambiances and social life.

Keynote Speakers:

Professor Marcel Cobussen, ACPA, Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University

​Professor Cathy Lane, CRiSAP, University of the Arts, London

Professor David Toop, CRiSAP, University of the Arts, London

Ashish Avikunthak, Harrington School of Communication, University of Rhode Island

Open call for scholarly and artistic contributions 

Affective Atmospheres_Programme.pdf


Live Sound and Music Performance

When:  November 29th and 30th, 2018 - 20:30                                  Where:  Beirut Art Center

This live performance is in collaboratio with The Irtijal festival, Lebanon.

Potential performances by:
Cathy Lane, CRiSAP, University of the Arts, London
Budhaditya Chattopadhyay, Center for Arts and Humanities, American University of Beirut
Jad Saliba, Sonology, The Royal Conservatory, The Hague
Lasse-Marc Riek, Gruenrekorder, Frankfurt am Main
Maria Papadomanolaki, University of Brighton
William Joshua Hudelson , FAAS (Music), American University of Beirut.
David Toop, CRiSAP, University of the Arts, London



Office Hours / Drop In:

Meet Zena for a chat about art, activism, the A to Z of being a career artist,
production tips, community engagement, healing modalities and more.

October 1 - 12; daily 2-4 pm
October 22-26; daily 2-4 pm
November 12-16; daily 2-4 pm
December 3-7; daily 2-4 pm
Location: CAH (Bldg. 37 4th floor room 402)

Public Lecture:
November 12 @ 2pm; “Can Art Change the World?”
Location: CAH (Bdg. 37 3rd floor- conference room)

Collective Pubic Art work:
“Define Peace: The Word in Art.” What is the future we wish to step in to?
Join for color based meditation, learn about the power of thought and
collectively crowd source peace.
Available during office hours. Location: CAH Building and (Observatory square)

Panel Discussion: The Druze. Celebrating 1,000 Years of Diversity
October 31 @ 4pm in College Hall B1