The Prison Narratives of Assad’s Syria: Voices, Texts, Publics (SYRASP)
Bridging the disciplines of literary studies and cultural anthropology, SYRASP researches contemporary narratives, images, social media, songs, and other cultural practices related to incarceration and forced disappearance in Syria under the Assad regime (1970-present). SYRASP builds on the extensive literary canon of Syrian prison narratives and their associated scholarship to reflect, in evolving collaborations with Syrian cultural producers, artists, and researchers, on the cultural, political, and ethical valences of creating, documenting, and archiving prison narratives today. With over 130,000 disappeared since the beginning of the revolution in 2011, Syrian cultural producers in exile engage prison and forced disappearance to make demands for accountability and against normalization with the Assad regime; to invoke memories of individual and collective survival under duress; and to form new communities in the present. Together, these practices gesture to more just futures for Syrians. They also form innovative new bonds of solidarity across national identities, connecting Syrian memories and contemporary politics into the diverse cultural spaces across the globe where Syrians live and act.
SYRASP’s core methods incorporate dialogue with stakeholders in the Syrian cultural field and reflexivity on the position of academic research produced on Syrian literature and culture in English. Key publications from the grant will therefore include traditional academic genres (e.g., single-author articles and monographs) as well as interviews, dialogues, and reflections on the ethics of literary studies.
This project is a five-year investigation funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No. 851393), hosted by the Forum Transregionale Studien (Forum), and related to EUME.
Of Other Languages: Arabic Literature and the Poetics of Regionalism (1956-2011)
Of Other Languages argues that the creation of cross-regional ties and circulation networks connecting North Africa and the Middle East was central to literary imaginings of decolonization in Arabic. The book traces the flowering of a postcolonial print culture through journals (e.g., Souffles-Anfas, al-Adab) that fostered transnational and multilingual exchange, rhetorics of Arab discovery and renewal, and aesthetics of greeting over distance. However, these acts were not limited to celebratory representations of, for example, the Algerian war of independence in Syrian short stories published in Beirut. Rather, the book excavates forgotten networks that led writers and intellectuals to criss-cross the region - from Morocco to Egypt, from Iraq to Algeria - between the 1950s and 1970s as teachers and students of the Arabic language. At the heart of the book’s argument is a series of literary readings that demonstrate writers’ critical and even ambivalent relationships to the geographies in which they participated in print and deed. Of Other Languages shows that in the heyday of decolonization and pan-Arab ideology, writers devised a range of materialist linguistic practices. They did so to make of Arabic literature a subversively transnational site – one that promised to counter the spread of postcolonial authoritarianism between Morocco and Iraq.