Paying homage to my father Professor Naim Chrabieh who passed away on April 16, 2017.
SPNC was founded in Lebanon by the late Professor Naim Chrabieh in 1976 as full-fledged training sessions for university entrance exams. Professor Chrabieh was a pioneer in developing such sessions in the country which have acquired notoriety without equal, particularly training sessions for the St Josef University’s Schools of Medicine and Engineering entrance exams. A renowned physicist, peer educator, and producer of scientific knowledge, Professor Chrabieh combined excellence in academic communication with innovation in learning. He was a Civil Engineer, Dean of the Physics Science Department at Notre-Dame Jamhour’s College, and Professor of Physics at the School of Medicine at St Joseph University. In addition, he was the author of several scientific and pedagogical publications, as well as of national references in teaching and learning Physics.
Au dîner du Vice-recteur aux Affaires Internationales et à la Francophonie de l’Université de Montréal Monsieur Guy Lefebvre et son équipe. Avec le Réseau des diplômés de l’Université de Montréal!
Un premier pas vers la création d’une association d’anciens de l’université au Liban.
Nikro, Norman Saadi; Hegasy, Sonja (Eds.). Palgrave, 2017
By Tsjalling Wierdsma, Master Student on Heritage and Memory Studies, University of Amsterdam. Fellow at EUROM (2018).
The Social Life of Memory: Violence, Trauma, and Testimony in Lebanon and Morocco, edited by Norman Saadi Nikro and Sonja Hegasy, is part of the larger Palgrave Studies in Cultural Heritage and Conflict Series, which focuses on themes such as heritage and memory of war and conflict, contested heritage, and competing memories. Contributors to the book include Joey Ayoub, Pamela Chrabieh, Brahim El Guabli, Ali Hamdan, Norah Karrouche, and Laura Menin. While the book focuses on the specific contexts of Lebanon and Morocco, in this short review I would like to reflect on some broader memory and heritage issues addressed in the book, while still keeping the particular contexts to which they refer and in which they were addressed in mind.
One of the main thematic parameters of the book concerns the interaction between, and “transformation of private memories into publicly shared memories, according to efforts claiming public acknowledgment and public redress” (2-3). Memory, in the process of this exchange, according to the authors of the book, “is acted on as a transformational site, a milieu, whereby social and political engagement takes place, situating memory as a public event” (3).
The book points to an interaction and tension between Nora’s famous concept of memory as lieu, as a memorial or other form of formal commemoration, and memory as the milieu. By addressing memory as milieu the book enables a focus on overlooked processes of memory that otherwise might not be classified as such. An example of this is given in Laura Menin’s chapter, in which she focuses on the process of waiting experienced by the families of victims of political violence that disappeared during the Years of Lead. Instead of viewing waiting as a purely passive process, she instead views it as a “multifaceted temporality that entails both passivity and proactive engagement” (27). Menin describes how waiting in this context is perceived as an additional state-imposed source of pain, trauma, and loss of agency, but simultaneously brings with it novel political subjectivities and specific modes of activism where personal memories of violence are re-socialized, made public, and act towards specific political and transformative goals (27).
Chapters such as Ali Nehme Hamdan’s, which focuses on the Hariri mosque in Martyrs Square Beirut as a site of memory, highlight the usefulness of the concept milieu for engaging with the everyday “messy stuff of contention” (146). It further allows for a focus on the simultaneously conflicting and collective cultures of memory, without “assuming the centrality of the nation-state to their production” (146), which is necessary in a context such as Lebanon, but also more generally enables a focus that highlights the multiple actors and the ways in which they engage, negotiate, and create sites and spaces of memory. It allows for an engagement with the “many cultures of memory that coexist at any one time” (147), and not just at the level of the nation-state.
Pamela Chrabieh’s chapter, focusing on the war stories of university students in Lebanon belonging to the 1990’s generation, adds a generational component to these cultures of memory, and problematizes Hirsch’s notion of post-memory, stating that “many memories that were transmitted not only constitute the memories or are part of the ressouvenir processes of the new generations in their own right, but also intermingle with other memories to the point of not having clear boundaries” (189).
Chrabieh employs Rothberg’s concept of multidirectionalmemory, to enable a generational conception of a malleable discursive space in which groups, their memories, and their positions come into being through dialogical interaction. Similarly, Norah Karrouche’s chapter, detailing how local memories of war and violence in the Northern Riff region of Morocco have shaped the agencies and identities of several generations of Berber activists in both Morocco and its diaspora, shows how newer generations of activists can attempt to inscribe themselves into and simultaneously construct larger mythological and symbolic histories of activism. Like Chrabieh, Karrouche shows how multiple episodes of violence interact. Karrouche further discusses how these histories of activism can act as mythomoteurs, grand narratives about the specificity of a place in history and (trans)-national narratives (232-233). In combination, the two chapters however also highlight the large contextual differences in the generational transmission of memories.
The interaction and the contradictions between the different chapters is one of the book’s largest strengths. Instead of taking away from the individual arguments, these contradictions work to show the many nuances and contradictions attached to institutions, spaces, and milieus of memory, when approached from different levels of analysis and with different focus points.
I am sharing here the conclusion of my paper on deep learning in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates:
”One of the challenges that higher education will be facing is the spread of more surface learning versus deep learning, as deep learning can particularly take place in Humanities courses when appropriate education approaches are thought and practiced. I believe that the decision to reduce education (and learning) to a corporate consumer-driven model – providing services to the student-client -, transforms universities into factories or collegelands.
The ability to think critically and independently, to tolerate ambiguity, to see multiple sides of an issue, to deconstruct stereotypes, to appreciate diversity, to look beneath the surface, to dialogue with others on sensitive issues, and therefore the ability that equips us to live in and sustain democracies, to develop peaceful societies united in their diversity, will eventually disappear.
As I am completing the fall semester at the Lebanese American University as a part-time professor of Cultural Studies, I am being told that these courses and other Humanities’ courses will no longer be offered, due to budget cuts. Although my students have stated in their end-of-semester course evaluations their need for such courses and for a pedagogical approach that nurtures deep learning and in particular peacebuilding teaching/learning methods and activities in a country and a region on the verge of further explosion, their voices have not been heard.
I honestly fear that despite the efforts of few professors and educators, and of some youth and local NGOs initiatives, the future that awaits us is either further polarized or monochrome. Alternative narratives, perceptions, and practices that can challenge the ‘norm’ will cease to exist, and students will no longer be engaged to go beyond their disciplines and explore new avenues and skills. Furthermore, the automation of higher education will be contributing to the exacerbation of this reality. I am still struggling from my end and with other activists and pedagogues to build more just and inclusive societies in Southwestern Asia, but I honestly believe that this struggle has already become more arduous”.
For those interested in food and education: this article introduces its readers to an interdisciplinary approach in teaching and learning about cultures of Southwestern Asia and North Africa at the American University in Dubai. Selected as one of the United Arab Emirates Innovation Week’s officially registered activities in 2015, this activity combines anthropology of food, sciences of religions, and irenology and is a major application of the peace education pedagogy I have been developing since 2004. The article also presents the preliminary results of qualitative research on the local food cultures’ experiences of more than 500 students from different backgrounds who are enrolled in diverse Middle Eastern studies courses. In my classrooms, students were exposed to—and they told—stories of families, migrations, assimilation, resistance, hybridity, war, and peace and dealt with issues ranging from cultural appropriation to food security and food as an identity marker and the religious significance and representation of food. Class activities such as live food production (e.g., “Hummus Laboratory”), food storytelling sessions, and food diplomacy activities contributed to their learning of local cultures and building peace. Students reported having acquired visceral experiences of foreignness and familiarization, global identity formation, and intercultural dialogue.