Amazing day with the inhabitants of Qalamoun, shooting videos, interviewing “Qalamoun in colors” project’s beneficiaries, tasting authentic bread and lemonade, and enjoying the hospitality of the mayor and the locals. “Qalamoun in colors” is a Cash for work employment project that focuses on the rehabilitation and beautification of the Qalamoun market and public spaces. It creates ownership as youth and the community are actively involved in the design and execution of the project, generates short-term income opportunities, and aims to strengthen community cooperation. Implemented by GIZ Local Development Programme for Urban Areas in North Lebanon in partnership with Utopia Lebanon and the Municipality of Qalamoun through financial support of the European Union and Germany. #eastlinedigital
I attended the 7th International Conference on Food Studies at Roma Tre University in Rome – Italy and presented a paper entitled ‘Learning through Food at the American University in Dubai’ on Friday, October 27, 2017.
My audience of foodies and food experts was introduced to the Peace Education approach I have been developing since 2004 in the academic sphere in Canada, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, as well as to one of its main applications in the classroom: the food component. I also presented the results of a qualitative research I conducted from 2014 to 2017 at the American University in Dubai on the food learning experiences and food stories of more than 500 students enrolled in diverse Middle Eastern Studies courses.
The 7th International Conference on Food Studies was organized by the Food Studies Research Network that is curated by the Common Ground Research Networks. The Food Studies Research Network is brought together around an interest to explore new possibilities for sustainable food production and human nutrition, and associated impacts of food systems on culture.
Hosted by Gustolab International Institute for Food Studies and Roma Tre University , the conference’s scope and concerns were Food and Sustainability; Food, Nutrition and Health; and Food and Politics. Roma Tre University has always shown a tendency towards multidisciplinary research, and recently with a focus on sustainability through a new graduate degree in Innovation and Sustainability and a degree program in Gastronomic Sciences and Cultures. As for the Gustolab International Institute for Food Studies, it is a pioneering leader in Italy in developing study abroad and international education programs and research projects on Food Studies. Gustolab is the academic headquarters in this country for programs specialized on Food Culture, Communication, and Media and Nutrition for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This Institute has also worked with more than 30 universities on study abroad programs, from the USA to Canada, France and Japan.
Gustolab organized a pre-conference workshop I attended on Wednesday, October 25, focused on Studying, Teaching and Doing Research on Food Studies in Italy. The objective of the workshop was to share and discuss opportunities for study and research in the food field with professors, students, researchers, and independent scholars who are interested in learning about study programs or doing research abroad. Attendees explored topics such as study abroad programs, culinary schools, master programs and internship programs. The material ranged from the social sciences to human, technological, biological, and agroecology sciences.
It is no surprise that the research interests of academics across a wide range of disciplines relate to food in some way. Food is at the center of our lives, cultures and religions, socio-political and legal systems, etc. Scholars in humanities for instance examine issues including the cultural significance and representation of food and food as an identity marker. Food Studies programs are now growing in popularity in North America and Europe. However, misconceptions are still found in our region i.e. Southwestern Asia and North Africa, and this is quite unfortunate. Food Studies is an important interdisciplinary field of study of food and of its relationship to the human experience that definitely needs to be promoted in local academic circles.
Other culinary and food anthropology activities with my American University in Dubai students:
Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at AUD, Dr. Pamela Chrabieh organized a field trip for her MEST 353 Women and Gender in the Middle East students on Saturday, February 4, 2017 at the Women’s Museum in Dubai.
The museum is a unique cultural initiative in the Arab World and the Gulf region, dedicated to the exploration and celebration of the lives and achievements of many women in the United Arab Emirates. Located in a house of historical importance dating from the 1950s, Bait Al Banat (‘Girls House’), it was established by Professor Rafia Ghubash who believes in the centrality of women’s roles in defining the Emirati culture and shaping their society.
According to Dr. Chrabieh: “It was an honor to have Professor Ghubash as our guide and host. She told us personal and national stories of the past and present of women in the UAE, and students were able to deconstruct stereotypes and learn about the diverse activities and contributions of women in academia, business, politics and culture.”
From series of photographs and passport copies, to public documents, poems, artefacts, burqas, abayas, jewelry, sculptures and paintings, the three-floor museum embodies Dr. Ghubash’s statement: “You have to learn that your rights are born with you. Don’t think the government or your husband will give you a right. It’s inside you, just practice it”. Indeed, the examples of Sheikhas as peacemakers, women pioneers in education and famous poets such as Ousha Bint Khalifa mirror both the story of the UAE and that of self-empowered human beings with diverse gender constructions and expressions.”
Furthermore, this encounter with the multifaceted lives of Emirati women down through history helped students understand the value of national and individual memories and narratives, the importance of heritage preservation and the richness of new lights that shed on the present by examining the past; lights, for Dr. Chrabieh, “that fill the tunnel of our knowledge building journey.”
I was fortunate to attend yesterday the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Winner’s Seminar. The Dubai JW Marriott Marquis Hotel’s conference room was full of architects, art historians and artists, along with the Aga Khan and local dignitaries. The Seminar presented the 2016 winners, with the broader aim to stimulate discussion on diversity, inclusivity, scale, place-making, and technology transfer.
Organized in two sessions, a panel of winners, Master Jury and Steering Committee members discussed the issues and themes raised in the 13th cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Architecture at MIT, Nasser Rabbat, was particularly focusing on the issue of context. Architecture in context, just like diverse forms of arts, is definitely not a radical innovation; however, knowledge production on contextual practices and “context” as part of the “architectural formula” are emerging as global trends. All panelists argued that buildings can and should engage in a dialogue with the history, beliefs and needs of a particular place, time and community, whether in China, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Iran or Denmark.
The Middle Eastern Studies Division at the School of Arts and Sciences (American University in Dubai) is holding its second MEST Forum of the semester, a panel discussion and book signing for Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at AUD, Dr. Nadia Wardeh’s The Problematic of Turath in Contemporary Arab Thought: A Study of Adonis and Hasan Hanafi.
Dr. Nadia Wardeh’s book focuses on the question of turath (heritage) as tackled by contemporary Arab thinkers since 1967, in particular the Islamic-modernist scholar Hasan Hanafi and the secular-modernist poet and cultural critic Adonis.Their positions are described in the light of their intellectual and ideological backgrounds, and analyzed in view of their primary texts. The study concludes that their “imagined” visions of turath are remnants of the colonial period and colonialist system of knowledge, and opens the door to the re-thinking of turath on the basis of a post-colonialist/post-orientalist approach.
Date: Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Time: 5:30pm – 7:30pm
Venue: Student Center building, room C 227 (American University in Dubai)
5:30 – 6:00 p.m.: Reception-Dinner
6:00 – 6:40 p.m.: Panel Discussion featuring Dr. Nadia Wardeh (author),
Dr. Pamela Chrabieh and Dr. Sandra K. Alexander
6:40 – 7:00 p.m.: Q&A session
7:00 – 7:15 p.m.: Students’ Feedback Forms
7:15 – 7:30 p.m.: Book signing with Dr. Nadia Wardeh