The Social Life of Memory: Violence, Trauma, and Testimony in Lebanon and Morocco

Saturday, 2nd March 2019 Magazine of the European Observatory on MemoriesISSN 2565-2931 | DL B 27726-2017

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).

Hariri Memorial | Picture: upyernoz, uploaded by Albert Herring [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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 multidirectional memory, 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.

SOURCE: EUROPEANMEMORIES.NET

Can we still build Inclusive Societies in the Middle East without Deep Learning? No…

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”.

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, ‘Deep Learning in the University Context: Case Studies in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates’, International Journal of Arts and Sciences Refereed Conference Proceedings, 11 (03), 2018, p. 39-48.
www.universitypublications.net/proceedings/1103/pdf/DE8C56.pdf

Dernière session de culture générale pour l’été

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En direct de la dernière journée intensive de l’été dédiée à la culture générale pour le concours d’entrée à la Faculté de Médecine de l’USJ. Prochaine session: en décembre!
Les cours particuliers sont par contre offerts toute l’année. Contactez Dr. Pamela Chrabieh pour plus d’informations: 03-008245 ou pchrabieh@spnc.co

#generalknowledge #university
#entranceexams
#medicalstudies #usj#bioethics #training
#workshop #collaborativelearning
#concours#medecine #lebanon
#culturegénérale #bioéthique

Se préparer à la culture générale: un premier défi relevé cet été

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, SPNC Learning & Communication – Lebanon. July 2018
General Knowledge and Bioethics Seminar

Journée du 27 juillet dédiée à la préparation au test de culture générale du concours d’entrée à la Faculté de Médecine de l’Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth.
Avec mes étudiants-es, le labeur est au rendez-vous pour une meilleure performance.
Une deuxième journée intensive aura lieu le 24 août. Pour plus d’informations: pchrabieh@spnc.co ou +9613008245

AUD Women’s Day Event Recap By Rebal Abdul Rahim

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Right as the first half of the semester approached its conclusion, and students of the American University in Dubai were preparing for their Spring Break, Professors Pamela Chrabieh and Nadia Wardeh gave the university’s students something to contemplate and to cherish as they hosted a Women’s Day event.

The constant strive for a progressive future encourages us all to battle for equality. One of the daily battles we must involve ourselves in is of course, to fight for women’s right and equality. The never ending dispute is personal to us all, and on Women’s Day we all had a chance for us to reflect and empathize with each other.

From a live play where the traditional gender norms were reversed in order to put certain issues in perspective, to poetry recitals where students addressed and shared their personal struggles, the university event successfully made its students witnesses on the daily issues that women go through.

Besides the live performances, students from Professor Chrabieh and Wardeh’s classes brought in home made dishes and shared their own stories about how those foods had feminist connotations, be it on a societal or personal level. The food included; Vine Leaves, Kunafa, Cupcakes, hummus among other things.

While the food could have been the main attraction that motivated the students to partake in the event, the Arabic music playing in the background accompanied by several relevant activities and the artwork on display created a vibe that encouraged the students to stick around for the entire hour. Other than students, professors and faculty members also joined in on the annual event.

While the event was meant to be enjoyable to those in attendance, Professor Pamela Chrabieh also wanted there to be an educational factor. “As I see it, the engagement of governments in Southwestern Asia and North Africa is important for gender inclusiveness and equality progress, but certainly not enough; any top down change initiative needs to be communicated appropriately through official and non-official channels such as education (in schools and universities), knowledge production and dissemination (research centers, independent scholars), media campaigns and continuous awareness programs (traditional media, social media), along within the private sphere” she said.

Equality, or lack thereof has created an ubiquitous problem in this particular region, and while there are a plethora of men who refuse to even address this issue, it was uplifting to see so many men from the younger generation show interest in having a progressive future where equality is expected and common.

The success of this year’s event leaves us all hopeful to what the Professors and their students have in stored for next year.

SOURCE: http://www.mbrsc.aud.edu/MBRSCPost/aud-womens-day-event-recap/

 

Press for Progress! A successful event at the American University in Dubai

Thanking our friends, colleagues and students for an amazing International Women’s Day at the American University in Dubai.

March 8, 2018 – Middle Eastern Studies students with Dr. Pamela Chrabieh and Dr. Nadia Wardeh.

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Dr. Pamela Chrabieh and Dr. Nadia Wardeh

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