Workshop: “Post-2011 Arab Diasporas and Home-Making in Berlin”

The workshop “Post-2011 Arab Diasporas and Home-Making in Berlin” seeks to examine the various ways of leaving home that can represent a disruption in one’s life but can also offer possibilities for new connections and practices for home-making. It aims at investigating home-making practices among post-2011 diaspora in Berlin. The workshop  is convened by Nayera A. Soliman and Dina Wahba (both PhD students at Freie Universität Berlin), and organized in cooperation with Mayadin Al Tahrir e.V. It will be held at the Werkstatt der Kulturen, Berlin, March 12th to 17th, 2019. The public part of the workshop will be the keynote lecture “Writing in Exile” by Yassin al-Haj Saleh (Senior EUME Fellow 2019 of the Gerda Henkel Foundation) on March 17th, 18.00. Click here to find more information about the event.

The interview was conducted by Moritz Buchner.

You are the conveners of the workshop “Post-2011 Arab Diasporas and Home-Making in Berlin”. Why did you organize this event, and what are you hoping to achieve?

We have several personal and professional reasons that led us to organize this workshop together. For us this is one of our practices to make Berlin our home. A city where we can think, discuss and engage with others to reflect on our collective hopes and dreams. More importantly, this workshop is our attempt to set our own research agenda as academics who are also experiencing migration. We have been both engaged in different projects in Egypt that we wanted to bring to Berlin and develop a format that can bridge art and academia. We are hoping to be able to open a space for collaborative knowledge production, to be able to experiment with other formats that could relay our research findings, to enable the participants to reflect on their own experiences productively and to create a bridge between art and academia that can make them both more relevant and accessible to a wider community.

The first three days will include workshops, lectures, and roundtables offered by artists and scholars such as Yassin Al Haj Saleh, Samuli Schielke and Vivienne Matthies-Boon on the concept of home and migration. In the last two days, art mentors in storytelling, podcasts and visual arts will offer three parallel workshops. Participants will work with art mentors to create a storytelling show, podcasts and art installations that reflect the discussions that took place throughout the workshop. The last day will be a public event where the participants will have the chance to showcase their artistic productions.

What are the central questions you want to address during the workshop?

These are some of the questions that we will be discussing during the workshop:

Why is the concept of Home important in understanding post-2011 migrants’ experiences? How can we define Home in all its entanglements? Is it a space, a time, a feeling, a political concept or all of this combined? How are dreams and aspirations about the ‘new home’ shaped? How are they expressed? How can we understand the processes of home-making? Are they attempts of isolation or a necessary by-product of migration that is imbued with nostalgia and romanticization?

Migration and belonging are two of the most debated topics at present, be it in the political arena, in the media, or in the social sciences and the humanities. What are the unique perspectives that the participants can gain from attending your workshop?

We see this workshop as a collective thinking experience where we, the participants, the speakers and the art mentors can explore together our questions and reflections on home, exile and diaspora. Through collaboration between young scholars and artists, we aim to understand and discuss the politics, dreams and emotions engendered in the journey of leaving home, and in the negotiations in host societies for home-making. The workshop aims to create a space for representing the conceptual reflections on home and post-2011 migrations to a wider public through art. We believe that although migration is a highly debated topic in the media and in academia, the voices of the immigrants and those who are researched are often either lost or represented in highly problematic ways.

We aim to tackle issues such as power relations between the researchers and the interlocutors as well as who sets the research agenda and whose questions are prioritized. The idea is to provide a space for people who have been experiencing exile and migration and those who are interested in researching those topics to collaboratively think together and come up with an artistic production that allows them to engage with a wider public.

Nayera A. Soliman is a Phd candidate at the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies at the Freie Universität Berlin with a dissertation thesis titled “Between Home and Nation: Forced Displacement and National Identity in post-1952 Egypt”.

Dina Wahba is an Egyptian academic and women’s rights activist currently based in Germany, where she is pursuing her PhD at the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, Freie Universität Berlin. She received her BA in Political Science from Cairo University and her MA in Gender Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Wahba worked with several Egyptian, regional and international organisations such as UN Women, the League of Arab States and Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML). She has been involved in several initiatives that aim at promoting women’s rights and women representation in the political life after the revolution.


Forum Transregionale Studien

The Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien is a research organization that promotes the internationalization of research in the humanities and social sciences. The Forum provides scope for collaboration among researchers with different regional and disciplinary perspectives and appoints researchers from all over the world as Fellows. In cooperation with universities and research institutions in Berlin and the rest of Germany, it carries out research projects that examine other regions of the world and their relationship to Germany and Europe systematically and with new questions.

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