Students Staff

03 July 2013

Arab writers and academics come to Essex to discuss the Arab Spring in Literature and the Arts

Unrest in Egypt

Image from the Egyptian Revolution series by Myriam Abdelaziz, featured in Realism in Rawiya at Art Exchange

Writers and academics from the countries affected by the Arab Spring are coming to the University of Essex next week to discuss the cultural impact of the wave of protests, demonstrations and revolutions which have swept across the Middle East and north Africa since 2010.

As democracy in Egypt falters, the crisis in Syria deepens, instability plagues Libya and unrest continues in many other countries – the full consequences of the Arab Spring are still playing out.

Despite this uncertain situation it is hoped the special strand within the British Comparative Literature Association International Conference from Monday 8 July to Thursday 11 July will forge new creative links between the Middle East and the rest of the world.

The overarching theme of the conference hosted by the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatres Studies at Essex is ‘Migration’. However, a special strand has been created titled Through Dido’s Eyes: The Arab Spring in Literature and the Arts to provide an outlet for discussions, panels, performances and readings reflecting on the current political situation.

Migration, conflict, creativity and the Arab Spring, Professor Marina Warner discusses the BCLA Conference at Essex from University of Essex on Vimeo.

More than 40 countries will be represented at the conference and this will be a unique opportunity for academics from across the world to come together to reflect on how literature and culture are developing during the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

Professor Marina Warner, from the University of Essex, is President of the British Comparative Literature Association which is organising the conference. She comments: “The Arab Spring is central to the conference’s wider themes: Migration is an area of suffering and conflict, but is also an area of extraordinary richness and cross fertilisation. We are looking at how literature benefits and can be inspired by these cross-border contacts, but we are also looking at some of the conflicts today, particularly in the Middle East, to see what role writing has to play in situations like this.”

Evening film screenings, readings and musical performances have been organised at firstsite and the University of Essex’s Colchester Campus as part of the Through Dido’s Eyes strand.

Professor Warner said: “I think these events will be uplifting and inspiring as well as offering an opportunity to reflect on what has been happening.”

Through Dido’s Eyes is a collaboration with the British School at Rome and the Society for Libyan Studies, and is sponsored by the British Academy.

Presiding over the strand is the figure of the Queen of Carthage, known in the Arab world as Elissa, called Dido by Virgil in the Aeneid. A refugee, exile, woman, ruler, builder, she offers a symbol of the complexity of northern Africa and the interconnectedness of the Mediterranean.

The overall aim of Through Dido’s Eyes is to create new links between British Academy-Sponsored Institutes and Societies (BASIS) institutions and the Arab world. BASIS institutions include the British Institute at Ankara, British Institute of Persian Studies, the British School at Athens, the British School at Rome, the Council for British Research in the Levant and the Society for Libyan Studies and the Council for British Archaeology.

The Migration conference organising committee is Dr Sanja Bahun, Dr Clare Finburgh and Dr Karin Littau, with Dr Robin Mackenzie, Dr Jak Peake, Dr Karen Seago and Professor Warner.

...more news releases