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Transforming Memories: Cultural Production and Personal/Public Memory in Lebanon and Morocco (2012 - 2014)

Sponsored by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (until March 2014)

20th century postcolonial Arab historiography has commonly been orchestrated by official discourses designed to unify national history and regulate state and non-state commemorative acts. History was streamlined into a simplifying narrative that rendered alternative stories absent from national accounts. National amnesia was politically formalised through the granting of amnesties. Morocco and Lebanon are exceptional in that since nearly 20 years their respective public cultures are characterised by energetic and experimental forms of cultural production that creatively engage a violent past as an open terrain of dialogue on how to co-exist in the present and future.

The project investigates literature, (auto)biography, film, chronicles, oral histories/ testemonies, pamphlets and manifestoes as countermemory and as transformative practices between personal and public memory. This approach foregrounds how personal and public memory in cultural production calls to account forms of active forgetting. Recent developments constitute what could be called a variable politics of remembering and forgetting/amnesia: In Morocco, the emerging civil society has pressured the state to initiate a truth and reconciliation commission, while in Lebanon the state has been unwilling to formulate any history or memorialisation of the civil war. The project aims at contributing to filling a research gap on the social bases of memory. All three subprojects therefore start from the individual social practice.


Heads of project

Dr. Sonja Hegasy (2012 - 2013)

Monika Borgmann (2012 - 2013)


Transforming Memories: Media and Historiography in the Aftermath of the Moroccan Equity and Reconciliation Commission, from 2014 onwards
Dr. Sonja Hegasy

Sites of ReMemory: Situating Cultural Production and Civil Violence in Lebanon
Dr. habil. Saadi Nikro
, ZMO, until December 2013

Memory and Reconciliation: Conflict on Mount Lebanon
Makram Rabah, M.A., based in Beirut at UMAM D&R, until December 2013

Wounded Memories: An Ethnographic Approach to Cultural Production
Dr. Laura Menin, ZMO, Associate Researcher



October 13th, 2013, Panel: Personal and Public Memory in Lebanon and Morocco organized by ZMO and UMAM with Saadi Nikro (ZMO), Sonja Hegasy (ZMO), and Laura Menin (ZMO); in the framework of the annual MESA Meeting 2013, New Orleans, USA

October 3rd, 2013, Columbia University, Middle East Institute, Faculty House, Contemporary History And Its Discontents - Memory Politics in Morocco, lecture by Sonja Hegasy (ZMO)

26 - 29 September 2013, Arsenal Berlin
Film program Sights of Memory - Filme aus dem Libanon, organized in collaboration with arsenal - institute for film and video art

June 3rd, 2013, Thematic Workshop: Memory Studies, organized by Saadi Nikro, Venue: ZMO

June 1st, 2013, 4 pm: Missing: An Exhibition About Absence, Talk with Dr. Norman Saadi Nikro (ZMO) on the exhibition; Gerichtshöfe, Gerichtsstrasse 12-13, Berlin Wedding

Prof. Susan Slyomovics (UCLA) guest scholar from May 1st to June 30th, 2013. 

Workshop 'Trauma, Memory and History: A Comparative Reflection between Morocco and Lebanon' at the University of Rabat, 18 - 25 April 2013
Report of the Workshop by Fatima Zhara Blila, Laura Menin and Makram Rabah

April 23rd, 2013: Screening of « La Chambre Noire », Amphithéatre Charif Al-Idrissi, Faculté des Lettres-Centrale, Rabat

March 15th, 2013, Public Debate with Sonja Hegasy: What Future Now? The Palestinian Refugees and the Arab Uprisings in Framework of the Workshop Memories of Palestine: The 1948 Nakba, ICI Kulturlabor Berlin, Christinenstraße 18/19, Berlin

November 1-6, 2012: Beirut, Workshop directed by Monika Borgmann and Lokman Slim: Documentation & Human Rights
Second Regional Meeting organized by UMAM D&R with the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience

October 11th, 2012, Beirut, Official Launch of Initiative: The Passionate of Darkness – Carceral Experiences in Syria’s Prisons
By UMAM D&R (directed by Monika Borgmann & Lokman Slim)

September 26th, 2012, 10:30 am, ZMO
Work talk with Driss el-Yazami, President of the National Human Rights Council

August 14th, 2012, 2 pm, ZMO, Work talk with Julie Billaud;
'Poetic Suicide: Expressing Discontent in a Girls' Dormitory in Kabul'

The Fragmenting Force of Memory: Self, Literary Style, and Civil War in Lebanon
by Norman Saadi Nikro, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, July 2012

July 4th, 2012, Beirut, Public Debate with Monika Borgmann:
The Checkpoints of Memory in a Post-War City, in the framework of the Hay Festival Beirut

May 29th, 2012, 2 pm, ZMO, Talk by Prof. Betty Anderson;
'The American University of Beirut: At the Intersection of Arab Nationalism
and American Education'

Prof. Joseph Massad (Columbia University), guest scholar from 6 to 14 May 2012

April 20th, 2012, Lecture by Makram Rabah at the conference 'The Legacy of Kamal Salibi', Tufts University, Massachusetts;
The War of the Mountains 1982–1983: Oral History and Collective Memory

Opening Workshop in Beirut 10 - 17 April 2012
Report of the Workshop published at H-Soz-U-Kult

January 18-20, 2012, Casablanca, Morocco
Coalition to Co-Host First Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Sites of Conscience Meeting / Presentation: Memory at Work
with Monika Borgman, UMAM D&R


Project-related links:

New Publication:

About Baalbeck Studios and Other Lebanese Sites of Memory


D+C: Remembering strife
by Mona Naggar, August 14th, 2013

Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature: Temporalities by Russell West-Pavlov reviewed by Norman Saadi Nikro, Vol. 13, No1 2013

taz: Den Alltag der Folter erzählen
by Jannis Hagmann, May 3rd, 2013

Deutschlandfunk: Die grausame Folter darstellen
by Martina Sabra, May 2nd, 2013

Fikrun wa Fann: Blick zurück nach vorn - Marokko ringt um sein postkoloniales Selbstverständnis
by Sonja Hegasy, March 2013

Now: The unorthodox becomes orthodox
by Makram Rabah, January 18th, 2013

Review of Middle East Studies: Book Review of "War and Memory in Lebanon" by Sune Haugbolle, Cambridge University Press, 2010
by Makram Rabah, Summer Issue 2012

Qantara.de: Geächtet und vergessen
In English
by Sonja Hegasy, June 5th, 2012

Qantara.de: Das Wort und der Krieg
In English
In Arabic
by Sonja Hegasy, April 25th, 2012

NOW Lebanon: The Syrian Marco Polo
by Makram Rabah, April 15th, 2012

Qantara.de: Streit um ein Schulbuch
In English
In Arabic
by Sonja Hegasy, April 13th, 2012

Homepage of the Lebanese Political Detainees in Syria
Ali Abou Dehn, President of the LPDS

Egypt Independent: What will happen to Lebanon?
by Makram Rabah, March 14th, 2012

A History Lesson for Lebanon
Documentation by Hadi Zaccak

„Gendered Memory in the Middle East and North Africa: Cultural Norms, Social Practices, and Transnational Regimes”, Special Issue Journal for Middle Eastern Women Studies, 8: 1, Winter 2012. (Eds. together with B. Dennerlein)


In Cooperation with UMAM D&R, Beirut