zo 21 apr
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The Power of Narrative

“The power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between them.”

Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism

In the archives of intellectual history, the Palestinian-American academic, literary critic and political activist Edward W. Said stands as a celebrated figure of significant influence. His work is still a testament to the power of narratives in shaping our understanding of the world. Born in 1935 in Jerusalem, Palestine, Said’s life journey was marked by a profound exploration of the intersections between literature, politics, and identity. He produced one of the most influential studies of the 20th century, Orientalism, in which he challenges western representations of itself and of the so called ‘Orient’. Edward Said’s decades long career saw him develop ideas and a legacy that engage and inspire to this day. 

Tonight, we’ll highlight and discuss Edward Said’s invaluable inheritance as a literary scholar and political advocate. Said examined how stories are instrumental in asserting both one’s identity and the existence of one’s history. By the same token, narratives untold and marginalized deny one’s identity and history. He gives language and argumentation to the familiar sentiment of Othering as he lays out how mechanisms of hierarchy and power are maintained through imperialism. Edward Said’s intellectual legacy embeds the urgency of freedom of expression and continues to inspire generations striving for emancipation and liberation.

Growing up in the colonial era before World War Two, Said argues against seeing culture as devoid of politics, including colonialism – or as he writes in Culture and Imperialism, as “antiseptically quarantined from its worldly afflictions”. Rather, he suggests seeing culture through these lenses offer us an enhanced understanding of colonial presence across time and space. As such, we will discuss how culture is indeed intertwined with politics and how cultural spaces mediate these understandings in our specific times.

Edward Said passed away in 2003, leaving us in a world that was overtly different from the times we live in today, yet his words seem to be as valid now as they were more than 20 years ago. In the west we see a shrinking of civic space when it comes to narratives of Palestine and censorship in cultural spaces is on the rise. This evening, we bring Said into the public space and democratize his ideas and access to it further.

Elise Aghazarian

Elise Aghazarian is a Sociologist and writer who grew up in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. She studied Sociology in the Palestinian Territories and Social Sciences in the Netherlands. She taught Sociology in Palestinian universities, and Arabic language & intercultural communication in Dutch universities. Her research focuses on themes related to cultural politics, language, social psychology in the Palestinian and Arab context.

Lara Khaldi

Lara Khaldi is an independent curator and critic from Jerusalem, Palestine, based in Amsterdam. She is an alumna of the de Appel curatorial programme, Amsterdam, and the European Graduate School, Switzerland. She has collaborated often with Al Ma’mal Art Foundation in Jerusalem, Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, Ramallah and Sharjah Art Foundation. Lara is a co-founding member of School of Intrusions and Question of Funding collectives. She taught at and was the head of the Media Studies Program at Bard Al Quds, Jerusalem 2017-2020. She was a member of the curatorial team of documenta fifteen (2019-2022). Lara is currently the artistic director of de Appel, Amsterdam.

Sobhi Khatib

Sobhi Khatib is an educator, public speaker and storyteller. His work focuses on connection, complexity and empathy. Sobhi’s academic background is in psychology, human rights and conflict management.

Umayya Abu-Hanna

Umayya Abu-Hanna is a Palestinian author and journalist. She was a member of the Helsinki City Council, and head of the Media department at the Helsinki University of Applied Sciences.

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