06 May                     07 May 2017


Disappearances. Appearances. Publishing
curated by Fehras Publishing Practices

The conference Disappearances. Appearances. Publishing engages with the conditions surrounding the disappearance and reappearance of publications within a specific historical and cultural context of the East Mediterranen and North Africa region. It focuses on the migration of books, libraries, publishers, and the production of knowledge and impact of related ideologies. The modern history of the EMNA region is characterized by permanent geographical, political, and social transformation. In this process publication – as a carrier of ideas and knowledge and as a historical document – has played an essential role in underpinning colonial structures of power and in generating and disseminating modern ideas in cultural and political contexts. Therefore, the publication became a space in which urgent questions were addressed as well as a document that reflected social and cultural upheavals. Like the EMNA region, the publication object has been subject to permanent ongoing transformation. From Beirut to Damascus, from Baghdad to Cairo and Morocco, the disappearance and reappearance of publications can be observed at the edge of crisis, internal and external wars, censorship and open spaces, and through the acts of collecting, trading, and archiving. This state of disappearance refers here not only to loss through crisis and instability – it also encompasses the act of reappearance within a new context. Thus, disappearance can be understood as a strategy of interference and of a continual act of rereading. The conference’s speakers, Amer Bader Hasson, Sinan Antoon, Hala Bizri, and Franck Mermier, will trace the disappearance and reappearance of publications by observing migrant, stolen, and lost libraries. In order to do this, they have researched the stories of disappeared publishers, analysed publishing strategies, and scoured flea markets and archive collections for relevant books.
The publisher and archivist Amer Bader Hassoon (Erbil) will take us through his exile journey and the libraries that he created and lost in his different residencies, and tell us about his passion for collecting publications in times of sensitive political upheaval. He will present his Magazine Al-Ayam (Bygones) as a case study for discussing the meaning and demands of rereading publication archives.

The novelist and literary scholar Sinan Antoon (Berlin) will demonstrate how publication is associated with the act of writing. In his novel Fehras, he opens up questions of the publication as a historical document and as a medium of memory and forgetting. In order to illustrate this, he will explore the Mutanabi street in Baghdad and its fetishization as a cultural residence for books.

The librarian and publisher and Hala Bizri (Beirut) will explore the disappearance of a selection of Beirut publishing houses from the 1940s. She will present her recent research on their history and highlight the connections with the political and social changes of the last century. As publisher, Hala will talk about her experience in republishing rare books and the aims of such an act. Turning to her work as a librarian and library researcher, Hala will also discuss the oral narrative as a possible way of studying the history of Lebanese publishers.

The anthropologist Frank Mermier (Paris) will analyse the relationship between publishing and political ideologies in the Arab world. What impact has publishing had in generating political thought and ideas? How is that reflected within publishing praxis? Which strategies and alternative spaces have been opened up through the act of publishing, thereby bypassing fixed structures and political powers?


Saturday, 06 May

4 pm
Fehras Publishing Practices: Introduction
5 pm
Lecture Amer Bader Hasson, Erbil
6 pm
Lecture Sinan Antoon, Berlin


Sunday, 07 May  
11 am
Lecture Franck Mermier, Paris
12 am
Lecture Hala Bizri, Beirut