EUME Workshop
Do 15 Jun 2017 – Fr 16 Jun 2017

Reading the '1979 Moment' in the Middle East

Convened by Amir Moosavi (EUME Fellow of the VolkswagenStiftung/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation 2016/17)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

The year 1979 is one that looms large in the recent history of the Middle East. As the world entered the final phase of the Cold War, 1979 would witness the Iranian Revolution, the siege of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and, at the tail end of the year, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Lebanese Civil War raged, violence in Syria between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood increased, political violence in Turkey reached a crescendo readying the stage for the 1980 coup, and Saddam Hussein consolidated power over Iraq. Although unrelated to one another in their causality, these events would signal a tectonic shift in the political and social landscape of the Middle East—particularly in the Arab and Persianate worlds—including the emergence of Islamically-inspired political movements, the decline of traditional leftist politics, and a new era of state oppression. The year would also usher in a period of wars in the region that would last throughout the 1980s (the ongoing Lebanese Civil War, the Soviet-Afghan War, and the Iran-Iraq war) and the 1990s (the Algerian Civil War, continued war in Afghanistan and the 1990-91 Gulf War). In all of these conflicts, stretching from North Africa to Afghanistan, various strains of Islamism would emerge as major forces to be reckoned with.

While some historians and scholars of politics in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia have begun to recognize this recent regional transformation, scholars of cultural production have largely ignored the fact that the material conditions for cultural production throughout the region also changed dramatically in 1979 and the two decades that followed, reflecting a new sociopolitical reality. This two-day, interdisciplinary workshop will address this lacuna by exploring the cultural and intellectual legacy, broadly conceived, of the Middle East’s ‘1979 moment’ and its aftermath. 

Some of the questions that this workshop seeks to address, but is not limited to, are the following:

  • How does 1979, as a relatively recent, pivotal year connect to other dates of significance, regionally and globally, (i.e., 1948, 1953, 1967/68, 1989, 2001, etc.)?
  • In what ways did the events of that year create or destroy the imaginative possibilities of social and political movements?
  • How have regional and diasporic (Afghan, Arab, Iranian, Kurdish, Turkish, etc.) writers, filmmakers, artists and intellectuals represented the events of 1979 and the wars that dominated the decades that followed?
  • To what extent (if at all) have aesthetic approaches to literature, film and art changed after the events of 1979?

The workshop is convened by Amir Moosavi (EUME Fellow of the VolkswagenStiftung/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation 2016/17) and funded through a grant by the VolkswagenStiftung/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It is part of the activities of Europe in the Middle East—The Middle East in Europe(EUME), a research program at the Forum Transregionale Studien, and held in cooperation with “Figures of Thought | Turning Points. Cultural Practices and Social Change in the Arab World”, a research project at the Center for Near and Middle Eastern Studies (CNMS) at Philipps-Universität Marburg.



June 15, 2017

9.00 – 9.30:

Short Introduction by Amir Moosavi

9.30 – 11.00:
Panel 1 – Visual Culture in Iran After the 1979 Revolution
Payam Sharifi: 79.89.09
Maryam Palizban: The Burning Cinema: Iranian Film History and the Islamic Revolution
Discussant: Arash Sarkohi

11.00 – 11.30:
Coffee break

11.30 – 13.00:
Panel 2 – Levantine Intellectual History and the Left
Yvonne Albers: Turning the Page: Reading 1979 in and through the cultural journal Mawaqif (1968-1994)
Jihane Sfeir: Disenchantment of the Left: The Lost Palestinian Fight of Nizar and Bassel
Discussant: Samer Frangie

13.00 – 14.00:
Lunch break

14.00 – 15.30:
Panel 3 – The Islamic Republic and the Surrounding World
Shervin Malekzadeh: Country Before Community: How Elementary Education in Post-1979 Iran Uses the Ommat-e Islami and the Figure of the Forlorn Arab to Consolidate the Iranian Nation
Nader Talebi: The Extra-Territorial Spatial Imaginary of the 1979 Revolution in Iran
Discussant: Ali Fathollah-Nejad

15.30 – 16.00:
Coffee break

16.00 – 17.30:
Panel 4 – Syria and Literature: 1979 as a Turning Point
Friederike Pannewick: The “1979 Moment” in Syrian Theatre: From a Theatre of Politicization to an “Inward Turn”
Otared Haidar: Syria 1979: Cultural Wars and Political Reconciliations
Discussant: Zeina G. Halabi

18.00 / 18.30:

June 16, 2017

9.30 – 11.00:
Panel 5 – Cultural Representations of the Mujahid
Valerie Anishchenkova: The Soviet-Afghan War on Arab and Russian Television: 1979 as an Ideological Metaphor
Anne-Marie McManus: At the Meeting of Seas: Substitution, Afghanistan, and Algeria in Habib Tengour’s Poisson de Moïse
Discussant: Maha AbdelMegeed

11.00 – 11.30:
Coffee break

11.30 – 13.00:
Panel 6 – Rethinking the Protest Movements of the 1970s in Egypt and Syria
Helena Nassif: 1979 Backwards: A Student Movement’s Struggle against the Egyptian Israeli Peace Process
Matthieu Rey: Shaking the Regime, Updating Researches on 1970s/1980s Social Mobilization in Syria through New Archives
Discussant: Alia Mossallam

13.00 – 14.00:
Lunch break

14.00 – 14.45:
Panel 7 – Rethinking the Historiography and Trajectory of the 1979 Revolution in Iran and Beyond
Behrooz Moazami: The Making and Unmaking of the Moments: From the 1979 Revolution to the Arab Spring
Discussant: Amir Moosavi

14.45 – 15.00:
Coffee break

15.00 – 16.00:
Wrap-up Discussion


1.    Maha Abdel Megeed (EUME Fellow 2016/17)
2.    Yvonne Albers (Philipps-Universität Marburg)
3.    Valerie Anishchenkova (U of Maryland)
4.    Ali Fathollah-Nejad (Harvard Kennedy School)
5.    Samer Frangie (AUB)
6.    Otared Haidar (U of Oxford)
7.    Zeina G. Halabi (U of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
8.    Shervin Malekzadeh (U of Pennsylvania)
9.    Anne-Marie McManus (EUME Fellow of the AvH 2016-18)
10.  Behrooz Moazami (Loyola U New Orleans)
11.  Amir Moosavi (EUME Fellow of the VolkswagenStiftung/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation)
12.  Alia Mossallam (EUME Fellow of AvH 2017-18)
13.  Helena Nassif (Orient-Institut Beirut)
14.  Rachid Ouaissa (Philipps-Universität Marburg)
15.  Maryam Palizban (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
16.  Friederike Pannewick (Philipps-Universität Marburg, EUME)
17.  Matthieu Rey (Collège de France)
18.  Arash Sarkohi (Berlin)
19.  Birgit Schäbler (U Erfurt)
20.  Jihane Sfeir (Free U of Brussels)
21.  Payam Sharifi (Art Collective “Slavs and Tatars”)
22.  Nader Talebi (Lancaster U)

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