Leading scholar says region must place more importance on liberal arts, not just science and engineering, to build better societies by Anna McKie could be an unprecedented way of covering the recurring issue of underdevelopment not through traditional knowledge but by using the art and humanities knowledge. Let us see what is proposed as per the very words of a Professor: ‘certification’ mania hobbles Middle East development.
Professor: ‘certification’ mania hobbles Middle East development
April 8, 2021
Students in the Middle East and North Africa are too often more interested in “acquiring” a degree than developing the understanding that should come with it, a leading scholar has warned.
Safwan Masri, Columbia University’s executive vice-president for global centres and global development, said too many young people were steered into courses focused on science and engineering when critical thinking and intercultural understanding were desperately needed across the region.
Speaking at Times Higher Education’s MENA Universities Summit, Professor Masri said future leaders being trained in institutions across the region were “not fully prepared to lead”, the product of “technocratic societies led by a global technocratic class”.
“Students – and the parents who bankroll them – are often more interested in acquiring professional certification than truly understanding the world and the role of an educated citizen within it,” said Professor Masri.
“Here in MENA, young people fortunate enough to attend university are almost unilaterally steered into STEM training.
“But STEM competency is only half of the equation. We need people who also know how to organise societies, articulate and secure alignment on political ideals, and build robust civil societies that expand rights and freedoms to historically marginalised groups.”
Professor Masri, an expert on the contemporary Arab world and the head of Columbia’s study centre in Amman, Jordan, said the solution had to be a greater embrace of liberal arts education across the region.
He acknowledged that this “won’t be easy” because generations of Arabs “have been indoctrinated with hyper-nationalist propaganda, exclusionary rhetoric and dogmatic religious discourse at the expense of critical thinking and questioning skills”.
“Progress cannot be achieved without deprogramming and reprogramming this mindset, to learn to coexist with different points of view and ways of life,” Professor Masri said.
“Unless liberal arts training is more highly valued in this region, the region’s ambitions will be thwarted. We must achieve balance. We must help students – and the parents who fund many of them – understand the crucial interplay between content [of academic training] and context [understanding of society].”
At the summit, held online in partnership with NYU Abu Dhabi, Professor Masri also argued that at a time of geopolitical turmoil and “historic levels of misunderstanding” between countries and the people within them, knowledge diplomacy led by universities “may be our last and best tool if we are to rebuild a broken world”. He highlighted Columbia’s decision to maintain its global centre in Istanbul even in the face of increasing persecution of academics.
“The solution wasn’t to give in, we contended, but to dig in – to support academics and students, to continue to share knowledge,” Professor Masri said.
But Professor Masri expressed concern about the “weaponisation” of knowledge, highlighting that while Gulf states’ attempts to exercise soft power by funding Middle East studies centres in Western universities ostensibly had “no strings attached”, there were “uncomfortable stories” of researchers at these centres coming under pressure after writing about issues such as human rights and democracy.
A better model of knowledge diplomacy, he argued, was that of the Covid vaccines, which were the result of thousands of researchers crossing the globe over decades, generating the knowledge that informed the vaccines’ designs.
“The Covid vaccine represents decades’ worth, perhaps even centuries’ worth, of university-generated knowledge – distilled down to little more than an ounce of liquid, all concentrated in a single shot,” Professor Masri said.
“This medical and scientific breakthrough will reconnect the people of the world.”
Another distinguishing element of the furniture pieces is the way they reference architecture, with the Bench 01 recalling an arched bridge. The structures are also meant to be self-supporting and simply slotted together.
“We’re looking for the architecture in a furniture object,” said studio co-founder Christian Vennerstrøm Jensen.
“The idea is that you can build our work and take it apart again,” he continued. “The bench is joined by elements into a structure that is stable and strong enough for you to sit on, and the bedside tables are simply stacked together.”
Bench 01 is made of solid walnut timber that is CNC routed, while the pair of Bedside Tables — one right, one left — is smooth Portuguese rosa marble with “a deliberate overzealous use of material” and hidden backlighting.
Bahraini-Danish was founded in 2016, with Jensen working from Copenhagen and co-founders Batool Alshaikh and Maitham Alumbarak from Bahrain.
British Museum celebrates over a decade of collecting Contemporary Art of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) with new exhibition as per BWW News Desk. But why a decade of collecting contemporary art of the MENA? Let us find out.
The exhibition will debut in February 2021.
In February 2021, the British Museum will celebrate over a decade of collecting contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa. Featuring over 100 works on paper from the collection, Reflections: contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa weaves together a rich tapestry of artistic expression from artists born in or connected to countries from Iran to Morocco. These artists reflect on their own societies, all of which have experienced extraordinary changes in living memory. From drawings by artists trained in Paris, Rome, Beirut or Jerusalem (1) to works associated with the Syrian uprisings (2), the exhibition challenges perceptions of the contemporary art of the region, with a range of works of great complexity and beauty.
The works in this exhibition reflect the British Museum’s position as a museum of human history, past, present and future. The CaMMEA (Contemporary and Modern Middle Eastern Art) acquisition group has been central to the speed at which this collection has come together in recent years and its remarkable breadth. This collection of works on paper includes drawings, screenprints, photography and artist’s books. While works by artists of this region have been collected by the British Museum since the 1980s, CaMMEA was formed in 2009 with the guiding principle of enabling future generations to see what was being produced during a particular time as well as to record significant moments in the history of the MENA region.
Reflections highlights issues of gender, identity, faith, politics and memory. Also communicated within the exhibition are ideas about poetry, music and war. The artists whether living in the countries of their birth or in diaspora, belong within the globalised world of art, and many allude to the artistic or literary heritage with which they are associated.
At the outset of the exhibition, Nicky Nodjoumi’s The Accident (2013) (3) challenges preconceptions about Middle Eastern art and highlights the complexities of being an artist in diaspora. From there, the first room focuses on the uses of figuration and abstraction with important works including Marwan’s Gesichtslandschaft (4) (Face Landscape, 1973) in which he transforms his own likeness into a landscape reminiscent of the land of Syria, or Yehuda Bacon who evokes the memory of family members who perished in the Holocaust (5). Huda Lutfi’s Al-Sitt and her Sunglasses (2008) (6) and Hayv Kahraman’s Honor Killing (2006) (7) bring their own perspectives to the female gaze. Monir’s captivating mirror drawing is informed both by the architectural heritage of Iran, and by philosophies of minimalism and abstraction (8). For Burhan Doğançay, inspiration for his abstract paintings is found in the urban walls of New York (9).
The second room is entitled Tangled Histories and shows political struggle, revolution and war across the region through the eyes of artists. While there are works relating to a specific event, such as the burning of the National Library of Baghdad in 2003,(10) or the demonstration by women against the enforced wearing of the hijab in 1979, (11) others emerge from and address longer-running struggles, and focus on the complexities of the Israel/Palestine conflict, the Lebanese Civil War or the ongoing war in Syria. Further works highlight one of the defining issues of our time, that of exile and migration through the photographs of the late Leila Alaoui. (12)
Visitors will be encouraged to explore further by visiting the British Museum’s Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic world (Rooms 42-43) where additional works from this collection will be displayed including Taysir Batniji’s painting (13) exploring the notion of being between worlds, Khalil Joreije and Joana Hadjithomas’ photography and drawing series Faces (2009) (14), and a collection of artist books.
Venetia Porter, Curator, Islamic and contemporary Middle Eastern art, British Museum said: ‘The acquisition of many of the works in this exhibition is thanks to the tireless work of the members of the CaMMEA group. We are so grateful to them for working with the museum to acquire such interesting and important works for the collection. Through the prism of personal experience, the artists in this exhibition present us with a refracted image of a region: there is no one narrative here, but a multiplicity of stories.’
Posted by Usama Soomro in his blog on is a response to a question that everyone who knows the Middle East pondered about. It is about whether T. E. Lawrence maker or demolisher of the modern Middle East? So here is it is.
There are uncountable hot and cold stories of Turkish, British, and German soldiers, families, and agents of World War I, most of the stories are evident and some of them are unclassified. Here is the story of a 5.5-inch young boy who changed the geography and demography of Arab countries including Saudi Arabia in the first world war. Thomas Edward Lawrence was a British agent, army officer, diplomat, and archaeologist. He was born on the 16th of August in 1888. He is known as a renowned person of first world war. His played a role in espionage during the Sinai and Palestine movement and the Arab rebellion against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. His activities and association made him popular. In the rebellion against the Ottoman Empire. He made his name public as Thomas Edward Lawrence. His work for the people of Arab and their lands described him vividly in his writings, his deeds and in the historical aspect of history. His fame internationally coined him as Lawrence of Arabia In a film which was released in 1962, that film Lawrence of Arabia is one the great movies of all time. This film is based on his work and activities in wartime. He was a student of archaeology, history, and culture in Jesus oxford college. While studying in Oxford he spent much of his time in studies. He was fond of learning new languages, cultures, history, and religious wars. During his studies British declared the war against the ottoman empire and Germany, he had two brothers, they joined the British royal military. While serving in France they killed. Their death affected him deeply. He served as a junior archaeologist in Carchemish working for the British Museum on archaeological excavations in ottoman Syria in 1910. When the war breaks out in 1914, he joined the army as a second lieutenant. He was employed at the geographical section of war, for office works he was sent to Cairo as a map officer and liaison. His knowledge about Arabs and Arabia helped British intelligence in Cairo. However, behind the Arab mutiny, he united the Arabs to fight for their rights and their land. Until the primary warfare the total region, as well as today’s Asian nation, Syria, Israel, Asian country, Yemen, the petty Persian Gulf Dubai and Egypt, were nominally a part of the Turkish Empire with its capital at urban centre – nominally, as a result of the British Empire in impact ruled Egypt and also the Gulf states, and possessed the port of city. When the Arab rebellion started in 1916 he was posted to undertake dangerous missions inside the territory of enemies. Arabs revolted against the Ottoman Empire because the Ottoman Empire subjugated some Arab states like Syria, Damascus, and Hejaz. Hussain bin Ali started the Arab revolt against Turks. His interest in his academics made him able and his credibility helped him to do all the dangerous missions. He used to disguise himself as a common person for the secret missions. One of his secret missions was stared when the Arab revolt began in 1916. He used Arab nationalism as a weapon, the reality behind the rebellion, were some certain British people who encouraged and supported Arab revolt against the colonial rule of Turks. When he posted to Cairo, he made his mind that he has to join the group who is already fighting against Turks so he decided to join the group of guerilla campaigners, which was lead by Amir Faisal bin Hussain sheriff his father Hussain was the ruler of Hijaz state(now part of Saudi Arabia). Hussain sheriff said to his people that no power on earth can take away the land of Arabs from Arabs. He was guaranteed from the British if the Ottoman Empire demolishes they would be guaranteed self-rule. Hussain sheriff had four sons named as Ali, Abdullah, Faisal, and Zaid. All these four led and fought the Arab revolt with support of British, on the agreement that after the war they would never intervene in the Arab land. He got major success when he bombarded the railway line in Hijaz(province) which was the only source of food, weapon and only route of travelling from Arab to turkey for ottoman empire. After a year of the Arab revolt, Lawrence advised Alfaisal to attack the port of Aqba. Alfaisal assaulted the port and conquered the city of Aqba in 1917 the most strengthening city among the ottoman empire. Aqaba could have been assaulted from the seaside, but the narrow mountainous defiles leading were strongly defended and would have been very difficult to attack. So they did form the backside of the Aqba fort that strategy which was given by Lawrence led Arabs towards victory. What is now in Jordan. Some of the historians say the Lawrence had sexual relations with his friend and assistant named Dahom whom he taught the camera work and from him, he learned the Arabic language but what so ever for the Lawrence he lead to the great Arab revolt, which led Arabs towards sovereignty and independence. Although, In Arab revolt, there were many people apart from Lawrence who led rebellion like Hussain ibn Ali who founded a secret society in Damascus to fight for Arab independence and power. Apart from demolishing railway line in Hijaz and occupying Aqba, he took part in many militant activities one of the activity was carved out in 1918, Arab revolt occupied Damascus. After the accomplishments of his mission in the Middle East, he joined the royal air force. He got his retirement from the royal air force on February 26, 1935. He was returning to home so he can enjoy the retirement. While returning to the home he faced motorcycling accident on May 13 in 1935, which took his life forever.
I love Qatar tells us about how and why Qatar National Library (QNL) hosts discussion on illegal trafficking of manuscripts across MENA region.
Qatar National Library brought together experts from the Arab region to discuss the fight against the illegal trafficking and smuggling of manuscripts heritage items across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Qatar National Library is the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Preservation and Conservation Center (PAC) Regional Center for Arab countries in the Middle East, the opening speech at the event was given by Dr. Hamda Al-Sulaiti, Secretary General of the Qatari National Committee for Education, Culture and Science.
Director of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Preservation and Conservation Center (PAC) Regional Center at Qatar National Library, Stephane Ipert, said “Documentary heritage is particularly at risk for trafficking, as its less likely to be protected by national legislation than other artefacts, and is easier to move illegally.
“For several years, trafficking and smuggling of heritage items from libraries and archives have been rising. In the MENA region in particular, this phenomenon is greater due to the number of nations suffering from conflict, upheaval and impoverishment.”
General Director of the National Library of Tunisia Dr. Rajaa Ben Salamah said “Libraries play such important roles in the preservation and restoration of documentary heritage and forgotten treasure. We can help by building a network and raising awareness of the pricelessness and cultural value of artifacts, and making them available to all through digitalization and publishing, as well as preserving the originals.”
General Director of the National Library of Tunisia, and Dr. Alsharqi Dahmali Member of the Advisory Council of the International Council of Museums in Morocco also participated in the event. The event was moderated by Maxim Nasra, Coordinator of IFLA PAC Regional Center at the Library.
As a PAC Regional Center, Qatar National Library aims to create a professional network of collaborative assistance to exchange knowledge and share successful experiences toward the preservation of documentary heritage throughout the region.
Farmers near a seaside lagoon in northern Tunisia are fighting to preserve a unique, traditional irrigation system that has sparked renewed interest as North Africa’s water shortages intensify.
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