The Place of Humanities in Research, Education and Society: An Arab-German Dialogue
Digitization and artificial intelligence, globalization, agriculture and sustainable resource production in times of climate change, genome editing and high-tech medicine, are highly topical issues of STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math). These technological and ecological transformations are increasingly shaping our everyday lives, and they determine how we will live in the future. Hence, new challenges for society arise, requiring philosophers, historians, literary scholars, and artists to provide us the essential knowledge and a variety of perspectives to reflect on social change, our ethical values, and norms: the humanities help us make meaning of the future world and define our place in it. The international AGYA conference aimed at exploring the potential and challenges of the humanities, engaging Arab and German key players in a multilateral dialogue.
AGYA Book Launch Event 'Insatiable Appetite' and Inauguration of AGYA Alumni
The book launch of ‘Insatiable Appetite: Food as Cultural Signifier in the Middle East and Beyond’ on 14 October at the American University of Beirut was the public closing event of AGYA´s Annual Conference in Beirut 2019. The volume is the result of a collaboration between AGYA Alumni Prof. Dr. Julia Hauser (University of Kassel, Germany), Prof. Dr. Bilal Orfali (American University of Beirut, Lebanon) and Dr. Kirill Dmitriev (University of St. Andrews, U.K.), and was published by Brill in fall 2019. The editors Julia Hauser and Bilal Orfali presented the freshly released book and discussed its contents with Nawal Nasrallah, book author and food blogger, and Prof. Dr. Rebecca Earle (University of Warwick, UK). In addition, Dr. Brigitte Caland (American University of Beirut, Lebanon) gave a keynote lecture on 'Hummus, the International Life of an Indigenous Dish', accompanied by a tasting of different hummus recipes. In his welcome address, Prof. Dr. Mohamed Harajli, provost of the American University of Beirut, emphasized the 'transformative collaborations that can arise from partnerships such as fostered by AGYA that are intercontinental, transdisciplinary, and multicultural'. Furthermore, he accentuated on the importance of arts and humanities as part of the university curriculum, as they enable students to become better problem-solvers and communicators and finished his speech stating that the combination of humanities, technology, and purpose-based education promotes students with profound knowledge and diverse skills and provides lifelong learning.
Exhibition ‘Cinderella, Sindbad & Sinuhe‘ in Berlin: A Story of Success
Tales and stories are central to the cultural heritage of mankind: through creative interactions between people in different places at different times, stories traverse generations. In so doing, they can connect the past with the present and link what lies in the distance with what is close at hand. Tales and stories can shape the identity and self-image of individual people and entire communities. The exhibition ‘Cinderella, Sindbad & Sinuhe: Arab-German Storytelling Traditions’ at the Neues Museum in Berlin explored how some of the best known tales from both Arab and German – and wider Western – cultures developed from common roots, splitting over the centuries to reflect the societies that adopted them. More than 300.000 people came to visit the exhibition in Berlin and to profit from the diverse accompanying program. ‘Storytelling is universal and can be regarded as inherent to human nature’, explains Prof. Dr. Verena Lepper, AGYA Principal Investigator and curator at the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection Berlin. ‘With this exhibition we wanted to emphasize exchange processes, shared ideas, and the transfer of thoughts and concepts between the Arab world and Germany.’ Accompanying lectures by renowned experts like Prof. Dr. Beatrice Gründler and AGYA member Prof. Dr. Bilal Orfali provided deeper insights into research topics such as ‘Kalila wa Dimna: A unique work of world literature’ or ‘Two Picaresque Tales and a Yellow Cow - Hamadhānī’s Maqāma of Mosul’.
Mysticism and Ethics in Islam: Inspiring talks by prominent speakers from around the world
The Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan Chair for Islamic and Arab Studies held a two-day conference on Mysticism and Ethics in Islam at AUB, with the aim to give the wider audience a deeper understanding on the meaning of ethics and mysticism in relation to Islam. The conference was organized by Professors Bilal Orfali, Mohammed Rustom and Radwan Sayyid.
Joseph Costantine and Bilal Orfali recipients of Teaching Excellence Award
In its annual honoring of its educators who excel in their mission, AUB presented this year's Teaching Excellence Award to Dr. Joseph Costantine and Dr. Bilal Orfali. A university-level celebration was attended by President Fadlo Khuri, Provost Muhamad Harajli, FAS Dean Nadia El Cheikh, MSFEA Dean Alan Shihadeh, as well as colleagues and students of both professors. Dr. Orfali was commended by his colleagues for “succeeding in distinguishing himself as a teacher and mentor at AUB, inspiring many faculty members and students." Students that have attended some of his courses on Sufi Literature, Readings in Renaissance and Modern Arabic Literature, Arabic Stylistics and Metrics, and Abbasid Poetry, describe his enthusiasm and passion for teaching as matchless. Described as a lifetime mentor for many, he is commended for “his mastery of the presented material" and “his unique care to the wellbeing and development of his students." Dr. Orfali's care for his students, as for the content he teaches, was emphasized in his speech at the ceremony.
Exhibition Opening in Berlin ‘Cinderella, Sindbad & Sinuhe: Arab-German Storytelling Traditions’
In a first-of-its-kind display, the Neues Musuem on Berlin’s Museum Island currently hosts a special exhibition entitled ‘Cinderella, Sindbad & Sinuhe: Arab-German Storytelling Traditions’, created in collaboration with the Arab-German Young Academy of Sciences and Humanities (AGYA). ‘At a time when societal debates are increasingly focused on demarcating borders and differences, it is all the more important to research the diverse, historically grown similarities and common ground between different cultures, and to present them to a broad, international public’, says Dr. Georg Schütte, State Secretary at Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), in his preface to the publication accompanying the exhibition. The opening event for the exhibition on 17 April was the cultural highlight of the AGYA Annual Conference 2019 in Berlin. The exhibition was created as a joint project between AGYA and the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, funded by the BMBF and with valuable support from the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Berlin and the Mission of the Arab League in Berlin. ‘By shedding light on the intensity of cultural exchange between Germany and the Arab countries since the Middle Ages, this exhibition demonstrates that no man is an island’, said Dr. Mustapha Adib, doyen of the Council of Arab Ambassadors to Germany, in his cordial greetings at the exhibition’s opening. ‘If we want the international situation to get better, it will have to be done together in cooperation and by insisting on what brings us together rather than what tears us apart.’ AGYA alumnus Dr. Bilal Orfali (Lebanon), who contributed to the exhibition with his expertise in the field of Arabic studies and literature, echoed this sentiment in his welcoming remarks: ‘In AGYA, each member, of which there are around 70 of us here today, weaves their own story, but the crisscrossing of these stories forms a larger frame story. The frame story is one of commitment – to cooperation, collaboration, research, understanding and shaping a better world.’