Fall 2018 Bios and Abstracts

Lectures, Conferences & Events» Past Lectures & Events

Making Places in New Spaces:  Circassian Forced Migrants in the late Ottoman Empire
Dawn Chatty
Emeritus Professor in Anthropology and Forced Migration
University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Refugee studies rarely address historical matters; yet understanding ideas about sanctuary, refuge, and belonging have long roots in both Western and Eastern history. By and large, the circumstances, experiences, and influence of refugees and exiles in modern history are ignored.   This presentation attempts to contribute to an exploration of the past and to examine the responses of one State - the late Ottoman Empire - to the forced migration of millions of largely Muslim refugees from its contested borderland shared with Tsarist Russia into its southern province of Bilad al –Sham [Greater Syria].  It focuses on one particular meta-ethnic group, the Circassians, and explores the responses to their movement both nationally and locally   as well as their concerted drive to carry their ‘homeland’ on to new territory. In their concerted drive to put down roots and establish new belongings, they carved out a process of integration territorially but without cultural assimilation.  The Circassians are one of many groups that were on the move at the end of the 19th century and their reception, and eventual integration without assimilation in the region provides important lessons for understanding of the contemporary Levant.

Dawn Chatty is Emeritus Professor in Anthropology and Forced Migration and former Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.   She is also Fellow of the British Academy. Her research interests include:  coping strategies and resilience of refugee youth; tribes and tribalism; nomadic pastoralism and conservation; gender and development; health, illness and culture. She has edited numerous books including: Deterritorialized Youth:  Sahrawi and Afghan Refugees at the Margins of the Middle East, Berghahn Books, 2010; Nomadic Societies in the Middle East and North Africa: Facing the 21st Century, Leiden, Brill, 2006; Children of Palestine: Experiencing Forced Migration in the Middle East, Berghahn Books, 2005; and Conservation and Mobile Peoples: Displacement, Forced Settlement and Sustainable Development Berghahn Press, 2002.  She is the author of Displacement and Dispossession in the Modern Middle East  Cambridge University Press, 2010, From Camel to Truck, White Horse Press, 2013,   and Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State, Hurst Publishers, 2018.

Should we Unite 4 Heritage? The Ethics of Cultural Heritage Preservation
Erich Hatala Matthes
Philosophy Department & Environmental Studies
Wellesley College

Amid increasing international mobilization to protect cultural heritage threatened by war, looting, and climate change, it is essential to step back and ask: why? What justifies considerable financial expenditures and even risk to human lives for the sake of preserving ancient artifacts and structures? In this talk, we will examine some popular answers to this question, including appeals to the universal heritage of humankind and the purported link between saving heritage and saving lives, with particular attention to justifications for heritage protection in contexts of armed conflict.

Erich Hatala Matthes is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Advisory Faculty for Environmental Studies at Wellesley College. He holds a BA in Philosophy and English from Yale University, and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. His research concerns moral, political, and aesthetic issues surrounding art, cultural heritage, and the environment. He has published papers on a range of topics in these areas, including on cultural appropriation, cultural property, the value of history and heritage, and the ethics of historic preservation. His work has appeared in venues including EthicsOxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Public Affairs Quarterly, Social Theory and Practice, Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, Analysis, Journal of the American Philosophical Association, and Philosophy Compass. He also enjoys writing for a broader audience, and has published pieces in Aeon Magazine, Apollo Magazine, and British Art Studies

Contemporizing Traditional Water Architecture
Regeneration  |  Mainstreaming  |  Replication

A. Mridul/Shilpa Mridul
Architect/ Entreprenuer

Birkha Bawari Synopsis


A. Mridul, an internationally awarded architect, has a variegated palette of projects in India and the US. He is passionate about the ancient water heritage of India and has been campaigning for its regeneration & mainstreaming and replication, the latter exemplified by his internationally acclaimed project, Birkha Bawari, a massive rain-water harvesting step-well built in 2009.
He has been delivering a series of talks at various forums in India, Australia and the UK.
Mridul’s practice is an interesting mix of various types: institutional, public, housing, religious, etc. His projects are an extension of heritage and contemporize traditional practices to make them timeless, thus modern and futuristic.
An exponent of Green Architecture, it was for him a praxis much before it became a movement. He holds that India already has a rich repertoire of traditional construction and design practices that can be innovated upon and applied to contemporary designs to achieve eco-friendly sustainable architectural creations that do not guzzle on energy.
His portrait as Leader of Sustainability has been compiled by mid-career professional pursuing the Executive Master of Natural Resources program of the Virginia Tech University, USA.
He sits on juries and boards of public and private institutions and is currently officiating as Chairman of Rupayan Sansthan, a folk lore institute founded by noted anthropologist Komal Kothari. Together with his wife, he has co-founded The Jodhpur Lore, an initiative to promote centuries old traditional crafts of the region through workshops and training.
Shilpa Mridul
Mrs. Shilpa Mridul is an entrepreneur, a garment designer, an interior designer, a theatre artist and, at the same time, an ambassador of green architecture. She has worked in reviving traditional and vernacular designs by deftly weaving ethnicity in modern clothes. Through this, she has enlisted numerous traditional craftsmen and women providing them employment and contributing towards their survival. While working with these craftswomen, her interest in indigenous technologies grew, including in water and sustainability, which are at the core of the survival issues of rural folk.  She has since collaborated with her husband, Architect A Mridul, in his ongoing mission to revive traditional technologies to recreate a sustainable environment in the arid regions of Rajasthan. She is especially focussing on the social and cultural perspectives of the traditional water systems of western India.
Over the last three years she has been, along with her husband, co-presenting talks on traditional water architecture in various universities in the UK and in Australia.
Shilpa is the co-founder of The Jodhpur Lore, an initiative to promote the traditional crafts of her region by way of experiential and training workshop to international artists and art enthusiasts

Lebanon and the Fog of Reconstruction: Between the Future and Survival
Deen Sharp
AKPIA@MIT 2018-19 Post-Dcotoral Fellow

Reconstruction of the built environment is often tied to the end of war and the start of a post-conflict period but this link maybe misplaced. Reconstruction can also result in violence, displacement and social discord that is more commonly associated with the built environment’s destruction. To comprehend how reconstruction can be violent and tied to conflict, it is integral to recognize that war is not only about the destruction of the built environment. Construction and the control of mobility, in particular within urban areas, can be utilized to impose violence on others. To disrupt the link between reconstruction and post-war periods, I provide an account of Lebanon's so-called post-war reconstruction that highlights the sediments of the Civil War within it and how this process sustained certain forms of conflict. The vast reconstruction led by, and formed around, the urban development corporation Solidere in downtown Beirut I contend was not aimed at rebuilding a social contract or establishing a post-conflict era rather it was part of an accumulation of social power by one faction over others. The lesson of the Lebanese reconstruction is that rebuilding can be play a central part in maintaining conflict rather than creating a new social contract to work toward efforts to sustain peace. The link between reconstruction and post-conflict eras should not be automatically assumed but rather understood as something that needs to be forged.

Deen Sharp is the co-director of Terreform, Center for Advanced Urban Research, and a Post-Doctoral Fellow, Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the co-editor of Beyond the Square: Urbanism and the Arab Uprisings (Urban Research: 2016). His most recent article “Difference as practice: Diffracting geography and the area studies turn” was published in Progress in Human Geography. Previously, he was a freelance journalist and consultant based in Lebanon. His research and writing focus on the geographies of the Middle East past and present, urban political economy, war and violence. His current project concerns the corporation and urban space in post-war Beirut. He has written for a number of publications, including, Jadaliyya, Portal 9, the Arab Studies Journal and the Guardian. He has worked for several UN agencies, including UNDP and UN-Habitat, governments and international NGOs.