Lecture on: “Creative Archives: Gender, Memory and Affect”
On February 21, 2023, The AiW at LAU hosted a lecture on “Creative Archives: Gender, Memory, and Affect” by Dr. Hoda El Sadda, as part of the Dr. Suad Joseph distinguished lecture series. The lecture focused on the role of Arab women researchers in the excavation, rereading, and reconsideration of the existing archives to uncover hidden evidence of leading women’s work and recreate a collective feminist history and narrative in the Arab region.
In an opening word, Director of The AiW, Ms. Myriam Sfeir, introduced Dr. Suad Joseph, Distinguished Research Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies, and described the importance of the lecture series in stimulating the interest of the audience in gender and women’s studies in the Arab region. In turn, Dr. Suad Joseph, introduced Dr. Elsadda’s exceptional work in the research and archiving field, her outspoken feminist rationale, and the long-term impact of the research she has conducted on the generation of knowledge on women in the Arab region. As they both confirmed, Dr. Elsadda’s project allows for an analytical reinterpretation and remembrance of the history of Arab women pioneers through the artwork of present-day feminist archivists.
In her lecture, Dr. Elsadda thoroughly explained the scope of her project which highlights the original and creative work of three Arab women archivists/researchers (Iman Marsal: an Egyptian poet, novelist, and academic; Rawia Sadek: an Egyptian poet, artist, and translator; and Pascale Ghazaly: a Lebanese artist, writer, and graphic designer) which develops a feminist history through a reconsideration of the endeavors of the earliest Arab women pioneers. To understand the novel approaches of these archivists, Dr. El Sadda poses three main questions for reflection: “Who archives… why… what for… and when? What are the processes of inclusion and exclusion from the archives? What are the factors that enable the remaking of particular moments in history?”
Then, Dr. Elsadda explored the three aforementioned archivists’ work which, she further argued, have created new spaces to re-envision Arab women’s struggle and memories through artwork and inventive writing: “In the Footsteps of Enayat al Zayyat” (a creative non-fiction work by Iman Mersal) where the author embarks on a journey in search of traces of Enayat al Zayyat, a forgotten Egyptian novelist; “My Doria” (a work in progress by Rawia Sadek) and other artworks where the author reimagines the journey of Doria Shafik, an Egyptian poet and a leading woman in the Egyptian liberation movement; and “A Journey in Search of May” (a graphic novel by Pascale Ghazaly) where the author explores the literary work and philosophical views of May Ziadeh, the most prominent women pioneer of the Arab feminist awakening.
The three authors, who revive the memories of pioneer Arab women in their aforementioned writings, Dr. Elsadda argued, share a similar journey of struggle and empathy in their quest for a feminist revival. As she further added, the authors’ exploration of the work of early leading women stems from a desire to revive an untold history and to reinvent an understanding of one-self and the other through a feminist memory. This archival reawakening, reinforced by an acknowledgement of the work of the earliest Arab women, is producing new knowledge and is unprecedently uncovering the untold stories of women artists, Dr. Elsadda confirmed.
Finally, as Dr. Elsadda explained, feminist archiving is allowing for the reimagination and documentation of an untold narrative and history. Through the recreation of a collective memory, she added, the feminist archiving initiative will allow for radical shifts in our understanding of the traditional methodological approaches and the social/political history of the Arab region. The long-term implications of these shifts on our lives, on our history, and on our collective memory is a story yet to be told, Dr. Elsadda suggested.
The lecture concluded with a short Q&A session.