News & Events

Heartwarming SMRN Meeting of March 2020

SMRN had a heartwarming meeting on March 30 with members joining including: Steve Baris, Mansoor Behnam, Carol Bier, Çigdem Borucu, Juan Castrillón, Millie Chen, Delinda Collier, Siying Duan, Azadeh Emadi, Nezih Erdogan, Julian Henriques, Somayeh Khakshoor, Laura Marks, Narjis Mirza, Mahmoud Nuri, JR Osborn, Sheila Petty, Kalpana Subramanian, Yvan Tina, and Wolfgang Weileder.

We first took some time to hear how everybody is taking care of themselves and others during the Coronavirus pandemic. Next month, on the suggestion of Narjis and Jessika, we’ll discuss Khalvat, Practices of Self Isolation—please see Narjis’ post on the Members’ Blog for more.

Our member Mahmoud Nuri presented his project of “mimetic techne – imitative arts,” a study of Al-Farabi (872-951)‘s philosophy of arts and his political philosophy. Mahmoud first introduced AI-Farabi’s hierarchical organization of communities and his theory of the faculties, which includes sensory faculty, imaginary faculty, and intellectual faculty. The imaginary faculty stores and recombines sensory forms and embodies intelligible concepts in artistic forms. According to Al-Farabi, the majority of the public are influenced by their imaginary faculties, so mimetic arts can serve as a medium for educating people or moving them towards happiness. For Al-Farabi the imaginary faculty is key to the relationship between arts and politics, as prophets are uniquely equipped to translate the highest intellectual forms to imaginary forms. Questioned, Mahmoud affirmed that al-Farabi’s was a radical view, implying even that the Qur’an is poetry, which would not be accepted in most Muslim countries these days.

Sheila Petty then shared her current project on safeguarding cultural heritage, focusing on the triangle of Morocco-Mexico-Canada and working with people and institutions in all three countries, which she is proposing as the UNESCO/SaskTel Chair at the University of Regina. Sheila’s own research has long focused on African cinema, cinema of the African diaspora and north Africa, and travelling aesthetics on African cinema. “Travelling” bodies, ideas, and theories have always been central to Sheila’s work. While she does not claim expertise in Indigenous cultures, she is interested in the long history of diversity within rather than just between cultures. As an example, Sheila cited Ahmed Boukouss is the Rector of Institut Royal de la Culture Amazighe in Rabat, who points out that the Maghrib has always been a contact zone.

Both of the presentations stimulated enthusiastic feedback and discussion.