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Conference: Movement and Migration in the Middle East: People and Ideas in Flux, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Edinburgh

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Our lecture Performance is dedicated to discussing how historical exchanges in relation to ideas, cultures, and languages have come to shape the way we address the body in our cultural context. In the fourth chapter of our research project with Arts Cabinet, we discuss and ask how flux of concepts and ideas from the Greek philosophical traditions and their dialogue with an ancient near eastern tradition has shaped our current conceptualization of the body and its relation with the mind/soul.

Setareh Fatehi and Shahrzad Irannejad: Lecture Performance: Body and Movement, Ideas in Flux

Setareh Fatehi and Shahrzad Irannejad: Lecture Performance: Body and Movement, Ideas in Flux

In going back into the historical background of our cultural context, we have come to the need to rephrase how we define the “boundaries” of our project. Rather than delimiting our project “to” the (supposed) Islamicate world or the Middle East, and trying to show the connections of this supposed region with the rest of the globe, we would like to talk of a point “from” which we navigate out. Furthermore, we have been surprised by the way our project has unfolded so far has challenged the West/East delimitation of cultural geographies.

In a matter of 30 to 40 minutes, we presented our questions through a lecture performance. The main questions received from the audience were about the immanence and transcendence, in the spiritual traditions of the middle east and what role those play in our life today . How can we deconstruct our modern mind, which tends to be science based and finite with the help of lyrical, poetic and fluid observation? We did touch the problem of overratedness of individualism as a contemporary practice in dealing with immigration of bodies and concepts. “This kind of narratives need to be told, cuz when you are in it you tend to forget that ideas are in flux and people have always been moving” says one of the members of our audience. “This protracted conflict is exacerbated right now, by technology, you can not ignore it anymore; it’s on your phone, it’s right at your doorstep; but still to deliver that without diluting the visuals or the message, in a different context than this academic conference is quite a difficult job to do.”

The effect of delivering a lecture with the playfulness that is not common within the set up a conference, taught us a lot about different and in my opinion more interesting methods of dissemination of content. This way of presenting also created a different engagement of the audience within the academic structure of a conference like BRISMES. Even within this structure there are so many choices that can be made and thought of to deliver a text without weakening the message. Bodies tend to be forgotten when we start to think, read and listen and we all tend to define focused attention through a still body. What we showed in BRISMES brought up the desire of physical interaction and lyrical interpretation as ways to get inspired by the content. We realized that in fact we could have gone a step further by not introducing our work as a Lecture Performance, which seemed like something different than a normal panel, in order to generate a real intervention in the setup of an academic conference. Our audience were quite confident that our content was as much valid as an academic lecture and the performance aspect of it could be just a new way of communication that was suggested through our choices for the composition of space, bodies and images. This encounter specifically helped us a lot in understanding the impact of our proposed methodology of collaborating in between art and sciences on the experience that our audience had.