Special Topics in Asian & Middle Eastern Studies


In this AMES special topics class entitled "Art and Resistance in Lebanon", students will interview and record a diverse set of people from Beirut through the Natakallam platform to enhance their understanding of the current conditions there. Students will write field notes about the interviewing experience, transcribe interviews word-for-word, and edit radio-quality audio projects for public presentation and distribution.

Students will collaborate with community partners currently residing in Beirut (or in exile) and learn about "radical reciprocity," a mutual listening, engagement, and understanding that is made permanent by virtue of audio recording. The focus of the class is on artistic and cultural expression as an embodiment of resistance and, in a time of crisis, of hope. The oral history recordings are based on an open-ended interview process, where students offer space for community partners to offer meaningful reflections on their lives, historical events they witnessed, and community or cultural traditions. 

This oral-history-as-service approach is distinct from deadline-centered journalism as well as law enforcement, military, or immigration and refugee agency interrogation. The resulting collaborative and non-invasive recordings are then transcribed and edited by students with oversight by the community partners. All recordings and edits are sent to the community partners for their use within their family or community.

Students will be asked to synthesize historical knowledge with their own documentary inquiry, with an eye to critical analysis of the sources and contexts of the material. The documentary research project also contributes to the learning objectives of the course by teaching audio recording skills and how to write effective "field notes" which are useful for both future student research and for the archives.

This service-learning class provides the opportunity for undergraduates to actively "do" rather than passively "absorb." A key component of their work in the class is to reflect on their collaborations with community partners. Therefore, each Natakallam session will be followed by a reflection session in class to help students share with their classmates and the instructors insights from their interviews. 


Topics vary by semester. Instructor: Staff


Instructors: Houssami / Kalow

Typically Offered