By Aya Nassar
BA Postdoctoral Fellow, Warwick University
Discussant: Jerry C. Zee, Princeton University
February 28, 2023
4pm-6pm at the CEDEJ
How can dust be instructive of creative politics and knowledges? This seminar is based on a chapter I am writing that aims to explore Cairo as a fragmentary archive of itself, by tying in the poetics dust to the actual archival sites that hold its post-independence history. It starts with everyday articulations of sentiments of loss evoked by failed attempt to preserve urban heritage and prevent demolitions. This is used to unfurl the political and violent nature of ruination.
In the contrasting im/possibilities of a redemptive archive of the city, the urban history of the city is politicised amidst politics of erasure. Dust materially and poetically links the fragmentary, and at times, inaccessible spaces of the archive to slow temporality of unmaking the city, but — I suggest– it does more. In thinking with dust, I try to ask some questions about our attachments to the city, particularly in its granular make-up. Duststorms. For instance, typically bring about a sense of suspension, fear and ending, therefore revealing contrasting affects about the city. They also inspire a speculative mode of relating to space and place. How might dust tug at our affective relationships to the city? What if the solidity of the ground is unstable or can’t be trusted? How do we experience the city when its weight is pulled up, remade or suspended?
Aya Nassar: She is an interdisciplinary scholar in between politics and IR, Urban and Political Geography, and Middle East studies. She writes about questions of memory, archiving, poetics of space, infrastructure and affective and material aspects of cities. Her doctoral research included investigating the archives of national Egyptian architects who were designing plans for post-colonial/post-independence Cairo. Her post-doctoral research focused on the aesthetics and poetics used to represent and depict Arab cities after 2011, neighbourhood storytelling and memory in Coventry, and Space and memory work in Egypt. She is firmly guided by a postcolonial framework in my research and political commitments, and She is inspired by decolonial and feminist approaches in teaching and research. She did her PhD in PaIS, Warwick University (2019), and she re-joined Warwick in 2023 as British Academy post-doctoral fellow to conduct the research project “When the city stands still” (2023-2025). Prior to the fellowship, she worked as a Lecturer in the Geohumanities in RHUL, a Lecturer of Human Geography in Durham University, and a Teaching Fellow in the School of Global Studies, Sussex University. She has a broad teaching experience in Social, Cultural, Urban and Political Geography as well as research-led teaching in Geographies of Development and Critical Geographies of the Middle East. Link to full bio and publications: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/people/nassar/
Jerry C. Zee: Assistant Professor Jerry Zee is jointly appointed in the Department Anthropology and the High Meadows Environmental Institute. Zee is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research explores geophysical and environmental emergence as sites of political experiment. His work is situated at the intersections of feminist science and technology studies, environmental humanities, and experimental ethnography. He considers the rise of China as a matter of geophysical and geopolitical entanglement, moving across weather systems that connect inland land degradation, major dust storm formation, and the eventual scattering of Chinese land as meteorological fallout across the Northern Hemisphere. He comes to Princeton after having served as assistant professor in Anthropology and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at UC Santa Cruz and a Wenner-Gren Foundation Hunt Fellow. He completed his PhD at UC Berkeley’s Anthropology Department and was Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis in Anthropology and the Program in Science and Technology Studies.