AFAC and ACSS Award Six Research Projects
19 Dec 2019

The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture – AFAC and the Arab Council for the Social Sciences – ACSS are thrilled to announce the selection of six research projects for the second cycle of their joint Research on the Arts Program (RAP).

The RAP call for applications opened on May 17th, 2019 and closed on August 10th, 2019. Forty-seven applications were received from 8 Arab countries, with a gender representation of 40% women, and the following representation by type: 60% individual researchers, 28% research teams, 6% collectives, and 6% institutions.

Following an evaluation session that the AFAC and ACSS teams undertook last year with the program jurors of the first RAP cycle, around the process and the potentials of making the program more inclusive in relation to the academic/professional background of applicants, this year’s call amended eligibility requirements to include art practitioners with more than 10 years of experience, regardless of their academic qualification.

This manifested itself in the applications where 34% of applicants were art practitioners. Furthermore, the eligibility criteria were amended regarding academic researchers, limiting eligibility to PhD holders only. This enhanced the quality and diversity of the proposals received for this cycle in comparison with the previous cycle.

This year’s RAP Jury Committee comprised artist Maha Maamoun; academic and writer Dr. Tarek el-Ariss; journalist and playwright Dr. Driss Ksikes; artist and curator Jack Persekian and Professor Walid Sadek. The jurors convened in a two-day meeting to evaluate the research proposals and select the winning projects. The meeting culminated in the following jury statement:

In this grant cycle for the AFAC/ACSS, we selected a limited number of projects with high potential. We followed the criteria of the program trying to strike the right balance between artistic and cultural practices and analytical reflection and self-questioning.
Our aim was to recognize and support critical endeavors with a potential to contribute to a wide array of debates on culture and politics in the Arab region. We also valued precision in terms of research questions, rigor in terms of method, and effort to reach and connect wider constituencies and audiences.
The projects selected focused on understanding the relevance of past traditions and forgotten or suppressed eras or practices. We sought projects that questioned binaries and assumptions about art, politics, race, gender, and culture, as well as those that aimed at reconstructing and reimagining cultural heritage, be it musical or performative. We engaged proposals dealing with soundscapes and sound culture, and projects that were able to establish connections between different fields and disciplinary formations and cultural practices.
The proposals selected examine these connections and problematize them while critiquing questions of power and positionality. Moving beyond stagnant theoretical formations or frames of reference, the successful proposals demonstrated an awareness of debates and concerns that emerge at the intersection of the local, the regional, and the global.
We felt that there are young scholars who want to go beyond their previous research topics and methods but also more established scholars taking particular interest in new practices and technologies. We also encountered and valued proposals by practitioners undertaking self-reflexive and self-analytical work and those engaging with and through online digital media. Other interests emerging from the proposals consisted in examining infrastructure of governmental policies and mapping models of effective communication. In several proposals, researchers and practitioners were devising new ways to empower the base by providing them with more insights and knowledge through models of dissemination that are both virtual and intersubjective. Promoting the dissemination of art and knowledge beyond specialized institutions and challenging policies and policy makers with new paradigms of thinking art, the projects that stood out focused on examining how government instrumentalization of cultural categories and practices perpetuate ceilings of production and representation.
The jurors valued experimental approaches and rigorous research that seek to create new openings in understanding art and culture in the region.

In line with the above jury statement, six projects from five Arab countries (Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon and Sudan) were awarded research grants for the second RAP cycle (2019-2020). Three of these scholarly projects cover music, in addition to one research project in performing arts, one multidisciplinary project, and one project focused on cultural policy.

The Awarded RAP Projects for 2019

  • “Memory of Sounds and Music, Ma’amal El Sukkar St. 18” by Yasser Mahmoud and Abdel Naeim Othman (Egypt)
  • “Traditional Performance Arts in the North of Morocco: Documentation, Study, and Presentation of Developmental and Artistic Investment Prospect” by Jamal Abarnous (Morocco)
  • “Arts et Pouvoir : Recherche sur l'instrumentalisation de l'art et de la Culture au Maroc » by Aadel Essaadani (Morocco)
  • “Arabic Sources on Music” by Anas Ghrab (Tunisia)
  • “Artistic Action: Collective Notes” by Jana Traboulsi (Lebanon)
  • “Unpacking the #SudanUprising: Art, Artificial Intelligence & Grassroots Activism” by Andariya (Sudan)