A conversation with two celebrated Palestinian writers, Selma Dabbagh and Ahmed Masoud, about what it means to write for radio and their experiences writing in, about, and outside of Palestine. Opening remarks by Brinkley Messick. Q&A session moderated by A. George Bajalia.
From arts professionals looking to expand to a new medium to arts aficionados interested in hearing how radio plays are made, this seminar, discussion, and Q+A will provide an opportunity for everyone to learn something new.
This program will be presented in English with real-time Arabic interpretation
Selma Dabbagh is a British Palestinian writer of fiction who lives in London. Her writing is mainly set in the contemporary Middle East, but it doesn’t have to be. Recurring themes to date are idealism (however futile), placelessness, political engagement (or lack thereof) and the impact of social conformity on individuals. She wrote the Imison Award nominated radio play produced by BBC Radio 4, The Brick (broadcast in January 2014) and a futuristic radio play, Sleep It Off, Dr. Schott (December, 2018, WDR, Germany) set in Gaza 2048 .
Ahmed Masoud is a Palestinian writer, director and academic from Gaza and based in the United Kingdom. He is the author of Vanished – The Mysterious Disappearance of Mustafa Ouda, among other works, including two radio plays, Escape from Gaza produced by BBC Radio 4 Play (13 January 2011) and Application 39 produced by WDR Radio in Germany.
Brinkley Messick is Professor of Anthropology and of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University. He was a founding Co-Director of the Center for Palestine Studies (2010-15), and currently is the Director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia.
A. George Bajalia is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Wesleyan University and a theatre director who works primarily between Morocco and the United States. He is the co-founder of the annual Youmein Creative Media Festival in Tangier, Morocco and the Northwestern University in Qatar Creative Media Festival.
This event opens the Center’s NO PLACE | LA MAKAN | لا مكان program, which will commission, develop, produce, and distribute four new radio plays by Palestinian playwrights in 2021-2022. A series of ancillary events will build skills in writing and producing within the audio medium and be open to the public.
Radio Plays in Palestine
In the late 1940s, the Palestinian theatre community was flourishing, marked by the establishment of the Union of Palestinian Artists and the Union of Theater Troupes. Radio dramas had been commonplace for over a decade, with new Arabic plays being produced for both the Palestine Broadcasting Station and the BBC Arabic Service. According to a contemporary critic, these works were “creating a new type of literature—providing a new expression of living thought.” The catastrophe of 1948 decimated this artistic community and its infrastructure.
NO PLACE revives this platform for new expressions by Palestinian theatre artists working across borders. Above all, radio allows Palestinian writers to explore contemporary themes of presence and absence, public and private lives, silence and the human voice.
NO PLACE | LA MAKAN | لا مكان is a project of the Center for Palestine Studies produced in partnership with the A. M. Qattan Foundation, with support from Taawon, The Tides Foundation, and the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.