Call for papers: Museum in Arabia Conference (Doha, 13-16 June 2014)

Museum in Arabia

13-16 June 2014, Doha, Qatar

Sarina Wakefield, Open University, UK
Karen Exell, UCL Qatar, Doha

The inaugural Museums in Arabia conference took place in July 2012 at the British Museum, London. This first conference, entitled The Role of Museums in Arabia, was held as a special session alongside the Seminar for Arabian Studies. The session explored the role of the museum as an institution for the preservation and interpretation of heritage in a region whose past is based upon traditional practices and oral histories, and in which the intangible past has taken precedence over the preservation of the material past. Due to the success of the first conference a second edition will be held in Doha in co-operation with UCL Qatar, The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha and the support of the Qatar National Research Fund.

Although museums have been present in the region since the 1950s, the recent investment in high-profile museums in a number of the states of the Arabian Peninsula is establishing the museum as a central form of heritage preservation, arguably overshadowing local forms of heritage performance and preservation. In addition, the mega-museum projects in, for example, Abu Dhabi and Qatar are drawing the attention of the international media to the region, and such media interpretations of these developments have come to dominate the discourse. Critical analysis of the role of museums in the Arabian Peninsula is at an early stage. This conference explores a number of themes addressing questions such as: What challenges do museums in the region face in their development? What is the nature of the heritage collected, curated and displayed in the museums? How are the museum model and the implementation of international museological expertise impacting on local forms of heritage representation? What kind of audience are the museums speaking to, and how do local communities engage with the museums? What is the nature of community vis-à-vis the museum in the region?
This conference will be of interest to academics and students working in the field of museums and cultural heritage in the region and globally, museum and cultural heritage practitioners, anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, and, more broadly, those with an interest in the socio-cultural, economic and political landscape of the region.

Abstract submission

We welcome abstracts of no more than 250 words on the following topics. Please include your name, affiliation and contact details at the end of the abstract:

  1. Museums and Cultural Policy: Across the Arabian Peninsula over the last 40 years cultural policies have developed that utilise museums and heritage as tools in state-definition and national identity. We are particularly keen to explore current and future policies of cultural development, and to investigate the differing approaches taken to museums, heritage and cultural developments at state level in the Arabian Peninsula.
  2. Museums and the Public: Although museums have been in existence since the 1950s, public awareness of the nature of museums amongst local populations in the Arabian Peninsula is still relatively low. The recent rapid development of high-profile museum projects has impacted on awareness but less so on attendance. This theme encompasses three areas of investigation: the strategies that museums are using to attract local audiences; the perceptions amongst local populations of their museums; and whether museums as local heritage institutions are sustainable, given their relatively unfamiliar form.
  3. Museums and Globalisation: Many of the museums constructed in the Arabian Peninsula over the last decade, and those still in development, are part of an agenda of globalisation – these museums are regarded as indicators of modernity transmitting a message of global and transnational identity, as they attract local and foreign audiences and expertise alike. This theme explores the role of museums in the agenda of globalisation, drawing on iterations of pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism, as well as the arrival of ‘franchise’ museums to the region. In addition, this theme is open to the role of the museums and its relationship to the concept of World Heritage.
  4. Museums and Education: Museums as educational institutions are well-developed in Europe and the United States, and while the educational role of museums is recognised in the Arabian Peninsula, the relatively recent arrival of the institution of the museum in the region and the nature of the regional school curriculums, present specific challenges to museums to successfully realise their educational role. This theme asks how museums can work effectively with education in the region, and explores some of the regional challenges that currently exist. In addition, new university programmes are being developed to train current and future museum staff. This theme investigates the challenges such programmes face, and asks how, and if, such programmes might develop successfully in the future.
  5. Beyond the Museum: Overshadowed by the state-level museum projects, many kinds of local museums and collections exist in the region, from preserved family houses to majliscollections and heirloom collections of pearling artefacts and craft tools. These collections are curated according to individual concerns, values and interests, illuminating indigenous concepts of heritage and identity. In addition, intangible practices continue to evolve alongside rapid social change, embodying forms of heritage impossible to represent in the traditional museum space. This session investigates all aspects of heritage practices beyond the new museum paradigm.

Abstracts addressing other themes relevant to this conference will also be considered.

Deadline for abstract submission: January 31st 2014
Please submit abstracts to:

For any queries regarding abstract submissions please contact Sarina Wakefield

Limited funding is available to support travel and accommodation. Please contact Karen Exell to discuss funding applications:


Call for Papers: Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies Graduate Student Conference (New York, 27-28 February 2014)

Call For Papers: MESAAS Graduate Conference 2014

27-28 February 2014 
Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies
Columbia University in the City of New York

Abstract Deadline: 1 December 2013

The organizing committee of the 2014 MESAAS Graduate Student Conference at Columbia University is pleased to invite paper and panel submissions addressing themes that broadly relate to the MESAAS regions, including but not limited to the following:

  • Literatures and aesthetics (Classical, early modern, and contemporary genres of imaginative literature; the visual and performing arts; cinema studies)
  • Knowledge systems, classical and contemporary (in law, ethics, science, language, and other fields; the history of Oriental Studies; the university)
  • Genealogies of the political (discursive and institutional histories of contemporary political practices)
  • Histories, disciplinary and subaltern (comparative studies of academic or professional modes of history writing and the vernacular or popular forms of retelling the past)

MESAAS is heir and host to a number of intellectual traditions that resist division between the humanities and social sciences. We are interested in examining both classical and emergent questions in area studies, not as objects of research but as sources of generative knowledge, and as such, aim to formulate new and post-disciplinary modes of inquiry beyond the prevalent conditions of both scientism and historicism. As such, we are equally interested in the limits of disciplinary knowledge production, hegemonic epistemes and paradigms of thought, the work that goes into the construction of ‘areas’ of study, as well as the past and future of area studies.

To that end, we especially encourage work that rethinks the boundaries and conditions of the disciplines with reference to regionally specific work, particularly as that relates to critical geographical imaginaries from and within the regions represented in the department.

Students interested in presenting a 20-minute paper should submit a 300-500 word abstract and one-page resume through the conference website:  by 1 December 2013. Notifications will be sent in late December. Panel submissions are encouraged.  For other inquiries,  please contact us via:

Sites archéologiques et musées d’Arabie saoudite : un état des lieux

Ce premier article a pour objectif de présenter un état des lieux des sites archéologiques et musées d’Arabie saoudite. Répartis sur 2 240 000 km2, ces derniers se composent de :

– 12 000 sites archéologiques et naturels répartis sur le territoire,

– dont 956 sites archéologiques reconnus comme profitables pour un développement touristique ;

– parmi lesquels 430 sont déjà mis en valeur et accueillent un public ;

– près de 100 édifices historiques (palais, mosquées, hammam, madrasa, maisons) ;

– près de 80 musées publics ;

– près de 500 collections et musées privés

Parmi les sites archéologiques témoignant de l’histoire pré-islamique et islamique du pays, certains sont inscrits sur la Liste du Patrimoine mondial de l’Unesco tels que les tombes nabatéennes de Mada’in Saleh (al-Hijr), couramment connue comme ville “jumelle” de la Pétra jordanienne, et la citdelle at-Turaif d’ad-Dir’iyah, première capitale de la dynastie des Saoud avant Riyad.

Comme le présente la carte ci-dessous (© VC), les 80 musées sont répartis dans les treize régions administratives de l’Arabie saoudite ,tandis que certaines régions concentrent plus de musées que d’autres : Riyad (concentration dans la capitale), Nâjran et ‘Assîr (régions dotées de nombreux objets relevant du patrimoine populaire).

AS_Carte1 copy

L’étude de l’implantation des musées (près de sites archéologiques, au cœur de petites, moyennes ou grandes villes), de leur gestion (administrative et financière) et de leurs collections (corpus d’objets, muséographie, discours) est le coeur de ma thèse qui tend à apporter un regard neuf sur un royaume qui conserve et expose un patrimoine encore trop méconnu.



Objets et musées d’Arabie

Ce carnet a pour objectif de présenter l’actualité scientifique relative aux recherches concernant l’histoire des collections et des musées d’Arabie saoudite. Ce sujet, peu traité tant en anglais qu’en français, mérite pourtant une place légitime au sein de la grande histoire des musées depuis les premiers établissements européens du XVIIIe siècle. Bien plus, à l’heure où les regards se focalisent sur la politique culturelle des pays du Golfe voisins (Qatar, Emirats Arabes Unis), l’Arabie saoudite poursuit avec succès de grands projets culturels mis en place depuis la création d’un premier Département des Antiquités en 1963. On trouvera dans ce carnet des articles et des notes de veille scientifique concernant les musées saoudiens et leurs voisins du Mashreq et du Magreb.