HTC at SAH 2021 Virtual Conference

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HTC Representatives at the 2021 SAH Annual Conference include:


Jordan is Palestine? Rewriting History Through Pedagogy and Space

Eliana Abu-Hamdi (MIT, Project Manager, GAHTC)




A series of political conflicts, and the loss of the West Bank in 1967, weakened the Jordanian State and threatened its military might. In an era where government stability was essential to maintaining legitimacy and sovereignty, the weight of defeat lay heavy on the monarchy. Stability was further eroded by an increasingly diverse population, with Jordanians outnumbered by Palestinians so severely that the Israeli government declared, “Jordan is Palestine,” targeting Jordan’s decades-long sense of insecurity over a perceived lack of distinct Jordanian identity. 

In response, the Jordanian State wrote a post-colonial narrative for the Nation, strategically blurring distinct notions of Arab-ness and Jordanian-ness. Conspicuously absent in this narrative is Jordan’s Palestinian population, its culture and traditions, architecture and the historical impact of Palestinians on the nation. This erasure was further reinforced by municipal boundaries and regulations that excluded Palestinian refugee camps from service, imprinting a historical narrative of exclusion and separation onto the built environment.

This paper analyzes history curricula produced by the State for Jordan’s school system, outlining how Palestinian culture and practice is intentionally erased, subsuming the culture in favor of a newly established Jordanian identity to maintain stability. I argue that this erasure is a pedagogical technique deployed to intentionally invoke and imprint a “selected tradition” – a history rooted in a constructed past and manufactured collective identity. In order to examine the outcomes of this engineered history, I present a close reading of the architectural history of Amman in relation to urban policies that dictated its development. Based on a multilayered analysis of policies, the built environment and human actors, I conclude that not only did history curriculum effectively erase an entire sector of society, the method was put into practice in city planning, achieving the goal through the isolation of the Palestinian population. 

Beach as Apparatus: Non-Fluid Spaces, Modern Subjects

Manar Moursi (HTC, MIT PhD current student)




1928 is the year the first film with a beach setting was produced and screened in Egypt. Since then, the genre of the beach-film is a recurrent center-piece of Egyptian summer film production. This paper will examine the representation of conflicting narratives of nationalism and identity, distinction and feminism, as they are projected in the architectural and social space of the beach. Through a close reading of Girls and Summer(1960), Marriage in the Modern Way (1968), The Bathing-suit of Mr. Mahmoud’s Daughter (1978) and The Trap (2019), the paper will investigate the question of how beach practices came to symbolize modernization - for whom, and in what ways did beach-going practices characterize a “modern” subject?

Going to the beach, or “tasyeef” ie. summering, was, and remains, a rare opportunity where urban-youth mixed, away from restrictive social norms that entailed they live with their parents until marriage-age. The paper will reflect on depictions of the beach as a liminal space of exception, and how, through representations of beach-going, the films highlight transformations in their protagonists’ social values and beliefs. What did beach going entail for the protagonists’ sexual freedom? And how did beach-going ultimately affect decisions such as choice of spouse and marriage age?

The beach is an aspiration, the opportunity to take the time to vacation, and to have the physical space to do so, an upper-class endeavor, that grew more accessible with time. As the beach became more “plebeian” the upper-class maintained strategies to mark their distinction, from fashion choices for women and through the architectural spaces that they occupied. How did the directors represent and critically interrogate these strategies of distinction? And how does beach-going as an ongoing cinematic motif, unsettle dominant narratives of Egypt’s modern project?




Coastal Landscapes and Politics of Leisure in the Global Sunbelt