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Fez, Morocco: Crossroads of Knowledge and Power

Fez, Morocco: Crossroads of Knowledge and Power

International conference and concert, November 14-15, celebrating the Queen of Cities

The archetypal North African, Arab, Muslim walled city...

This year marks the 1200th anniversary of the founding of the city of Fez, Morocco, which has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site. The medina of Fez is viewed as the archetypal North African, Arab, Muslim walled city, to be mapped as a traditional site to be revived and renovated. To commemorate twelve centuries of urban life in Fez, scholars from the U.S., Europe, and Morocco are meeting at UCLA and UC-Riverside to explore ideas of urban space and social relations at the intersection of social history, architectural history, urban planning, engineering, anthropology, and culture.

Titled Fez, Morocco: Crossroads of Knowledge and Power, Celebrating 1,200 Years of Urban Life, the conference focuses on Preserving the Old City; Religious Ritual and Politics; Division and Revision of Urban Space; and Fez, Beyond Borders. Scholars are meeting at the UC-Riverside campus on Friday, November 14, to explore the first two themes, and at the UCLA campus on Saturday, November 15, to explore the second two. The international gathering concludes on Saturday night with an exhilarating program of music and dance celebrating Fez: Queen of Cities, beginning at 8:00 pm at Royce Hall.

Session one of the conference features presentations on Moroccan policy for preserving the architectural heritage of Fez, the importance of Fez as a touchstone for “authentic” Moroccan culture in the eyes of French colonial architects, and the Sahrij and Sbaiyin Madrassa Complex Restoration Project as a case study of conservation and sustainability. Session two explores political legitimacy and popular participation in the Royal Musalla of Fez, shifting conceptions of performance and authority in Fassi curing rites, and the textual objectification and ethnographic analysis of Judeo-Arabic. Session three examines the history of the suburbs of Fez and the current program of “social housing” construction, the possible existence of a secret tunnel under the city, a proposal to restore the medina’s paved-over river, and a study of ethnographic change in the Zkak Roumane quarter. Session four extends the discussion to explore definitions of the “European” and the “local” in architecture, literature, music and dance. Laila Lalami reads from her forthcoming novel, Secret Son, an allegory of contemporary Morocco, and Walter Clark presents a study of mutual influences between Andalusia and North Africa through the medium of flamenco.

The conference and concert are organized by Susan Slyomovics of UCLA and Susan Ossman of UC-Riverside. Sponsors include the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies and the UCLA International Institute; the UC-Riverside Global Studies Program, Center for Ideas and Society, Office of Research, and Departments of Anthropology, Music, and Art History; the University of California Humanities Research Center; the Social Science Research Council Program on Islam and Muslims in World Contexts; and the Moroccan American Cultural Center of Los Angeles.

For more information on the time and location of events as well as a complete list of participants, the titles of their presentations, and abstracts of papers to be presented at the conference, go to Fez.

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