Rutgers University–Newark, in collaboration with Simon Fraser University, completed a workshop on the island of Lesvos, Greece, entitled "Sovereignty, Space and Aesthetics: Greece and Europe in the World."
From June 15-18, a diverse group of scholars from North America and Europe and affiliates from nonprofit organizations gathered in the village of Molyvos on Lesvos to critically engage in discussions on pressing global challenges. Presenters also examined how literature, film, and art engaged with refugee movements, environmental issues, and economic crises.
The workshop was conceptualized by Eirini Kotsovili, a scholar of Modern Greek literature and culture and lecturer at Simon Fraser University; Dimitris Krallis, an associate professor at Simon Fraser University and historian of Byzantium, who is acting director of the Stavros Niarchos Center for Hellenic Studies; and Sadia Abbas, an associate professor at Rutgers University-Newark who specializes in postcolonial literature and theory; the culture and politics of Islam in modernity; early modern English literature, especially the literature of religious strife; and the history of 20th-century criticism and runs the Postcolonial Questions and Performances Series. The event was co-organized by Kotsovili and Abbas. The spatial organization came out a of a decade and a half long conversation between Krallis and Abbas regarding the potential of Molyvos, Lesvos to enable complex, place-sensitive, respectful and reciprocally transformative responses to global challenges. All three were thrilled by the results, which far exceeded their expectations.
Participants included Abbas, Maria Boletsi (Leiden University and University of Amsterdam); Vangelis Calotychos (Brown University); Faisal Devji (Oxford University); R.A. Judy (University of Pittsburgh); Phevos Kororos-Simeonidis (Goldsmiths, University of London); Kotsovili (Simon Fraser University); Nikos Papadogiannis (Bangor University); Eleni Takou (HumanRights360); Jini Kim Watson (New York University); and Gary Wilder (City University of New York).
Event organizers selected Lesvos because of its layered history and its function as a crossroads between Europe and Asia. The island still bears traces of Classical, Byzantium, Ottoman occupations, with a populace reconstituted by population transfers following the Balkan Wars and formalized by the Lausanne Conference of 1923 and the wars that led up to it. The island is also significant for its cultural production. Lesvos is associated with celebrated authors and artists from Sappho to Patrikios. Moreover, since the economic crisis of 2008, the subsequent Greek debt crisis, and the refugee influx of 2015-2016, many of the effects and contradictions of present planetary crises have converged in Lesvos. Participants were profoundly appreciative of the space and the conversations it enabled and are eager to return to continue the conversation.
The workshop was conceived as the first, in what organizers hope, will become an annual event for, at least, the next two to three years that will foster the creation of a network of scholars and activists dedicated to connecting theoretical work to contemporary social, cultural, and political issues. At this time, the Office of the Chancellor at Rutgers-Newark has pledged support for the next two years. In the meantime, a website is being created to collect details about the workshop, which will host a video of the event to share with a wider, international audience.
The event was made possible with support from Rutgers–Newark’s Office of the Chancellor, School of Arts and Sciences-Newark, Graduate School-Newark, Department of English, and Postcolonial Questions and Performances-RU-N as well as Simon Fraser University’s Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies and Office of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
About Rutgers University-Newark
Rutgers University–Newark (RU-N) is a diverse, urban, public research university that is an anchor institution in New Jersey’s cultural capital. More than 13,000 students are currently enrolled at its 38-acre campus in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, University College, the Graduate School, Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, the Rutgers Law School – Newark, the School of Criminal Justice, and the School of Public Affairs and Administration. RU-N is exceptionally well positioned to fulfill higher education’s promise as an engine of discovery, innovation, and social mobility. It has a remarkable legacy of producing high-impact scholarship that is connected to the great questions and challenges of the world. It has the right mix of disciplines and interdisciplinary centers and institutes to take on those questions and challenges. It is in and of a city and region where its work on local challenges undertaken with partners from many sectors resonates powerfully throughout our urbanizing world. Most importantly, RU-N brings an incredible diversity of people to this work—students, faculty, staff, and community partners—making it more innovative, more creative, more engaging, and more relevant for our time and the times ahead. For more information, please visit www.newark.rutgers.edu
About Simon Fraser University
As Canada's engaged university, Simon Fraser University (SFU) is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research, and far-reaching community engagement. SFU was founded more than 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is Canada’s leading comprehensive research university and is ranked one of the top universities in the world. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 35,000 students, and boasts more than 150,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world. For more information, please visit www.sfu.ca.