Research: To Strengthen the Culture of Knowledge

Research: To Strengthen the Culture of Knowledge is a capacity-building programme in the field of cultural studies in Syria and the Arab region. The Programme supports and builds the capacities of ten junior and mid-level researchers each year, through a grants, training, and mentorship programme across all disciplines and methodologies. It targets all cultural practitioners who take interest in the relationship between arts and other fields.

The Programme contributes to developing and publishing cultural research papers, studies, and guides, and provides platforms for exchange and communication between researchers, artists, and art students. The programme then publishes the research papers in dedicated publications, through audio/visual media, and during seminars, in collaboration with the most prominent universities and cultural institutions in the Arab Region.

The Programme aims to:

  1. Build the capacities of ten Syrian and Palestinian-Syrian researchers, aged between 22 and 40, based in Syria, the Arab region, and Europe, who are active in different artistic and cultural fields.
  2. Allow at least 1,000 artists, art students, and cultural practitioners in Syria and the Arab region to expand their knowledge and acquire robust research content on how to establish a link between artistic and cultural works and the specific contexts of their production.
  3. Establish a network of at least ten cultural and academic institutions in the Arab region and Europe, with the objective of exchanging information between art students, producers, and critics and developping new narratives on the role of art and research knowledge production mechanisms in Arabic  

About the Research Programme 

In 2012, Ettijahat - Independent Culture launched Research: To Strengthen the Culture of Knowledge Programme, with the objective of promoting Syrian scientific and cultural research, analyzing the transformations taking place in the arts sector, and exploring the connection between old and new cultural structures, as well the intertwined relationships between arts and social, political, and economic spheres.

Research: To Strengthen the Culture of Knowledge Programme is a capacity-building programme whose purpose is to support and accompany ten Syrian and Palestinian-Syrian young researchers exploring different areas of knowledge annually. As of 2016, other activities were added to the programme. These include seminars and discussions with the public, academia, and university students, as well as issuing educational publications and materials on cultural research, to give people who are interested in scientific research the opportunity to acquire information on the current cultural changes taking place in Syria, amid an atmosphere that promotes the exchange of knowledge and information.

Throughout its seven editions, the Programme received 326 applications. The grants and mentorship programme reached 78 male and female researchers aged between 22 and 40, living in Syria, neighboring countries, or Europe. Three books were also published in hard copy, along with other separate research papers in digital form: 7 research papers in Arabic and 7 in English, out of a total of 70 research papers prepared. These were distributed according to the themes specified in the Programme’s scientific framework:

  • Analyze art and creativity trends in Syrian artistic and literary works produced by Syrian artists and writers around the world, as well as the creative economy: 28 studies completed.
  • Explore traditional and contemporary methods of documentation and archiving to protect heritage and understand its role in Syria’s social, creative, and economic sectors in the future: 16 studies completed.
  • Explore creative crafts, their materials and techniques, the technical expertise needed to practice them, the mechanisms of inheriting and learning these techniques, and how they reflect on society: 4 studies completed.
  • Examine active cultural structures in Syrian society, analyze the causes of cultural marginalization, and study the dynamics of the transformation taking place in Syrian culture and its inherited features during the revolution and its different stages: 7 studies completed.
  • Explore the features of the new Syrian culture that emerged after the revolution,  its horizons and potential for development currently and in the near future: 10 studies completed.
  • Analyze the top priorities of cultural action in the Syrian context, including managing the current cultural change, the potential forms of intervention, and the most prominent research papers and submissions that have a direct impact on policies and the planning of cultural practices: 5 studies completed.

Participants came from diverse backgrounds: students in different fields of arts; graduates from faculties of literature and journalism; researchers working in Syrian civil society organizations; and artists, including writers, filmmakers, playwrights, and visual artists.

The Research Programme has collaborated with several think tanks, universities, and publishing houses, most prominently: Saint Joseph University (USJ) in Beirut, American University of Beirut (AUB), the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, the Arab Council for the Social Sciences, Mamdouh Adwan Publishing House, and German publishing house Ibidem Verlag. The committee and trainers counted more than 25 experts, in addition to more than 30 mentors from Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Turkey, and France, who accompanied the researchers in their work over the course of eight months in each edition of the programme.

Additionally, in 2019, the Research Programme established an advisory Scientific Committee, to help develop the programme’s general orientation in terms of producing an open critical narrative about arts and their merit. The committee consisted of: Dr. Seteney Shami: Director of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences; Dr. Marianne Noujeim:  Academic, trainer, and researcher; and Dr. Hassan Abbas: researcher and trainer, who passed away in earaly 2021.

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