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  3. The Nahrein Network: New Ancient History Research for Education in Iraq and its Neighbours

UK - Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The Nahrein Network: New Ancient History Research for Education in Iraq and its Neighbours

Disclaimer: The data for this page has been produced from IATI data published by UK - Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Please contact them (Show Email Address) if you have any questions about their data.

Project Data Last Updated: 27/08/2020

IATI Identifier: GB-GOV-13-FUND--GCRF-AH_R005370_1

Description

Nahrein is the Arabic word for Mesopotamia - the ancient "land between two rivers", centred on modern-day Iraq and northern Syria. The literate, urban cultures of Sumer, Babylonia and Assyria together represent the vital first half of history, millennia before Greece and Rome. Yet they are also a new antiquity, rediscovered archaeologically in the 19th and 20th centuries, irrevocably entangled in the region's messy politics of colonialism and dictatorship, and now threatened by the conflicts tearing the region apart. Millions of dollars of international aid are being pumped into the documentation, digitisation and conservation of threatened and war-damaged cultural heritage sites across the Middle East, with little thought for local interests and impacts. The Nahrein Network by contrast will enable local people to reclaim this heritage as local history, and to put it to constructive use for local communities and economies. It aims to harness interdisciplinary humanities research and education to help Middle Eastern universities, museums, archives and cultural heritage sites build their capacity to contribute to their countries' economic, cultural and social development in the years ahead. The wars in Iraq and Syria spread their deadly effects far beyond the immediate conflict zones. But much-needed emergency relief should not be at the expense of planning for longer-term economic and social regrowth. Network partner UNESCO Iraq identifies education and culture as two key Areas of Action, with gender equality and academic isolation as of particular concern, while UNAMI aims to aid social reconciliation though cultural dialogue. Centred initially on southern Iraq and Kurdistan, Nahrein will run a Research Centre directed by Dr Saad Eskander at the University of Kurdistan Hewler (Erbil) and two collaborative hubs at the University of Baghdad and Basrah Museum. In year 3 it will expand into Turkey, Lebanon and--if safe--Syria and Iran with help from the British Institute at Ankara, the Council for British Research in the Levant and, we hope, the British Institute of Persian Studies. With support from the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, in Strand 1 we will welcome humanities educators and researchers back into the international fold by offering varied options for international, interdisciplinary collaboration, training, mentoring and peer-group support, especially for women, minorities, and early career researchers. In Strand 2 we will issue six-monthly funding calls for interdisciplinary, collaborative projects open to academics, cultural heritage professionals, NGOs and community groups. Each call will address a different selection of five overall themes, related to the core team's own research, chosen to address the Network's five primary Aims (see Objectives). This sequencing will allow research projects to learn from and build on prior findings, and enable Network participants to respond flexibly to new developments in the region. We aim to strike a balance between providing appropriate support and expertise from the project team and allowing Network participants to take the lead on their own research and development. We will encourage a wide range of traditional and innovative methodologies and outputs, both theoretical and practice-based. However, the emphasis will be on open-access, peer-reviewed online publication, for instance via UCL Press and the Open Richly Annotated Cuneiform Corpus (oracc.org). In this way we will maximise accessibility of the Network's findings while providing authors and readers with the reassurance of high academic quality. In Strand 3 we will set up five working groups, one for each Aim, to evaluate, share and embed good practice, and make policy recommendations across the network's full geographical range. With partners we will secure funding to develop a sustainable new generation of high quality humanities research in and for the benefit of the wider Middle East.

Objectives

The Nahrein Network aims, above all, to significantly develop the capacity of Middle Eastern universities, museums, archives and cultural heritage sites to enable cultural and economic growth in the region. This aim can be broken down into several components: 1. Develop a fuller historical understanding of the current exclusion of local experts and audiences from the production and consumption of knowledge about Middle Eastern antiquity, by: * Scoping current interests and expertise, obstacles and opportunities for work on history, culture and heritage in Middle Eastern universities, museums and archives, NGOs and community groups, via focus groups; * Historicising the current deracination of ancient Middle Eastern history and archaeology, through archival research into the politics of the region's past from Ottoman times, through the Mandate era, independence, Baathism, to the present. 2. Facilitate the re-engagement of Middle Eastern humanities academics with regional and global academic communities, as producers of research for international consumption, by: * Developing training programmes, bespoke visiting fellowships, and peer-mentoring groups on relevant research methodology, grant writing and academic leadership, with particular support for participation and leadership from women, minorities, and Early Career Researchers; * Offering opportunities for collaborative, transregional research projects, whose disseminated methods, findings and outputs will enable the current generation of Middle Eastern humanities academics to re-join the international mainstream; * Trialling new university-level pedagogies of Mesopotamian history in Arabic and other local languages, including ancient languages and scripts, images, and objects, to widen access to the core research skills of post-excavation identification, decipherment and analysis of archaeological finds, in order to produce the next generation of local researchers on local Middle Eastern antiquity. 3. Improve employability and leadership potential for humanities graduates from Middle Eastern universities, by: * Funding research projects to develop locally effective university-level teaching of transferable humanities skills such as critical reading, qualitative and quantitative data analysis, constructing evidence-based arguments, writing for clarity, and using and creating digital humanities resources; * Taking the best of this work to create a suite of re-usable, adaptable online resources in English and Arabic for university humanities educators to draw on; * Contributing to UNESCO Iraq's advisory work on humanities curriculum reform in schools for the Ministry of Education, thereby helping to better prepare young adults for university and employment. 4. Enable Middle Eastern museums, archives, cultural heritage sites to contribute to local tourism and knowledge economies, by: * Bringing together ancient historians, educators, cultural heritage professionals, local NGOs and community groups to develop re-usable, adaptable case studies in public education, in museums, on UNESCO World Heritage sites, and other cultural centres, for use on location and/or in print, broadcast, and online media; * Working with UNESCO Iraq to advocate for the social and economic importance of cultural institutions in local and regional development. 5. Promote ancient Middle Eastern history as a 'safe' space for public debate around sensitive social, political matters of contemporary concern, by: * Promoting research projects on themes of common interest to antiquity and modernity, such as: exile, diaspora and return; cultural memory and forgetting; local, national, and regional identities and interactions; living in the landscape; legal systems and personal rights; * Using these findings to help the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI), local NGOs and community groups use antiquity as a 'safe' space for public discussion of post-conflict reconciliation and change.

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