Heritage and Presence

Heritage and Presence


Welcome Remarks

Jamal J. Elias is the Director of the Wolf Humanities Center, Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor of the Humanities, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He specializes in Islamic thought, literature and history in Western, Central and South Asia, with a focus on Sufism and Visual Culture. He regularly teaches courses in his areas of specialization, on Islam and modernity and on comparative religion, as well as advanced graduate courses in Qur'anic Studies as well as Persian and Turkish religious literature. He is the author of Alef is for Allah: Childhood, Emotion and Visual Culture in Islamic Societies (Berkeley 2018); Aisha's Cushion: Religious Art, Perception and Practice in Islam (Cambridge, MA 2012); On Wings of Diesel: Trucks, Identity and Culture in Pakistan (Oxford 2011); This is Islam: From Muhammad and the Community of Believers to Islam in the Global Community (Great Barrington 2011); Islam (London 1999); The Throne Carrier of God: The Life and Thought of ‘Ala’ ad-dawla as-Simnani (Albany 1995);  the coauthor of Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition (Berkeley 2001); the editor and translator of Death Before Dying: Sufi Poems of Sultan Bahu (Berkeley 1998); the editor of Key Themes for the Study of Islam (Oxford 2010); the coeditor of Light Upon Light: A Festschrift presented to Gerhard Böwering by His Students (Leiden 2019); and the author of numerous articles. His writings have been translated into at least nine languages. At present he is writing a book on the history of the Mevlevi order (Rumi's followers) from shortly after Rumi's death until the advent of modernity, focusing on the role of interpersonal relationships and the impact of social changes on the use of language. He is also the lead investigator on a project entitled "Art and Islam in Society: Aesthetic Cognition Expanding Religious Meaning," funded by the Temple Religion Trust.

Emily Wilson is the Wolf Humanities Center's 2022–2023 Forum on Heritage topic director, College for Women Class of 1963 Term Professor in the Humanities, professor of Classical Studies, and graduate chair of the Program in Comparative Literature & Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania. Wilson attended Oxford University (Balliol College B.A. and Corpus Christi College M.Phil.) and Yale University (Ph.D.). In 2006, she was named a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome in Renaissance & Early Modern scholarship. In 2019 she was named a MacArthur Fellow, and in 2020 she was named a Guggenheim Fellow. She lives in Philadelphia with her three daughters, three cats, two rats, and one dog.

Beyond the Institution: Perspectives from West Philadelphia and the Problems with Talking About Heritage at Penn

Wanda Goss and Maria Lyles are residents of the University City Townhomes in West Philadelphia, who are facing displacement due to real estate development. They are fighting for preservation of the low-income housing at the University City Townhomes and in their neighborhood.

NaOmi (e) Richardson is an Africologist, Humanities Facilitator, Researcher, Documentarian and Teaching Artist. She has a keen interest in media and other traditional and non traditional art forms that lead to knowledge creation.

As a facilitator in media arts her purpose is to research and document the Histories -Oral Histories- of ordinary persons lived and living experiences. Her quest, preserve these histories so those unfamiliar with them may learn about and from them.

Over the past seventeen years, she has been granted the opportunity to bring the process of storytelling, using various documentary genres, to understand communities in Camden County, Chester County and the Philadelphia area as a facilitator-teaching artist. She believes that making community based art opens up the way for participants to engage and thrive within their respective communities and be the voice of change.

Working through the medium of documentary with various communities allows her to share the skills (interpreting data, organization, problem solving, decision making, editing, writing, time management, teamwork, +) she has acquired overtime. She incorporates in her projects her knowledge of the histories, social contexts, politics and cultures of people of the African diaspora. Past works include her thesis “The Perception of the Concept of Culture in Sint Maarten/Saint Martin’, Refereed Articles, an installation "Standing on Their Shoulders”, four Zines of poetry, documentaries as a Humanities Scholar and Facilitator with Scribe Video Center, and a documentary in progress on being BLACK/Colored and Catholic in Philadelphia.

Christopher R. Rogers is an educator and cultural worker from Chester, PA. He serves as Public Programs Director for the Paul Robeson House & Museum, where he has volunteered since 2015. He is a fifth-year doctoral student within the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education where he studies neighborhood storytelling practices in West Philadelphia. He serves on the National Steering Committee for Black Lives Matter at School, supporting movements for racial justice in K-16 education by mapping, indexing, and expanding access to identity-affirming, justice-oriented educational materials. Most recently, he’s been involved in coordinating the Friends of the Henry O. Tanner House, aiming to stabilize and revitalize the North-Philadelphia-set National Historic Landmark honoring the legendary painter whom the Smithsonian notes as the most distinguished African-American artist of the 19th century.

Dr. Krystal Strong is an assistant professor of Black Studies in Education at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Her research and teaching use ethnographic, participatory, and multimodal methods to investigate youth and community activism, global Black social movements, and the role of education as a site of struggle in the African Diaspora. Her current research projects investigate youth protest and leadership in Africa, and collaboratively document community-led organizing work around educational justice and Black communities in Philadelphia, her hometown. Dr. Strong is an active community organizer and her work as a core organizer with Black Lives Matter Philadelphia centers abolition, political prisoners, and Pan-African solidarity. She is part of the coalition to the Save the University City Townhomes and, with Mike Africa. Jr. of The MOVE Organization, Dr. Strong is helping to build The MOVE Activist Archive, a counter-archive of MOVE history and collective memory.

Contesting Heritage: Counternarratives in the Material Record and the Built Environment

Francesca Russello Ammon is associate professor of City & Regional Planning and Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. A social and cultural historian of the post-WWII built environment, she is the author of Bulldozer: Demolition and Clearance of the Postwar Landscape, winner of the Lewis Mumford Prize for the best book in American planning history. She is currently writing a history of postwar preservation and urban renewal based upon the Philadelphia neighborhood of Society Hill. Her research also leverages the digital humanities to integrate photographs, oral histories, and other historical records into narratives of urban change through her website Preserving Society Hill and an NEH-funded exploration of Ed Ruscha’s photographic documentation of Los Angeles’s Sunset Boulevard.

Rebecca Haboucha earned her PhD in Archaeology at the University of Cambridge in 2021. She is a heritage and food studies scholar who has worked on issues of climate change, migration/diaspora, cultural sovereignty, and intergenerational transmission amongst Indigenous peoples and refugees, respectively. Rebecca completed her undergraduate degree in Anthropology at McGill University and her master’s in Archaeology at the University of Cambridge. At UPenn, she is working on her first monograph, Reconciliation in the Anthropocene: Safeguarding Indigenous Heritage in Canada and Chile. Prior to joining Penn, she was the Research Collaboration Officer for the Wilberforce Institute and Treatied Spaces Research Group, University of Hull. Her publications include ‘Reimagined Community in London: The Transmission of Food as Heritage in the Afghan Diaspora’, in an edited volume, and ‘Safeguarding Indigenous Heritage in the Chilean Atacama Desert: Negotiating identity claims and community perceptions of long-term climate change’, in press for Heritage & Society.

Richard M. Leventhal is Executive Director of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center ofthe Penn Museum as well as Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania. He serves as Curator in the American Section at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology where he formerly served as the Williams Director. Prior to coming to Penn, he was the President of the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology of Archaeology at UCLA. Leventhal received his PhD from Harvard University. He is one of the Directors of the Tihosuco Heritage Preservation and Community Development Project focused upon the 19th century rebellion called the Caste War of the Yucatan or the Maya Social War. He has written extensively about the ancient Maya and about cultural heritage preservation.

Felipe Rojas Silva is Associate Professor of Archaeology in the Joukowksy Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown University. He conducts archaeological research at the sites of Petra, Jordan, and Notion, Turkey. His book The Pasts of Roman Anatolia:Intepreters, Traces, Horizons (Cambridge University Press, 2019) examined Roman-period interest and manipulation of material traces of the local past in Anatolia and neighboring regions. Among his other publications are the co-edited volumes Antiquarianisms: Contact, Conflict, Comparison (Joukowsky Institute Publications, 2017), Afterlives of Ancient Rock-Cut Monuments in the Near East (Brill, 2021), and Otros pasados: Ontologías altemativas y el estudio de lo que ha sido (Fondo de Promoción de la Cultura, 2022). He is interested in the comparative history of archaeology and antiquarianism worldwide (especially in the Mediterranean, the Near East, and the Americas), the history and theory of fakes and forgeries, and the archaeology and history of the scripts and languages of ancient Anatolia.

Heritage Beyond the Record: Embodiment, Memory, Performance

Artist-scholar-producer, Alex E. Chávez is the Nancy O'Neill Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, where he is also a Faculty Fellow of the Institute for Latino Studies. His research explores articulations of Latinx sounds and aurality in relation to race, place-making, and the intimacies that bind lives across physical and cultural borders. He is the author of the multi-award-winning book Sounds of Crossing: Music, Migration, and the Aural Poetics of Huapango Arribeño (Duke University Press, 2017)—recipient of the Alan Merriam Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology (2018). He has consistently crossed the boundary between performer and ethnographer in the realms of academic research and publicly engaged work as an artist and producer. Chávez has recorded and toured with his own music projects, composed documentary scores, worked closely with Smithsonian Folkways, and collaborated with Grammy Award-winning and Grammy Award-nominated artists. He is co-editor of the recently published volume Ethnographic Refusals / Unruly Latinidades, which grows out of an Advanced Seminar he co-chaired at the School for Advanced Research in 2019. In 2020, he was named one of ten Mellon Emerging Faculty Leaders by the Institute for Citizens and Scholars, and also recently concluded a National Endowment for the Humanities Long-Term Fellowship at the Newberry Library in Chicago. He currently also serves as a National Trustee of the Recording Academy.

Ioanida Costache is an ethnomusicologist and sound studies scholar specializing in Romani artist practices. Her work explores the legacies of Romani historical trauma, and the feminist and de-colonial critiques of the present, inscribed in Romani music, sound, and art. Her writing has been published in EuropeNow, RevistaARTA, Critical Romani Studies, and is forthcoming in European History Quarterly. Her research has been supported by two Fulbright Grants, the Gerald J. Lieberman Fellowship from Stanford University, and a Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the Council of European Studies. She has held visiting fellowships at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the USC Shoah Foundation.

Kim TallBear (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate) (she/her) is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience, and Society, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta. She is the author of Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science. In addition to studying genome science disruptions to Indigenous self-definitions, Dr. TallBear studies colonial disruptions to Indigenous sexual relations. She is a regular panelist on the weekly podcast, Media Indigena. You can follow her research group at https://indigenoussts.com/. She tweets @KimTallBear. You can also follow her monthly posts on her Substack newsletter, Unsettle: Indigenous affairs, cultural politics & (de)colonization.

Barbie Zelizer is the Raymond Williams Professor of Communication and Director of the Center for Media at Risk at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. A former journalist, Zelizer is known for her work on journalism, culture, memory and images, particularly in times of crisis. She has authored or edited fifteen books, including the award-winning About To Die: How News Images Move the Public (Oxford, 2010) and Remembering to Forget: Holocaust Memory Through the Camera's Eye (Chicago, 1998), and over 150 articles, book chapters and essays. Her most recent book is The Journalism Manifesto (2021, with Pablo Boczkowski and C.W. Anderson). Recipient of Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research, the Freedom Forum Center and Fulbright Senior Scholars, Zelizer is also a media critic, whose work has appeared in The Nation, PBS News Hour, CNN, The Huffington Post, Newsday, Liberation and other media organizations. Cofounder and Coeditor of Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism, she is a past President of the International Communication Association, where she is also a Fellow, a Distinguished Scholar of the National Communication Association, an Elected Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an Elected Member of the British Academy. A former Peabody Media Fellow, she is a recent Judge of the Peabody Awards for Excellence in Electronic Media. Her work has been translated into French, Korean, Turkish, Romanian, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew and Portuguese. She is currently working on a book-length manuscript How the Cold War Drives the News.

Closing Remarks

Jake Nussbaum is an interdisciplinary, artist, musician and Ph.D candidate in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studies the relationship between experimental performance practices and sites of political struggle. His dissertation, “Beyond Time: Radical Experiments with Politics and Performance in Philadelphia,” examines how experimental black performance in Philadelphia informs abolitionist activism in the city. Working closely with dancers and musicians, Jake asks how embodied practices such as group improvisation, “tuning in,” and polyvocality provide tools for imagining alternatives to liberal settler colonialism. Jake then follows these embodied practices as they are taken up in abolitionist struggles to challenge dominant understandings of personhood, property, and the trajectory of political change. Jake is a student affiliate of the Center for Experimental Ethnography and a member of the bands The Early and Seven Count.

Percussion Workshop

Hafez Kotain is the owner and Chief Executive Officer at Hafez Percussion Inc. Hafez Percussion collaborates with many artists (national and international) and organizations to bring people together and build cultural bridges one beat at a time. Kotain is an accomplished master percussionist with fluency in both Arab and Latin rhythms. In 2022, Hafez was selected as an immigrant Everyday Genius by Da Vinci Art Alliance and I Belong Philly. This award is a way to celebrate Philadelphians who are innovators and artists. He is a recipient of the prestigious 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, which is awarded each year to 12 Philadelphia artists who are of exemplary talent. Kotain began studying the doumbek at the age of seven, first performed on stage at the age of nine, and went on to study with master percussionist Hady Jazan, winning the national percussion competitions in Syria for several years. Kotain first began his career as an educator, teaching a variety of percussion styles to dedicated students, musicians, and music teachers. In 2010 and 2011, Kotain taught at the Arab Music Retreat led by the internationally acclaimed Arab music performer, Simon Shaheen. He has toured with Lebanese composer/musician Marcel Khalife and Al Mayadine Ensemble in their latest US and Canada tour for “Fall of the Moon: An Homage to the Poet Mahmoud Darwish.”. Kotain has performed with acclaimed artist Sting, the Philadelphia Orchestra, actor and tenor Mandy Patinkin, Syrian singer George Wassouf and many others. He has also performed and recorded with the GRAMMY® Award-winning choir The Crossing for their 2021 album release of “Words Adorned: Andalusian Poetry and Music.” Throughout the year, Kotain teaches with Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture in various school and community-based programs, including a summer camp for youth. He also teaches 2 semester courses in Arab percussion at the University of Pennsylvania.