Yemen in Conflict: Popular literary heritage as expression of conflict and tool for conflict resolution
- Start date: 1 February 2019
- End date: 30 June 2020
- Funder: British Academy
- Primary investigator: Janet C.E. Watson
- External co-investigators: Professor Deryn Rees-Jones (University of Liverpool), Dr Mohammed Shormani (Ibb University)
Partners and collaborators
University of Liverpool, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival
This is a new, multidisciplinary initiative that builds on several projects of longer standing. The project aims to provide long-term protection to traditional and new popular literature, and investigate popular literary responses to conflict in the different regions of Yemen, comparing responses to, and expressions of, traditional conflict with those to the new externally fuelled conflict.
The novelty lies in the focus on literary expressions of conflict and conflict resolution, and the bringing together of projects dealing with the diverse regions of Yemen and relating to all languages spoken in Yemen. The project will also ask, in its engagement with diasporic Yemeni communities in the UK, how storytelling might heighten and enhance both political and public awareness of the situation in Yemen, lead to wider cultural understanding of diaspora and refugee communities in the UK.
New writing resulting from the project will be disseminated via Liverpool Arab Arts Festival (LAAF) who will assist in recruitment of participants for all community writing workshops, and subsequent publicity and dissemination of material produced. An initial event framing the creative element of the project will be hosted by LAAF in Liverpool in July 2019. LAAF was founded in 1998 by Liverpool Arabic Centre and Bluecoat to provide Arab arts and culture both locally and nationally, and it is the only annual festival of its kind in the UK. The 2018 festival recorded visitor destinations from across the UK, with international visitors from Spain, France, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Middle East. LAAF’s marketing strategy for 2019 and beyond includes provision for dissemination of 18k hard copy brochures, which will feature the project, and has a 600k classified advertising reach.
The initial community writing workshop in Liverpool, responding to material gathered, will be followed by a series of three community writing workshops, hosted in Liverpool, South Shields and Cardiff. These will be administrated via LAAF, with input from Rees-Jones, Atiq, Watson, Hacker.
The filmpoem will be given a high-profile launch at the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival in 2020, with round table discussions and performances. The filmpoem will be submitted to international filmpoem festivals calls for submissions, (including Zebra, Rabbit Heart, O Bheal International Poetry Film festival poetryfilm). We will also host a showing via Liverpool’s Centre for Translating Conflict with a talk by Watson and Rees-Jones about the project.
Live streaming events of the 2019 and 2020 project will occur through Facebook and the filmpoem will also be lodged on the LAAF website. Based on recent LAAF figures prepared for Arts Council England, press and media coverage local, national and international have the potential reach of 45 million via BBC Arabic, CNN, BBC World Service, The New Arab, Associated Press, Alaraby. The film can also be easily disseminated by networks in Yemen via Whatapp – Watson will lead on this. LAAF will assist in disseminating existing material to diaspora communities in the UK.
Links to all work resulting from both the academic and creative dimensions of the project will be placed on the LAAF website and on YouTube with links via LAAF, Watson’s Centre for Endangered Languages Cultures and Ecosytems and Rees-Jones’ Centre for New and International Writing. These links will include both new writing and sources. Material will also be disseminated via the Centre for New and International’s twitter feed @writingatcentre (c. 1k followers); and Rees-Jones’ twitter feed @DerynRJ (c. 1830 followers).
The project aims to provide long-term protection to traditional and new popular literature, and to investigate popular literary responses to conflict in the different regions of Yemen. It will compare responses to, and expressions of, traditional conflict with those to the new externally fuelled conflict.
The project will providing a lasting legacy of oral literature: open-access materials will be widely accessible, with obvious direct relevance to the Yemeni communities within Yemen and in the diaspora.
As a whole, the project has ongoing potential to heighten and enhance political and public awareness of Yemen's ongoing conflict. It will create a basis for further exploration of the wider role of narrative and poetry more generally as a tool for conflict resolution.
Publications and outputs
The Yemeni communities are unable to afford purchasing of internationally published works, so online publication is important. The production of Yemeni popular literary texts dealing with conflict and conflict resolution and the multimodal digital archive of popular Yemeni literature will initially be placed on two sites which continue work by Liebhaber: When Melodies Gather and Al-Baydani Alzaiwya. Open-access productions will therefore be accessible to the Yemeni communities within Yemen and in the diaspora.
A jointly edited volume (Watson and Miller) on Yemeni oral literature as an expression of conflict resolution will be produced as a special issue of Arabian Humanities a French-based journal first published by the CEFAS (French Archeological Institute of Sanaa) and now by CNRS (French National Council of Research). This is planned for publication in 2021.