Snapshots of Aleppo’s Social Urban History – Karam Nachar

From the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, Aleppo was the most important city in the Ottoman empire boasting an extremely rich and complex history. By universalizing the discussions of Aleppo, Nachar undoes nostalgic historical accounts and demystifies the charming discourse of the ancient oriental city. Like any other city, Aleppo has its entangled worlds and complex class struggles. Karam Nachar takes us in a journey through the last four hundred years which gave rise to Aleppo as a world trade center. We hear about the class- and sect-related tensions that this rise engendered in the city and continued to inform its social politics until our present day.

Aleppo City Market: Defining Space and Time – Annika Rabo

Author of A Shop of One’s Own, Independence and Reputation among Traders in Aleppo, Rabo shares insights from her fieldwork during 1997-2002 in Souk al-Medina (the city’s market) as one of Aleppo’s key social urban institutions. As a site for social interaction and formative human experiences, how do traders and customers interact and define time and space around them in the market? What does this tell us about the multi-faceted relationship between the state, the people and the economy?

My Aleppo: When Memory Becomes Resistance – Lina Sergie Attar

You know Aleppo as a vast landscape of bombed and burning historic buildings, cratered streets, and endless lines of fleeing, destitute families. But I will tell you about a time when things were different — when Aleppo was my home.

Since 2011, Syrians witnessed firsthand the simultaneous rebirth and destruction of their country on every scale: from home to nation. How does one express the collective and personal losses, hopes, regrets that have directly affected every Syrian? How does one absorb the traumatic everyday events devouring a country, preserve memories of the past, and look towards the future all at once? How do we reexamine the theories of urban trauma and national identity, collective memory and constructed memorial, heritage and reconstruction, under the harsh reality of ongoing war and global mass displacement? Let us begin, with a map of my Aleppo.

Aleppo: Revolutionary Culture – Leila Nachawati

Long before March 2011, Syria was known as the “kingdom of silence”. All forms of artistic and public expression were controlled by the regime, only those who mastered the regime’s censorship rule-book managed to sneak in their subtle message through the many red lines. From the outset of the uprising against tyranny in 2011, public expression and art became a daily practice. Self-expression has been, in essence, the motor of the uprising; the creative spirit of the Syrian people was unleashed by the wave of protests around the country popularizing art and culture to become a defining face of the protest movement. But where are we today? With the population facing endless repression and the world seeming increasingly indifferent, is art still a powerful tool for Syrians?

Spanish-Syrian professor and activist Leila Nachawati Rego reflects on culture and communication in times of repression, revolution and war, with a special focus on Aleppo, “the Syrian Gernika”.

Aleppo: The Fall – Mohamad Katoub

In 2016, one of the worst human tragedies took place in Aleppo. After a few months of siege and indiscriminate shelling, tens of thousands of people were evicted from the city.

Beyond the horrific scenes of bombardment and forced mass eviction, little reflection has followed on how and why these violations happened and what the implications are for the present and future Syria.

Why did Aleppo fall? Who is responsible and how to be held accountable? What was the role of the local armed factions in Aleppo? Who was negotiating on behalf of the civilians? Who was forced to leave eastern Aleppo and who was allowed to return after the fall? What is happening in Aleppo today? What are the protection needs of civilians living in Aleppo under Assad?

In this video, Dr. Mohamad Katoub addresses the inhumane situation under the siege and put it into context with the use of siege as a war tactic against civilians in many other locations around Syria.

Trajectory of Hope

Zeina Bali’s talk about the Trajectory of Hope at a NUPI seminar on Syria. Bali is one of the co-founders of SPACE.

Syria: between political catastrophe and cultural resilience – Karam Nachar


While the Syrian war seems to embody all that is complex, alien, and thus incomprehensible about the Middle East, the five-year-old brutal conflict can in fact be explained through a set of global historical factors that emanate from the world made by Europe in the wake of World War One. This talk will shed light on some of these global factors and their local manifestations, all while emphasising their inherently contradictory nature: destabilising Syrian politics to the point of disaster, while generating much cultural angst and productivity. More about the event.

Misreading Syria: Sectarian Secularism – Thomas Pierret

Persistent claims that the Syrian regime is “non-sectarian” result from a failure to distinguish between sectarianism as an explicit ideology, and sectarianism as an often unspoken technique of power. Whereas the Assad family has generally purported to act in the name of “national unity”, and accordingly minimised discursive expressions of sectarianism, its actual practices throughout the last five decades have consisted in the systematic manipulation of sectarian divides for the purpose of regime survival. More about the event.