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Theater of Thought (Season 2): Animating Spaces of Meaning

Tahrir Lounge
Event organized by Tahrir Lounge

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Theater of Thought (Season 2)
Animating Spaces of Meaning (seminar in English)

In the wake of last year’s successful projects, Tahrir Lounge Goethe (TLG) continues the Theater of Thought series. In 2018, it returns to take on the widespread problem of mediocrity by engaging with sociology, literature and philosophical concepts and various intellectual topics in an informal conversational manner that audience members will find approachable, fascinating and interactive.

The array of familiar toxic social problems did not simply enter the world by announcing themselves with drums, fire and brimstone. Rather, they crept up as “common sense” or it become repetitive until, eventually, they appeared as “tradition” or a “way of life.” Many will even defend the questionable status quo as part of one’s duty. The rise of mediocrity and fragmentation of meaning has become an intimate part of everyday life.

With this as a backdrop, the Tahrir Lounge Goethe launches the second season of the Theatre of Thoughts titled “Animating Spaces of Meaning” with the sociologist Dr. Amro Ali. Dr Ali will engage with the concept of utopianism, a term that has, understandably, been disparaged in the twentieth century in light of the totalitarian nightmares. But this route adopted utopia to looks backwards towards an imaginary past, a prelapsarian paradise, in which life was different, better, innocent, harmonious, and one of plenitude and sensual gratification. A vague future is staked in a reductionist past.

While this might be a utopia from the perspective of its proponents, it often turns out to be a dystopia in reality. The second utopia that the seminars will explore is not the utopia that looks to the restoration of a lost past, but imagines utopia as the intentional product of rational action and human agency through which the good society might be realised in the future.

A sociological-philosophical approach will guide the three seminars, each in Alexandria (4 April), Cairo (10-11 April) and Asyut (26 April), that will discuss the pitfalls of modernity and the utopian lines of thinking that can shed light on how to understand the modern problem of mediocrity: dehumanising individualism, loneliness, and, in effect, the fragmentation of meaningful spaces and narratives.

The month of May will see three-day workshops, each in Cairo and Alexandria, and will telescope into story-telling as a utopian form of agency. A process that centres on social transformation for a better society would be sought out but it would be conditioned on not postponing that end towards the future, rather, it would be keeping that end everyday throughout the process. So the problem is not the transition but what that transition involves. It would not be a transition that involves deferring our ends; rather, it’s instigating utopia everyday to the best of one’s human capacity. To do this, the workshops will focus on creative expressions and engaging with German philosopher Walter Benjamin’s concept on the loss of aura.

Given the limited spaces, participation in the workshops will be given to those who attended one of the seminars. This will be followed by a publication of the workshop outcomes in Arabic and English. The Theatre of Thought welcomes artists, bloggers, filmmakers, writers, directors of developmental and cultural projects and members of the public who are interested in incorporating sociological and philosophical questions into their activities.

The Theater of Thought was started last year and presented by Dr. Ali during which he discussed three critical themes: “The Idea of the Beginnings”, “The Scourge of Shapelessness,” and ‘The Creative Public.’

Dr. Amro Ali is a sociologist, research fellow at the University of Sydney, founder of Alexandria Scholars, and lecturer at the American University in Cairo and other institutes across Egypt. His research interests involve cities, citizenship, modernity, identities, statehood, nationalism, and political theory/philosophy. He received his doctorate from the University of Sydney which examined the role of Alexandria’s historical imaginaries and the changing public sphere through the philosophical works of Hannah Arendt and Václav Havel.

The first session will be held on the 4th of April at Goethe Alexandria (10 Elbtalesa street - Azaret)

The second session will be held on the 10th of April from 7 pm to 9 pm at tahrir lounge Goethe (5 elboustan street from Talaat Harb downtown cairo) it will be conducted in Arabic.

The third session (in English) will be held on the 11th of April from 7 pm to 9 pm at Tahrir Lounge Goethe (5 El-Boustan street from Talaat Harb downtown Cairo).

The fourth session will take place in Asyut on the 26th of April.