Inana Othman – Representations of the Past

Conviviality in Homs between Space, State Institutions and Interconfessionality: Schools as an Interactive Shared Space

Inana Othman

The project engages with dynamics of conviviality and social boundary-making in the city of Homs before 2011. These dynamics are examined as emerging in a field of tension between state institutions, everyday practice and interconfessionality. Thus, the project focuses on the ambivalent role of the school as a space of encounter, but also of state discipline and authority.

By conducting narrative interviews with people from Homs living in Berlin and Brandenburg, the project asks how pupils, parents and teachers have experienced state schools as spaces of encounter between different social and confessional groups, and where they have experienced limits of these encounters. The project foregrounds the contradictions between state and/or Ba’athist rhetoric and experiences of everyday life. While political rhetoric as well as school curricula and textbooks systematically and officially propagated the “national identity” and the “unity and equality of all Syrians” at school, in particular through the mandatory qaumiyya (“national education”) lessons, residents of Homs experienced an urban space that was largely divided along confessionalist lines. Hence the project asks the following questions: How did people experience school (including the curriculum as well as teaching and learning practices) as a state organized, organizing and disciplining “space and institution”? How did the experience of being schooled impact lived practices of conviviality between different ethnic, confessional and social groups in Homs before 2011?

This research project is part of the joint project "Normality and Crisis: Memories of Everyday Life in Syria as a Chance for a New Start in Germany".