Feras Alkabani helps create first UK network of Syrian academics and researchers, SARN UK
Posted on behalf of: The School of Media, Arts and Humanities
Last updated: Monday, 30 October 2023
Dr Feras Alkabani joined another seven UK-based Syrian scholars to launch the UK’s first network for Syrian academics at Pembroke College (University of Cambridge) on 16-17 September 2023.
The Syrian Academics and Researchers' Network in the UK (SARN UK) brings together UK-based Syrian scholars under one umbrella to build rapport, enable interdisciplinary research collaboration in the Arts and Humanities, Education and Social Sciences to enhance academic and public knowledge on Syria while exploring the role of art and performance in disseminating research in these areas beyond the academy.
The launch event and the network’s first conference
Over a period of 18 months, a group of UK-based Syrian academics and researchers have held a number of meetings and discussions with the aim to launch an umbrella organisation to house Syrian scholars in the UK.
This goal was finally achieved with the official launch of the Syrian Academics and Researchers’ Network in the UK (SARN UK) on 16-17 September 2023, along with the Network’s first annual conference, attended by over 40 Syrian academics, representative from the Council of At-Risk Academics (CARA), Education, Peace and Policy (EPP) as well as the 8-strong members of the Organising Committee, including Dr Feras Alkabani, who has applied for an AHRC Research Networking Scheme to fund the Network’s activities in the next 18 months. The launch weekend took place at Pembroke College (University of Cambridge) on 16-17 September 2023 and was sponsored by CARA and EPP.
The Conference featured a keynote lecture by prominent Syrian-American Emerita Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration, Dawn Chatty (University of Oxford), 3 panels on ‘Syrian Academics in Exile’, ‘Higher Education in North West Syria’ and ‘Methodological Challenges for Conducting Research on Syria’, a musical performance by Syrian Qanun player, Sanaa Wahbah and a final roundtable discussion, in which the Organising Committee presented their planning process and vision for the Network and took questions from the audience.
SARN UK aspires to be an academic home for UK-based Syrian scholars and students as well as a collaborative hub for UK-based scholars working on Syria.
The background and the vision
With over a decade of conflict in Syria that saw millions leaving the country, Syrian academics and researchers in the UK have now become a sizeable minority of exiled scholars in the diaspora. Many are engaged in important multidisciplinary research on Syria, including the political situation that led to the ongoing conflict, as well as how the country can be rebuilt in a future post-war phase. Their stories, views and narratives are not always heard, however. Furthermore, there is currently no purpose-built platform in the UK that enables Syrian scholars and artists to come together and cross-fertilise each other's work or explore interdisciplinary collaborative projects on Syria.
Dr Feras Alkabani explained, ‘In the UK, Syria has entered the British cultural consciousness more than ever before, with news stories, documentaries and art exhibitions. The Network will enhance wider participation of Syrian voices in these narratives by creating a solid platform for Syrian scholars and artists to collaborate, showcase their work and contribute to a better understanding of Syrian culture, history and politics through academic outputs and cultural projects for wider dissemination beyond the academy.’
SARN UK will soon be beginning a programme of outreach, online events and participations with a website planned in the next few months. If you would like to know more about SARN UK and be kept informed about everything the Network is doing, please see their website and follow on X.