As heirs to a secular legal system with a religious imprint, the concept and figure of Nature is still invoked to criminalize sexual orientation and gender identity for being “against nature” in Article 534 of Lebanon’s Penal code, as well as in more than 50 countries across the world. The legal language to support such criminalization often stems from colonial legal codes: the Napoleonic penal code and various British texts, for example, which had no cultural translation in former French and English colonies.

Using this arbitrary concept dividing what is “natural” and “unnatural,” politicians, judges or religious figures ascribe to Nature an undeniable source of authority, enforcing such divisions with the full coercive power of the state. However, recent legal cases (in 2009 and 2014) documented by the Legal Agenda in Lebanon, demonstrate how judges can interpret the concept of Nature in such a way as to dismiss accusations of sodomy.

Based on these precedents, Council has proposed The Manufacturing of Rights, a pluridisciplinary inquiry that unfolds a series of new arguments to show how the concept of Nature is imbued with multiple, contradictory meanings used to regulate societal norms. Over the course of this three-day public conference, participants are invited to share legal cases, both historical and contemporary, referring to Nature in the form of short speeches, lecture-performances, audio pieces and films.

PROGRAM

All sessions are public and live-streamed online on Ashkal Alwan's Youtube Channel.

A booklet with all cases (English/Arabic) will be distributed to the public. The digital version is available on Council’s website (see "Essay").

Thursday, May 14

5.30pm: Forewords
— Christine Tohmé (Ashkal Alwan); Bente Scheller (Heinrich Böll Stiftung - Middle East Office); Sandra Terdjman (Council); David Kim; Lawrence Abu Hamdan, and Nizar Saghieh (Legal Agenda)

Moderated by Tarek Zeidan
— Case #7: A Tale of Two Judgments: Between Empathy and Contempt, video-letter by Arvind Narrain
— Case #12: The Petitioner’s Case, lecture by Eric Gitari
— Discussion

7.30pm: Screening
Introduced by Maya Mikdashi and Carlos Motta
— Case #5: Deseos / رغبات, premiere screening of Carlos Motta’s film1
— Discussion

Friday, May 15

2.00pm - 3.30pm: First Sequence
Moderated by Grégory Castéra
— Case #4: Dahdah Verdict, co-intervention by Lawrence Abu Hamdan & Marwa Arsanios
— Case #8: Another Earth, reading by Émilie Notéris
— Case #3: The Case for Di Aping, lecture by Adrian Lahoud
— Discussion

4.00pm - 5.30pm: Second Sequence
Moderated by Maya Mikdashi
— Case #2: Indecencies, lecture by Nayla Geagea
— Case #1: Chlordécone, video-letter by Vanessa Agard-Jones
— Case #11: The Intermorphs, reading by Ashkan Sepahvand
— Discussion
— Video Case: Toxic, screening of Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz’s video2 (2012, 13 min)

Saturday May 16

11.00am - 12.30pm: Third Sequence
Moderated by Carlos Motta
— Case #6: The Dekwaneh Case, lecture by Karim Nammour
— Case #10: Unnatural Bodies, Desires, and Devotions, lecture by Zeb Tortorici
— Case #9: God, Nature, and the Nature of God, video-letter by Linn Tonstad
— Discussion

1.30pm - 3.30pm: Workshop For the Collective Writing of the Online Data Platform
Moderated by Youmna Makhlouf, David Kim, Sandra Terdjman and Grégory Castéra

4.00pm - 5.00pm: Conclusions
Introduced by Youmna Makhlouf and David Kim
— Concluding remarks by Council

contributors

  • Lawrence Abu Hamdan
  • Vanessa Agard-Jones
  • Marwa Arsanios
  • Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz
  • Grégory Castéra
  • Joscelyn Gardner
  • Nayla Geagea
  • Eric Gitari
  • David Kim
  • Adrian Lahoud
  • Youmna Makhlouf
  • Maya Mikdashi
  • Carlos Motta
  • Karim Nammour
  • Arvind Narrain
  • Émilie Notéris
  • Nizar Saghieh
  • Ashkan Sepahvand
  • Sandra Terdjman
  • Linn Tonstad
  • Zeb Tortorici

curation

  • Council (Grégory Castéra and Sandra Terdjman, in collaboration with Emma McCormick-Goodhart)

INITIATED WITH

  • Ashkal Alwan
  • Legal Agenda

Initiated with

  • Heinrich Böll Stiftung - Middle East Office

PARTNERS

  • DICRéAM
  • Foundation for Arts Initiatives
  • French Institute of Beirut

image

  • Joscelyn Gardner
    Hibiscus esculentus (Sibyl), 2009 (detail)
    Hand-colored lithograph on frosted mylar
    36” x 24”

is an artist with a background in DIY music. His work frequently deals with the relationship between listening and politics, borders, human rights, testimony and truth through the production of documentaries, essays, audio-visual installations, video, sculpture, photography, workshops and performance. In 2015, Abu Hamdan was the Armory Show commissioned artist and was also included in the New Museum Triennial. In 2013, Abu Hamdan’s audio documentary The Freedom of Speech Itself was submitted as evidence at the UK asylum tribunal where the artist himself was called to testify as an expert witness. The artist’s forensic audio investigations are made as part of his research for Forensic Architecture, Goldsmiths College London, where he is also a PhD candidate and associate lecturer. His previous solo exhibitions have been at The Showroom, London, at Casco in Utrecht, in Beirut, in Cairo and forthcoming at Kunsthalle St Gallen and MoMa New York.

is an ethnographer who thinks through the intersection of gender, sexuality, and environmental politics in the Caribbean. She is currently writing a book, Body Burdens: Toxic Endurance and Decolonial Desire in the French Atlantic, on the ways that Martinican bodies (particularly same-sex desiring and gender-transgressing ones) are marked by enduring environmental and social toxicities in contemporary colonial time.

— ARTICLE: Case #1: Chlordécone in France and the Antilles

moved to downtown Beirut in 2007, when she founded the 98weeks Research Project with her cousin, the writer and curator Mirene Arsanios. In 2009, they opened the 98weeks Project Space in Mar Mikhael, a district that was quickly absorbing an onslaught of new studios, cafés, design boutiques, bars and restaurants. Aware that they were inevitably contributing to the area’s gentrification, the Arsanioses organized a workshop in 2010, which took the history of Mar Mikhael as its subject. They dug into the many layers that make up the neighbourhood’s curious urban density, including the refugee camps – first Armenian, then Palestinian – that were repeatedly destroyed by illness, fire and war.

is part of Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz, an artist duo based in Berlin who have worked together since 2004.
Their work revisits photographs or films from the past, referring to and excavating unrepresented or unlegible moments of queerness in history.

— INQUIRY: The Manufacturing of Rights
— EVENT: The Manufacturing of Rights

is part of Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz, an artist duo based in Berlin who have worked together since 2004.
Their work revisits photographs or films from the past, referring to and excavating unrepresented or unlegible moments of queerness in history.

— INQUIRY: The Manufacturing of Rights
— EVENT: The Manufacturing of Rights

is the co-director and co-founder of Council. From 2010-12 he served as co-director of Les Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers, where he conducted various research projects on knowledge production within artistic practices, giving rise to publishing projects, events, and exhibitions. Since 2007, he has co-authored L’Encyclopédie de la parole (Encyclopedia of the Spoken Word), a collaborative inquiry into the formal properties of speech. In 2010, he initiated Ecologies, a program focused on the creation of tools for the representation of art as an ecology (awarded the Hors les Murs grant by the Institut Français in 2013). Grégory is regularly invited to write, give talks and workshop on curating research, to advise institutions and to curate shows (Betonsalon, Wiels, T2G, Centre Pompidou).
He holds a Bachelor degree in Economics (University of Tours) and a Masters in Design and Implementation of Cultural Projects (Sorbonne, Paris 1).

visually reactivates colonial material culture found in Caribbean archives through printmaking and site-specific multimedia installation as a means of exploring her own white Creole identity from a postcolonial feminist perspective, alongside untold histories of the relationship between black and white Caribbean women under colonialism. She lives and works between Canada and the Caribbean, where her family has been resident since the 17th century.

— ARTICLE: Illustrations: Creole Portraits III: “bringing down the flowers...”

is a lawyer and researcher who contributed to the study entitled Homosexuals in the Penal Code, led by Nizar Saghieh in cooperation with Helem. In 2011, she worked at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, before returning to Lebanon to work on vulnerable groups rights such as forms of discrimination against women in Lebanese Personal Status religious laws and legal protection for Syrians who cannot achieve refugee status in Lebanon.

— ARTICLE: Case #2: Indecencies
— EVENT: The Manufacturing of Rights

directs the Nairobi-based National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commision, an NGO that provides legal aid to the LGBTI community by using “law as a tool to achieve social justice and societal change.” In 2013, he took Kenya’s government to Constitutional Court for its refusal to officially register the organization—in clear contradiction of the Constitution’s stipulation that the State shall not discriminate against sexual orientation. In 2014, he filed a decriminalization petition against Kenya’s sodomy law.

— EVENT: The Manufacturing of Rights

is the curator of a new, university-wide initiative in art and human rights, led by Yale Law School, set to commence in Fall 2015. Currently a J.D. candidate at Yale Law School, he also works as a graduate curatorial researcher at Yale University Art Gallery. He holds an M.A. in English (2010) from Harvard University and a B.A. in American Studies (2006) from Columbia University. Prior to law school, he worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, where he became interested in the aesthetic possibilities of finance.

— INQUIRY: The Manufacturing of Rights
— EVENT: The Manufacturing of Rights
— PLATFORM: Notes for a future online platform

extends the field of architecture and develops spatial research on how the “natural environment” is defined and shaped by international humanitarian law. Concerned by the ethics and politics of climate change negotiations, he co-curated the Fifth Geneva Convention, a forum on environmental violence, with Paulo Tavares. His work has been published in Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth.

— ARTICLE: Case #3: The Case for Di Aping
— EVENT: The Manufacturing of Rights

has worked extensively to protect the rights of transgender and transsexual individuals in Lebanon. As a legal researcher, she gave visibility and public debate to the 2014 ruling of a transwomen judged under Article 534 of Lebanon’s penal code, condemning an “act against Nature.” She is a practicing lawyer and a member of Legal Agenda’s board.

Maya Mikdashi is a legal anthropologist and is currently a Mellon Postdoc at Rutgers University. Her upcoming book length manuscript entitled "Sex and Sectarianism: Secularism, Secularity and War in Contemporary Lebanon," is both an archival and ethnographic study of the regulation of sexual and religious difference within secular political systems. Maya works at the intersection of legal anthropology, feminism, queer theory, and theories of sovereignty, secularism and religion. She has worked on a number of documentary film projects, and continues to edit and write for Jadaliyya, an ezine that she co-founded and that is centered on critical approaches to studying the transnational Middle East.

draws upon political history in his work in an attempt to create counter narratives that recognize suppressed histories, communities, and identities. His films Nefandus Trilogy (2013) or Deseos / رغبات from 2015 address the construction, categorization and repression of homoeroticism throughout the conquest and colonial period in the Americas. His recent database documentary Gender Talents (2015) presents video portraits of trans and intersex activists who thoughtfully perform gender as a personal, social, and political opportunity, rather than as a social condemnation.

is a member of social justice non-governmental organization Legal Agenda. As a legal researcher and litigator, he has worked on several cases and rulings related to social groups marginalized by Lebanese society, including: workers’ rights, syndicates, housing rights (particularly regarding Syrian refugees), Palestinian refugees’ right to access professional orders, drug users’ right to undergo treatment instead of prosecution and LGBTIQ-related rights in Lebanon. In Legal Agenda’s publication, he has published several articles on socio-legal issues including cases related to Article 534 of Lebanon’s Penal Code, used to prosecute homosexuals or what is referred to in the law as “[acts] against the order of nature.”

co-founded the Alternative Law Forum, a pluri-legal organisation based in Bangalore. As a lawyer and legal researcher, his primary concern is the representation and cultural understanding of sexual and gender diversities in India. For the past two years, Arvind Narrain has written on the recent decision of the Indian Supreme Court which recognizes transgender persons as full citizens, yet reaffirms Section 377 in condemning “carnal intercourse against the order of Nature” and the exclusion of LGB(T) persons. He is currently working with ARC International, an organization committed to international advocacy on LGBTI rights.

— ARTICLE: Case #7: A Tale of Two Judgments
— EVENT: The Manufacturing of Rights
More information: Alternative Law Forum

is currently writer-in-residence at Violette & Co, a feminist library in Paris. Entitled FictionELLES, Notéris will engage with the medium of the residency through workshops, lectures, staged encounters, and public writing sessions before penning an original work of fiction. She edited TINA # 8 Gender Surprise issue, which reflected on questions of genre and highlighted queer and feminist voices in science fiction and ecology; it included contributions from Vanessa Place and Louise Desbrusses.

— ARTICLE: Case #8: Another Earth
— PRODUCTION: Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge No. 18
— EVENT: On becoming earthlings: dialogues and exercises in shrinking and expanding the human — EVENT: The Manufacturing of Rights
— EVENT: FictionELLES4
More information: Personal website

Ashkan Sepahvand is a writer, translator, and researcher. His interests trace associations from within the histories of somatics, the sensory, transformation, pedagogy, utopia, queerness, collectivity, ritual, performance, and the self. From 2012-2014, he was a research fellow for "The Anthropocene Project" at Haus der Kulturen der Welt. His work and writings have been presented at dOCUMENTA (13), Former West, Tanz im August, Sharjah Biennial X, Home Works 5, Jerusalem Show V, Qalandiya International, and Kunsthaus Bregenz. He lives and works in Berlin, where he co-organizes the technosexual reading circle.

— ARTICLE: Resonances and affects
— ARTICLE: Case #11: The Intermorphs
— PRODUCTION: Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge No. 18
— EVENT: On becoming earthlings: dialogues and exercises in shrinking and expanding the human — EVENT: The Manufacturing of Rights
more information: …ment journal and Manifesta journal
) — INQUIRY: On becoming earthlings

is co-founder of Kadist Art Foundation - a private foundation based in Paris and San Francisco, dedicated to supporting contemporary art. From 2006 to 2012, as artistic programme director at Kadist Art Foundation (Paris), she developed a residency programme for international artists and curators, overseeing the production of a series of works, films, performances and exhibitions. Presently, she serves as advisor for the Kadist Art Foundation on collection acquisition, production and dissemination.
She holds a Bachelor degree in Art History (Sorbonne, Paris), a Masters in Creative Curating (Goldsmiths College, London) and has participated in the experimentation in art and politics programme run by Bruno Latour (Science Po – Institute of Political Studies, Paris).

resides in New Haven, USA, where she is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School. Her work integrates Christian systematic theology, feminist, and queer theory with notions of embodiment. Her forthcoming book is titled God and Difference: The Trinity, Sexuality, and the Transformation of Finitude. She has contributed to the blog Feminism and Religion (FAR), a forum for feminist scholars of religion investigating “the F-word in religion and the intersection between scholarship, activism and community.”

— ARTICLE: Case #9: God, Nature, and the Nature of God
— EVENT: The Manufacturing of Rights
More information: Web page at Yale Divinity School

is an historian who writes widely about such subjects as the construction of archives, affect, and the spectacularization of public punishment for cases of sodomy and bestiality. In connecting sexuality to religiosity and erotics in colonial Latin America, his myriad references include archival theory, human-animal studies and concepts of viscerality. He is Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at New York University.

— ARTICLE: Case #10: Unnatural Bodies, Desires, and Devotions
— EVENT: The Manufacturing of Rights
More information: Webpage at New York University

is the co-director and co-founder of Council. From 2010-12 he served as co-director of Les Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers, where he conducted various research projects on knowledge production within artistic practices, giving rise to publishing projects, events, and exhibitions. Since 2007, he has co-authored L’Encyclopédie de la parole (Encyclopedia of the Spoken Word), a collaborative inquiry into the formal properties of speech. In 2010, he initiated Ecologies, a program focused on the creation of tools for the representation of art as an ecology (awarded the Hors les Murs grant by the Institut Français in 2013). Grégory is regularly invited to write, give talks and workshop on curating research, to advise institutions and to curate shows (Betonsalon, Wiels, T2G, Centre Pompidou).
He holds a Bachelor degree in Economics (University of Tours) and a Masters in Design and Implementation of Cultural Projects (Sorbonne, Paris 1).

is co-founder of Kadist Art Foundation - a private foundation based in Paris and San Francisco, dedicated to supporting contemporary art. From 2006 to 2012, as artistic programme director at Kadist Art Foundation (Paris), she developed a residency programme for international artists and curators, overseeing the production of a series of works, films, performances and exhibitions. Presently, she serves as advisor for the Kadist Art Foundation on collection acquisition, production and dissemination.
She holds a Bachelor degree in Art History (Sorbonne, Paris), a Masters in Creative Curating (Goldsmiths College, London) and has participated in the experimentation in art and politics programme run by Bruno Latour (Science Po – Institute of Political Studies, Paris).

is an artist whose work engages with the notion of the voice and its enunciation through radio broadcast, lecture-performance, and voiceover.

visually reactivates colonial material culture found in Caribbean archives through printmaking and site-specific multimedia installation as a means of exploring her own white Creole identity from a postcolonial feminist perspective, alongside untold histories of the relationship between black and white Caribbean women under colonialism. She lives and works between Canada and the Caribbean, where her family has been resident since the 17th century.

— ARTICLE: Illustrations: Creole Portraits III: “bringing down the flowers...”

— Location

Ashkal Alwan, Beirut 1st Floor, Building 110, Street 90, Jisr el Wati, Beirut

Google map
Website

— Entrance

Free admission

— Opening

5.30pm on Thursday, May 14

1. Still from the Video Deseos / رغبات by Carlos Motta (2015).
2. Still from Toxic, an installation with Super 16mm film / HD,
13 min and archive by Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz, 2012 (Performance: Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Werner Hirsch).