Manuscripts as Refugees: Losing Identity?

Content and Objectives of the Lecture:

The Syriac Christians’ fleeing migration has its deep roots – at least – to the 4th century as we have a famous example like St. Ephrem the Syrian (+373), who was a refugee theologian by fleeing from his city because of wars. This fleeing and seeking a refuge in new territories was accompanied for sure with manuscripts’ migrations as well, which resulted with a phenomenon of: “manuscripts as refugees”. We will demonstrate in this lecture such a phenomenon in various realities and discuss it in different levels. The presentation will show how Manuscripts have been traveling and fleeing like refugees with the truth of being uprooted. Nonetheless, they do not lose their identity totally, since we can observe in many cases some traces and remarks to preserve their historical distinctiveness regarding their original authority and place of origin. This lecture will be presented by slide images to illustrate this phenomenon in many Middle Eastern manuscripts. A special focus will be highlighted on the current Syrian War and other war zones in the Middle East, where many cultural genocides has been witnessed.]


This lecture is open for all students who are interested in the topic of studying manuscripts, but it would be preferable to know some basic knowledge on Oriental and Middle Eastern cultures such as Syriac and Arabic. It is not necessary to know these cultures to attend and participate in writing an essay regarding this lecture.

Suggestions for a written assignment:

1) In the current phenomenon of the refugees’ conflict in Europe: how these refugees might enrich the new-targeted countries by preserving some possible manuscripts brought with them?

2) Describe a manuscript you choose to show the historical traces, marks and signs, which prove her historical identity.

Preliminary Reading List:

1. Albada Joan van and Hoeven Hans van der. Lost Memory – Libraries and Archives destroyed in the Twentieth Century, Paris : UNESCO, 1996.

2. Bevan, Robert. The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War, London 2007.

3. Jenkins, Christine and Rayward, W. Boyd (eds.). Libraries in Times of War, Revolution, and Social Change. Library Trends; Winter 2007 Volume 55,


4. Moustafa, Laila Hussein. Endangers culture heritage: A Survey of Disaster Management Planning in Middle East Libraries and Archives. Library

Management 36.6/7 (2015): 476-494.

5. Moustafa, Laila Hussein. Disaster Management Plans in Middle East Libraries and Archives in Time of War: Case Studies of Iraq and Egypt. Library & Archival

Security 26.1-2 (2013): 15-35.

6. Singer, Graciela Gestoso. ISIS’s War on Cultural Heritage and Memory, Centro de Estudios de Historia del Antiguo Oriente (CEHAO) Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina.

7. Varlamoff, Marie-Thérèse and Mackenzie, George. Archives and Libraries in Times of War: The Role of IFLA and ICA within ICBS (International Committee of the Blue Shield), A Reader in Preservation and Conservation, 12/2000.

Libraries and Archives on the International Agenda (Moderator: James Lowry, University College London/University of Liverpool)
Location: Lecture Hall Aula Magna Date: October 27, 2016 Time: 2:00 pm - 2:40 pm ephrem.ishac Ephrem Ishac