From Berbers to Bach! A Morocco-Bound First Ever: Conference on the Circulation of Ideas

11 November 2008
From Berbers to Bach! A Morocco-Bound First Ever: Conference on the Circulation of Ideas

Academic seminars are generally NOT the kind of material you write home about, nor are they the front-page burning news people are so eager to read. However, last Autumn gave birth to a new species of symposia. It was the birth of an idea about finding out how ideas circulate.

The November 2007 Symposium was the launching pad for Morocco’s social science journal published by Akhawayn University and Eco-Media in Morocco. A conference is set later this year in Europe.

The man behind the bold South intellectual initiative is former Moroccan minister and professor at a number of universities/business school across France, Italy and across the developing world. M. Driss M’daghri Alaoui (interview in the last issue of Diva on the Euro-Arab Dialogue) is the inspiration for bringing intellectuals from Science Politiques in Paris, the Universit? de Nice, Stanford University, and China, well as excellent researchers in Morocco around the unusual theme of : "How Ideas Circulate."

Driss Alaoui explains, "In the knowledge society, the flow of ideas in the field of social sciences, including the broad sense of the term, is generally abundant and instantaneous. It serves as an accelerator of change. The South needs such a tool for its development."

Driss elaborates on the concept of "Innovation" which contributes to decision-making in many development areas. He notes that … "Technology tools like information, including the Internet, allow access to data, surveys, studies and research that were and still are often inaccessible." Indeed, rapidly changing conditions have impacted the dissemination of knowledge. There are a number of tools that are more traditional, and still quite useful such as "Think Tanks," journals and academic journals.

Such was the background that set the spirit for the Symposium held in November 2007 in Ifrane at the Akhawayn University (AUI) and cosponsored with the Moroccan daily entitled the "Economist": The first question that jumps to mind is where are the contributions from the South to the debates that the many developed countries and North-based "Think Tanks" focus on?

Dr. Juliette Sayegh proposed key areas where the developing world has some advantages of the developed world—natural medicines, plants and a knowledge base in areas that the North has largely ignored.

Other participants asked what notable scholarly journals are inextricably linked to the context of the knowledge society, particularly in the South? Finding no answer to question led to a second question: What efforts are being made today to establish a South-based network of organizations and publications?

By bridging the North and the South, the idea is to promote the dissemination of ideas and experiences. It is vital to have the review originate in the South with quarterly publications that are peer-reviewed and of exceptionally high content in the social sciences.

Themes to be addressed focus on current challenges, globalization, and issues pertaining to the acceleration of mutations of all kinds.

The symposium was hosted by Rachid Benmokhtar, President of the English-speaking university in Ifrane known as Al-Akhwayn University (AUI). Mr. Benmokhtar is former education Minister, Abdelmouna?m Dilami, President Ecom?dias, and Driss Alaoui Mdaghri, Professor, Chairman AMIE (Moroccan Economic Intelligence Association ) It began with a Round Table on the flow of ideas in the knowledge society.

The meeting with participants from all corners of Morocco and international guests was at the heart of the knowledge society as defined by the "North." The emphasis is on the ability to identify, produce, process, transform, disseminate and use information to build and apply knowledge for the purpose, among other things, for economic development. Also, there is a need (especially in countries battling illiteracy, to have universal access to obtain information and knowledge without being constrained.) Lastly, technological infrastructure is a must to ensure that Information Technologies and Communications (ICTs) remain a major tool in development.

One final question was raised at the end of the successful symposium that related to a host of developing countries—the ability to build knowledge societies while making process flow and sharing of ideas with greater speed. The lesson learned was that the flow of ideas in emerging political, economic, social and technological fields is constantly impacted by globalization. We will see in the research underway how, rapid mutations, as well as new techniques contribute to advances in development, with specific applications for growth in North Africa.

On a final note, it is uplifting to note that the world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma wrote about the circulation of ideas via music in an article entitled "From Berbers to Bach." He notes that culture is a fabric composed of gifts from every corner of the world. He uses Morocco as an example of the circulation of cultural ideas where the dance called the sarabande originated with music of the North African Berbers, next appearing in Spain, then France and finally incorporated in Bach’s Cello Suites in Germany. "Today," Yo-Yo Ma says, "I play Bach, a Paris-born American of Chinese parentage. So who really owns the sarabande? Each culture has adopted the music, investing it with specific meaning, but it belongs to us all."

Driss Alaoui’s concept of the circulation of ideas marries Yo-Yo Ma’s concept of shared cultures. Together, they help catalyze the thriving cultural and intellectual engine that can help cultures peacefully meld.
Dr. Mary K. Weed