Who we are and what it is we’ll be doing

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A sequel to IWP’s  2009 international gathering (then called “Souk Ukaz,” after the traditional Arabic market of ideas ), “Peace Work” will again entail writing, discussion, and intense encounter.  We will be sharing communal meals and professional talks with locals, taking guided tours to cultural nexus points, and closely observing our surroundings—as much as possible through the eyes of those who live and work there.  Time will be set aside each day for sketching impressions and  thoughts, with several short sketches being produced in each city and posted on this blog.  These sketches, in their initial form, and the dialogue created by this blog will inform our discussions in situ.  Later, after the travels are over, everyone will have opportunity to reflect on these more or less spontaneous first impressions and to revise them into a more traditional literary format.

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During a recent talk here at Shambaugh House, ex-pat Colombian novelist Santiago Gamboa explored the differences in writing about a place and writing   that place, a distinction especially important in post-colonial encounters.  For Gamboa, who for several years was a cultural attaché at the Colombian Embassy in New Delhi, the immense size and diversity of India (he analogized it to all of Latin America in one country) effectively precludes writing well about India.  The attempt to write about India typically feeds the machinery of already-held stereotypes, or preaches to its subject matter.  Given this caution, though, how can the visitor write with any knowledge from a place so newly arrived at?  The only way, he said, is to strive to see the place’s quotidian nature, through the eyes of those who live there.  As we set off for the Maghreb and Jerusalem, we must somehow find a way to travel and write as sojourners, on a tourist’s schedule.

Participant biographies

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