The Manufacturing of Rights: Beirut - An inquiry curated by Council, in collaboration with Ashkal Alwan and Legal Agenda, in cooperation with Heinrich Böll Foundation

past Sandra Terdjman
14 - 16 May 2015

Event Type colloquium

Location Beirut CHECK THE MAP

A workshop and twelve talks, screenings and conversations on the changing nature of Nature in contra naturam laws.


The concept and figure of Nature is 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.
Using this arbitrary concept that divides what is “natural” and “unnatural,” politicians, judges or religious figures ascribe to Nature as an undeniable source of authority, enforcing this division 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 and refute accusations of sodomy or other “unnatural behaviors”.

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 colloquium, participants are invited to share legal cases, historical and speculative, that refer to Nature – in the form of short speeches, audio pieces and films.

The Manufacturing of Rights inquiry and colloquium will result in an online data platform, conceived as a cultural and legal tool, that seeks to equip judges and lawmakers with cultural understandings for reinterpreting such penal statutes. (to be published in 2015).

In the frame of The Manufacturing of Rights, Council commissioned a new film by Carlos Motta, Deseos / رغبات , co-written with Maya Mikdashi, and a co-authored intervention by Marwa Arsanios and Lawrence Abu Hamdan, commissioned and produced by Council. The event is mediated by Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s speaker system, entitled Audio Infrastructure for Objective Proximity.

A booklet with all cases (English/Arabic) will be distributed to the public. The digital version is available here.
All sessions are public and will be streamed live on Ashkal Alwan’s youtube channel.


5.30pm | public: Forewords
Words by Christine Tohme (Ashkal Alwan), Bente Scheller (Heinrich Böll Stiftung), Sandra Terdjman (Council), David Kim and Nizar Saghieh (Legal Agenda).
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

8pm | public:Screening
Introduction by Maya Mikdashi and Carlos Motta
Case #5: Deseos / رغبات, screening premiere of Carlos Motta’s film


2pm | public: 1st sequence
Moderation: Grégory Castéra
Case #4: Dahdah verdict, co-intervention by Lawrence Abu Hamdan & Marwa Arsanios
Case #8: Another Earth, reading by Emilie Notéris
Case #3: The Case for Di Aping, lecture by Adrian Lahoud

4pm | public: 2nd sequence
Moderation: Maya Mikdashi
Case #2: Indecencies, lecture by Nayla Geagea
Case #1, Chlordécone, video-letter by Vanessa Agard-Jones
Case #11, The Intermorphs, lecture by Ashkan Sepahvand
Video Case, Toxic, screening of Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz’s video, (2012, 26min)


11am | public: 3rd sequence
Moderation: 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, lecture by Linn Tonstad

1.30 – 3.30pm | by registration: Workshop: collective writing of the data platform – Moderation: Youmna Makhlouf, David Kim, Sandra Terdjman and Grégory Castéra

4pm | public: Conclusions
Workshop summary by Youmna Makhlouf and David Kim
Concluding remarks by Council

About the partner institutions
Ashkal Alwan | Home Workspace
Jisr el Wati, Street 90, Building 110, 1st Floor
Directions: Near Souk Al Ahad, next to Beirut Art Center, pink building facing IMPEX Garage
Phone: +961 1 423 879

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