NEWS:: Inside/Outside: Thinkers and Doers Renew the Arab World in Paris

ArtAsiaPacific
Feb 2, 2015 6:00AM

On January 15 and 16, debates echoed through the Jean Nouvel-designed couloirs of Paris’ Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA) as the so-called “Arab world’s” thinkers, movers and shakers chimed in with their Western homologues in order to fathom the “renewal” of the region. The 21 Arab member states of the IMA, an institution presided since 2013 by the charismatic former French Culture Minister Jack Lang, welcomed over 100 intellectuals, ministers, economists, writers and researchers from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), North Africa and the Levant—under the banner “Renewal of the Arab World”—to wrestle questions ranging from energy to education, including entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment, urban planning and, last but (one hopes) not least, culture. Planned since early 2014 as part of Lang’s push to modernize the IMA’s cultural mandate and position it as a “laboratory of ideas,” the forum found itself unwittingly shrouded in post-Charlie Hebdo gravitas. For some, the timing was perfect—at once an opportunity to deliver key messages on non-negotiable freedoms and an optimistic antidote to the grim events.

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