Associate Professor Azra Akšamija granted tenure | MIT J-WEL

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Associate Professor Azra Akšamija granted tenure

Azra Aksamija at podium


The J-WEL team sends a warm congratulations to MIT Associate Professor Azra Akšamija, who was granted tenure at MIT this July in the MIT Department of Architecture. Akšamija is an artist and architectural historian who has produced over 40 artistic projects and 112 exhibitions since 2000. She has written several books, including Mosque Manifesto: Propositions for Spaces of Coexistence, which she says reconceptualizes the mosque as a “performative and ephemeral space.” She also has a forthcoming book, Common Ground: Architecture of Coexistence.  

The pedagogy of art

Akšamija teaches courses in both the Department of Architecture and the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT). In the official ACT announcement, she described the philosophy behind her teaching:

“All of my courses combine a research seminar with an art studio, engaging students in learning, critical thinking, museum visits, and creative work, both individually and collectively. I teach about art and through art.”

In her personal statement, she explains why art is so critical for the future:

Lightweaver sculpture"Art provides means to expose the brutality of the world we live in and amplify the voices of those who have been silenced. To teach art in today’s alienated world-system also means inspiring empathy in future generations that can make them less indifferent to the social costs of maintaining their lifestyles and more open to the voices of others, not as a negotiating technique, but as an indispensable, irreducible, and precarious part of the human chorus. To create art in today’s alienated world means instigating confident idealism in pursuit of a better future."

Countering violence with creation

Akšamija directs the MIT Future Heritage Lab, which experiments with creativity, culture, and technology as a response to conflict and crisis, creating participatory art projects with affected communities. The Lab’s work has been extended to a hub in the Al Azraq refugee camp in Jordan, for which Akšamija received a J-WEL Grant in Higher Education Innovation.  “You can counter violence with creation; that’s something that’s very inspiring,” she says of the project.  

Akšamija explained the significance of this work to attendees during one of our J-WEL Weeks:

"What are the cultural and emotional needs of refugees that are not met by humanitarian assistance? Sometimes they are equally, if not more important, than food. People will risk their lives to see an art exhibition; it makes them feel human." 

Watch a video of her describe some of her work with the Future Heritage Lab in Jordan below.



Top: Azra Akšamija presents at the March 2018 J-WEL Week

Bottom: The Lightweaver, photomontage of a kinetic light installation for the Future Heritage Lab at the refugee camp Al Azraq, Jordan by Azra Aksamija / FHL. Credit: Azra Akšamija, The Lightweaver, 2017.