2006: The Commons

"The Commons: What We Hold in Common"

Paros, May 17-23, 2006

Poster for Paros New Symposium 2006

The International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa organized “The New Symposium,” which convened writers, artists, and thinkers from America, Greece, and around the world to focus on “The Commons”—what we hold in common. The group gathered May 17-24, 2006, on the Greek island of Paros.

A man wearing glasses speaks in front of a building, the camera looks up from below

Video documentary by Lucia Rikaki. 

The symposium, funded through a grant from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, was co-sponsored by the Fulbright Foundation in Greece, EKEMEL (European Translation Center-Literature & Human Sciences) and the Office of the Mayor of Paros.

“The New Symposium” reflects the model of personal and intellectual interaction that has characterized the IWP’s annual residencies at the UI. The formula is simple: Bring together creative minds from around the world, then provide formal and informal opportunities for them to interact. The specific results can never be anticipated, but have always proved remarkable -- from literary collaborations, to translation projects, to the inspiration for new work, to the sharpening of vision and the broadening of understanding, and the solidifying of productive lifelong friendships.

The theme for the first discussion in Paros was “The Commons”—our shared heritage, the collective trust that all human beings hold together and that which must be passed on undiminished to our heirs—the sky, water, public lands, culture, science, customs and laws, rituals and rites, the airwaves, seedbeds of creativity, and so on. The Commons are the source of our collective sustenance and knowledge; the land, sea, and air routes over which we travel; the public square; the Internet. At Paros, participants discussed how to protect these precious resources as a step toward a self-sustaining and self-correcting world.

Most of the writers, artists, and thinkers were funded by a grant from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Barry Sanders and Ruth Margraff were funded through the Fulbright Foundation in Greece.


From the United States

Diana Fritz Cates is a professor of Religious Studies at The University of Iowa. She studies ethics within the context of the academic study of religion. She is the author of Choosing to Feel: Virtue, Friendship, and Compassion for Friends (1997). She is the co-editor with Paul Lauritzen of Medicine and the Ethics of Care (2001). She has published articles and chapters on topics ranging from religion, ethics, and literature—to the philosophical study of virtue and emotion—to the ethics of Thomas Aquinas—to the ethics of human rights—to the religious and ethical implications of recent developments in genetic research and technology. Essay

Lewis Hyde. Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College. Lewis Hyde's interests center on the public life of the imagination. His 1983 book, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, is an inquiry into the situation of creative artists in a commercial society. Trickster Makes This World (1998) is a portrait of the the kind of disruptive imagination needed to keep any culture flexible and alive. Hyde has also published a book of poems, This Error is the Sign of Love, and edited a number of volumes, including The Essays of Henry D. Thoreau, a book of responses to the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, and selected poems of the Nobel Prize-winning Spaniard, Vicente Aleixandre. He is currently at work on a book about "cultural commons." Essay

Ruth Margraff. Award-winning playwright whose work has been performed internationally. She has been called a leader in the New Opera music/theater movement in America. Recent productions include Wellspring: An American Opera Box for the Balkans, an opera about the American wife of a UN peacekeeper gone missing in Sarajevo, written in collaboration with Greek-American composer Nikos Brisco. Its music merges western and eastern music in a score influenced by Greek blues, Ottoman Art composers, and Romani/Gypsy marketplace music. Among her many awards are a 2005-06 All Disciplines Fulbright Award to introduce New Opera to Greek audiences—she will be teaching in Greece for three months in spring 2006. Her work has been published in NuMuse Anthology, Epoch, Patterson Literary Review, Smith and Kraus, and American Theater; and collected in Divine Fire: Eight Contemporary Playwrights Inspired by the Greeks (2005) and the textbook Performing the Here and Now: an Introduction to Contemporary Theatre and Performance (2005). She is a Visiting Associate Professor of Playwriting at Brown University. Essay

Barry Sanders. Professor Emeritus of the History of Ideas at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and currently a Fulbright Senior Fellow. He is the author and co-author of more than a dozen books on orality and culture, some of the most seminal being ABC: The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind (1986), with Ivan Illich; A is for Ox: Violence, Electronic Media, and the Silencing Of The Written Word (1994), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize; Sudden Glory: Laughter as Subversive History (1995); and The Private Death of Public Discourse (1998). His most recent work is Alienable Rights: The Exclusion of African Americans in a White Man's Land, 1619-2000, which Harper's magazine nominated in 2004 for the Pulitzer Prize. Mr. Sanders is participating through the Fulbright Senior Specialist Program. Essay

Scott Russell Sanders. Distinguished Professor of English at Indiana University, in Bloomington. Among his more than twenty books are novels, collections of stories, and works of personal nonfiction, including Staying Put, Writing from the Center, Hunting for Hope, and A Private History of Awe. His work has been translated into nine languages. Sanders has been active in organizations concerned with conservation, social justice, peacemaking, and protection of the biosphere. For his work in nonfiction he has won the Lannan Literary Award and the John Burroughs Essay Award, among other honors. He is currently making notes toward a book tentatively entitled, Common Wealth: Living in a Shared World. Essay

From Greece

Stratis Haviaras teaches creative writing at Harvard and at the European Center for the Translation of Literature, in Athens, Greece. He was born in Greece, where his first four books of poetry were published. He has held a number of positions at Harvard University, including Curator of the George Edward Woodberry Poetry Foundation and the Henry Weston Farnsworth Room, and he was a founding editor of Harvard Review. His books in English include two collections of poems and three novels. Essay

Alexis Stamatis. A novelist, poet, playwright, and columnist. Stamatis has left few literary stones unturned; he is the author of five novels and six collections of poems, numerous magazine and newspaper articles, two opera librettos, and two plays, and has been translated in seven languages. His most recent works are the novel Mother Ash (2005) and the poetry collection We are never alone (2004). He is currently writing a novel about the US. Mr. Stamatis worked as a writer for the 2004 Olympic Games. He has also worked as an architect and has been crucial in organizing the New Symposium. Mr. Stamatis is an alumnus of the Fulbright and International Writing Program. Essay

Anastassis Vistonitis. Poet, essayst, journalist and co-founder of the Greek Collecting Society of Literary Works (OSDEL). He was Vice-President of OSDEL for six years. From 1996 to 2001 Vistonitis was a member of the board of the EWC (European Writers' Congress - The Federation of European Writers) and in September 2003 he was elected Vice President of the EWC administrative board. He was the General Editor of the candidature file of Athens for the Olympic Games of 2004. In addition to poems, essays, book reviews and articles contributed to many leading quarterlies and newspapers in Greece and abroad, Anastassis Vistonitis has published ten books of poetry, three volumes of essays, three travelogues, a book of translations of the Chinese poet Li Ho and a book of short stories. His most recent works are The Internal Exile: Collected Poems 1972-1995 (2005) and Ex Libris: Texts on the Literature of the 20th Century (2006). His work has been translated into fourteen languages. Essay

From Brazil

Giselle Beiguelman. A new media artist and multimedia essayist. She teaches Digital Culture at the Graduate Program in Communication and Semiotics of PUC-SP (São Paulo, Brazil). Her work includes the award-winning The Book after the Book, egoscópio, and Landscape0 (with Marcus Mastos and Rafael Marchetti). She has been developing art projects for mobile phones ("Wop Art", 2001), praised by many media sites and the international press, including The Guardian (UK) and Neural (Italy), and art involving public-access, by the web, SMS and MMS, and internet-streaming for electronic billboards like "Leste o Leste?" and "egoscópio" (2002). Beiguelman's work appears in important anthologies and guides devoted to digital arts, including Yale University Library Research Guide for Mass Media and has been presented in international venues such as Net_Condition (ZKM, Germany), el final del eclipse (Fundación Telefonica, Madrid), Desk Topping - Computer Disasters (Smart Project Space, Amsterdan) Arte/Cidade (São Paulo), The 25th São Paulo Biennial and Algorithmic Revolution (ZKM). Essay

From England

Gregory Norminton. Novelist and environmentalist. Norminton will be featured in an Animal Planet cable television series on the environment this spring. He holds a BA from Oxford University in English Language and Literature as well as a classical acting degree from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. His awards include a Writer's Award from the Arts Council of England in 2003, and a BBC "Making Waves" award at the Brighton Festival in 2000. To date he has published three novels: The Ship of Fools, Arts and Wonders and Ghost Portrait, and has written short stories for BBC Radio, Prospect, Zembla Magazine and PEN International. Mr. Norminton is an alumnus of the International Writing Program through the International Visitors program and is currently Visiting Fellow in Creative Writing at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Essay

From India

Rustom Bharucha. Independent writer, theatre director, and cultural critic based in Calcutta. He is the author of several books, including Theatre and the World, The Question of Faith, In the Name of the Secular, The Politics of Cultural Practice, and Rajasthan: an Oral History. Forthcoming is Another Asia, focusing on Asia, nationalism, cosmopolitanism, and friendship through the relationship of Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin. Apart from directing classics like "Woyzeck," " Peer Gynt," "Kiss of the Spider Woman," "The Maids," and most recently, "Shakuntala", in different inter/intra-cultural contexts, Bharucha has conducted workshops with underprivileged working children and agricultural laborers. A member of the international advisory council of the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, he remains committed to the translation of cultures across social and political differences. He is also a leading theorist of interculturalism and the impact of globalization on local and indigenous cultures. Essay

From Indonesia

Ayu Utami. Novelist and editor of a controversial cultural journal and a co-founder of the union of freelance journalists. Utami was banned from writing in 1994, succeeding nonetheless in completing a black book on corruption in the Suharto regime. Her debut novel Saman (1998; English-language translation 2005) treats freely love and sexuality, and addresses the difficult relationship between Muslims, Christians and the Chinese minority. It received the prize for the best Indonesian novel in 1998, with a companion novel Larung coming out in 2001. Both have been published in Dutch. Since 1998 Utami has been a radio host and co-publisher of the cultural magazine Kalam. Ms. Utami is an alumna of the International Writing Program with funding provided by the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Essay

From Israel

Amir Or. Professor, poet, translator, and editor. Or has been chief editor of the Helicon Society for the Advancement of Poetry in Israel since its foundation. He serves as editor of its journal and poetry book series, as well as director of its Hebrew-Arabic poetry school. He is also the art director of the Sha'r Festival for new Hebrew and Arabic poetry and the local coordinator for 'Poets for Peace', the UN-sponsored venture. He has published articles on poetry, classical and religious studies, and has taught these subjects. He has also published several books of translations, among which are The Gospel of Thomas (1992), Limb-Loosening Desire; An Anthology of Erotic Greek Poetry (1993), Stories From The Mahabharata (1998) and To a Woman by Shuntaro Tanikawa (2000), with Akiko Takahashi. He has taken part in many international literary conferences and festivals, and worked as a guest writer at several cultural institutions. He has been awarded the Prime Minister's Award for his poetry, the Bernstein Award and the Holon Award; and for his translations of poetry from ancient Greek, he has received an honorary award from the Israeli Ministry of Culture. Mr. Or is an alumnus of the Fulbright and International Writing programs. Essay

From Kenya

Yvonne Owour. Fiction writer, conservationist, cultural activist is the 2003 Caine Prize winner, and immediate past Executive director of the Zanzibar International Film Festival. Yvonne Owour won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2003 for "Weight of Whispers," a story told from the perspective of a refugee fleeing after the 1994 massacres. She has had several short stories published including "Dressing the Dirge," "The State of Tides," and "The Knife Grinder's Tale" among others. She is currently working on her novel Dancing in the Chalbi. Ms. Owour is an alumna of the International Writing Program with funding provided by the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Essay

From Romania

Magda Cârneci. Poet, art writer, essayist, Ph.D in art history and theory at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. "Magda Cârneci is a leading thinker and poet in Romanian post-modernism, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Art History, Bucharest, and President of the Board of the International Centre for Contemporary Arts, Bucharest. The key woman poet of the generation who emerged in the 1980s, she is also an art historian who lives in Paris, where she is Professor of Romanian Literature and Culture at INALCO. She has published fifteen books of poetry, anthologies and theory." (from IALIC 6th Annual Conference: Writer's Forum) Essay

From Sri Lanka

Ameena Hussein. Sociologist, fiction writer, non-fiction writer, editor, and publisher. Ameena Hussein is also a consultant for several international human rights NGOs, including the International Center for Human Rights Policy in Geneva, Switzerland, where she has served as the Executive Assistant. Hussein has published two short-story collections Zillij and Fifteen, and she edits "Nethra," a journal published by the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, which addresses issues of violence, governance and development. In 2003 she co-founded Perera-Hussein Publishing House, to enable and encourage talented South Asian writers—both established and emerging—to gain exposure and recognition by publishing their work. Ms. Hussein is an alumna of the International Writing Program with funding provided by the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Essay

Directing the New Symposium

Christopher Merrill. Director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Merrill's books include four collections of poetry, Brilliant Water, Workbook, Fevers & Tides, and Watch Fire, for which he received the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; translations of Aleš Debeljak's Anxious Moments and The City and the Child; several edited volumes, among them, The Forgotten Language: Contemporary Poets and Nature and From the Faraway Nearby: Georgia O'Keeffe as Icon; and three books of nonfiction, The Grass of Another Country: A Journey Through the World of Soccer, The Old Bridge: The Third Balkan War and The Age of the Refugee, and Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars. His work has been translated into sixteen languages. His most recent book is Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain, an account of the transforming pilgrimages he made to Mount Athos, in Greece, in the aftermath of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The book won the 2005 Kostas Kyriazis Award, Greece's most prestigious journalism award.

Artemis A. Zenetou is the Executive Director of the Fulbright Foundation in Greece. In the Foundation's 58th year history, she is the first Greek citizen and woman to head the Foundation. Educated in Greece and the United States, she spent 18 years in the U.S. and has worked for several national and international organizations including the: Federal Reserve Bank; Cultural Affairs, Boston; Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Presidential Inaugural Committee for Art and Cultural Initiatives, and the World Bank where she established the first Art and Cultural Program. She has developed cultural and educational programs internationally. She has published extensively on museology, arts administration and contemporary art and has co-authored two books: Museums: a Place to Work (Routledge Press, 1996) and Gender Perspectives: Essays on Women in Museums, (Smithsonian Press 1991). She served on the Board of the Cultural Olympiad, Ministry of Cultural Affairs (2000-2004) and on the Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2002-2004).

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