Nora Akawi

Curator, Studio X, Amman Lab
Columbian University Middle East Research Center, Columbia Global Centers
Amman, Jordan


Neil Leach (ed.), Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory, 1997

This volume was my first encounter, as a first-year architecture student, with architectural theory. The texts included here provided me with the tools to begin exploring the relationship between architecture and politics.


Carolyn Hamilton (ed.), Refiguring the Archive, 2002

This book was recommended to me by my advisor, Professor Felicity Scott, as I was working on my thesis focusing on the political role of the archive in imagining alternative political and spatial organization. This book, which culminated from a symposium held at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1998, made it impossible to think about the politics of the archive in Palestine without studying the South African experience. This might, at first glance, seem irrelevant to the built environment, unless we understand the city as the surface of inscription of events and cultures. The process of selecting of the narratives which are to take part in the official archive of a place or a state (whether through the preservation of places, documents, or oral histories), and consequently the erasure (destruction) of those rendered invisible, directly shapes our built environment.


Jacques Rancière, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy, 2004

Illustrating the impossibility of democracy without conflict, Jacques Rancière offers the tools to explore and experiment with visual representations of the multiplicity of (conflicting) narratives existing within a territory, and of the stages where those left "unselected" from the official archive (see above) are given space to perform.


Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, 1972

I only regret getting to this book as late as I did. I wish I would have had it accompany me from the first day I began my journey as an architecture student.


Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence, 2008

Since this list is meant to contain books rather than film, this one stands for fiction and the city. Whether through films or novels, I want to stress the importance of the narrative and the experiential in portraying or imagining a place and exploring the political, economic, and social forces that shape it.