Picturing the World: The Global Routes of Early Cinema, 1896-1903
With the support of the Alexander von Humboldt fellowship, Allan will be writing a book-length project, Picturing the World: The Global Routes of Early Cinema, dedicated to the transnational history of camera operators for the Lumière Brothers film company. The various chapters discuss the global dissemination of the Cinematograph between 1896 and 1903 and focus in particular on Alexandre Promio's journey across North Africa and the Middle East. The book connects specific Lumière films to the sites they depict, including the pyramids in Egypt, the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem and a rooftop in Algiers, and it contrasts these filmic depictions to other media forms: David Roberts’ lithographs in Egypt and Palestine, William Henry Jackson’s photographs of Algiers, and Henry Aston Barker’s panoramas of Constantinople. At a time when film studies extends its scope across national traditions and media platforms, this account of the Lumière camera operators is meant both as a historiographical intervention (telling the story of the Lumière Brothers in the Middle East) and as a methodological model for scholarship committed to comparative analysis across various languages, territories and media.
Inventing World Literature: How Adab Became Literary in Colonial Egypt
His current book project, "Inventing World Literature: How Adab Became Literary", offers a colonial history of literature at the intersection of the French, British and Ottoman empires, nineteenth-century moral education and reforms in Qur'anic instruction in Egypt. The book examines how modern disciplines reshape practices of relating to texts and, in doing so, draws from methods in anthropology, film and visual culture, religion, and postcolonial studies. Focusing on transformations of literature in modern Egypt, the various chapters address the relation of literature to realism, moral education, empirical science to discourses of secularization.
During his EUME-fellowship, Allan plans to complete two new chapters: the first tracing the foundations of Dar al-Ulum (Teachers College) and Dar al-Kutub (The Egyptian National Library) in the 1870s, and the second dealing with Taha Husayn's novella "Adib" and the author's earlier correspondence with André Gide.