2017/ 2018

Yoav Di-Capua

EUME-CNMS Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Sacred Cure: Political Theology and the Post-Colonial Arab Order

Yoav Di-Capua is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, where he teaches modern Arab Intellectual History. He received his PhD from Princeton University in 2004. He is the author of Gatekeepers of the Arab Past: Historians and History Writing in Twentieth-Century Egypt (University of California Press, 2009). His new book, No Exit: Arab Existentialism, Jean Paul Sartre and Decolonization, is forthcoming with the University Press of Chicago. In the academic year 2017/18, he will be a EUME-CNMS Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung.

Sacred Cure: Political Theology and the Post-Colonial Arab Order

Sacred Cure is a study of post-colonial Arab ontology that seeks to illuminate the cultural transition from the national projects of the 1950s and 1960s (Nasserism and Baʿthism) to that of Islamic fundamentalism thereafter. Rather than viewing these two movements in separation as two consecutive projects that have nothing in common, Sacred Cure suggests that the two trends developed strikingly similar strategies to transcend the post-colonial condition. Though the scholarly consensus upholds the idea of difference (as in secular versus religious), in reality both movements mirrored each other and developed very similar, if not identical, notions of sovereignty, freedom, authenticity, sacrifice and salvation. These notions functioned as the organizational principles of an ontological field in which “the political is existential.” At stake in such politics is the possibility and promise of communal redemption. To say that for Nasserism, Baʿthism and Islamic Fundamentalism the political is existential is to refer to the ways in which they created, promoted and maintained a sacred political experience with its own institutions, norms, ethics, moral space, rituals, ethos and distinct sense of history. Conceived as a deep study of decolonization, Sacred Cure ventures into the field of political theology to examine how an organization of politics that is founded on the imagination of the sacred becomes an article of faith that shaped everyday life for millions of people around the region both before and after the 1967 War.