EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 04 Mai 2022 | 17:00–18:30

Al-Misyu al-Mushaghib: The Life of Joseph Rosenthal Through Colonialism, Nationalism and Postcoloniality in Egypt

Rim Naguib (EUME Fellow 2019-23), Chair: Sana Tannoury-Karam (EUME Fellow 2020-22)

AL.Berlin, Skalitzer Str. 114, 10999 Berlin

© Rim Naguib

Joseph Rosenthal (1871-1964) is known to historians of early Egyptian communism as a central figure in the birth of the movement. However, his contribution to the formation and activities of the first Egyptian communist party lasted a mere 3 years—even less—in his 94-year long life! In the course of her research into the history of British colonial policing of socialism, communism and syndicalism, and how it shaped post-colonial policies, nationalist narratives, and Egyptian nationality legislation and practices, Rim Naguib kept finding threads leading back to Rosenthal in various archives and literatures. The more she traced his life story and intellectual and personal trajectory, the more she found his biography to be a powerful testimony of the conflicting forces that shaped the modern history of Egypt and the region: between nationalism and internationalism; sectarianism and universalism; statism and anti-authoritarianism…

In this seminar, Naguib will share her ongoing attempt to reconstitute Joseph Rosenthal’s intriguing trajectory, and to reflect on what it was like to be an Ashkenazi Jew born in Palestine in the 19th century; a Hasidic teenager son of an ostracized proponent of the Jewish enlightenment movement; a Jewish migrant artisan in Beirut, then Cairo and Alexandria, who came to be critical to all religions’ condoning of class hierarchies and exploitation; an Ottoman anarcho-syndicalist with a transnational agenda of solidarity and activism at the turn of the century; a communist and a syndicalist in the context of rising interwar Egyptian nationalism; a Jew struggling to have his Egyptian nationality recognized and his voting rights granted in post-war Egypt; and finally, an aging man who persisted in living through the loss of everything.
In all of this, we learn how sectarian and nationalist maps were drawn over a reality of complex and fragmented identities and trajectories. We also learn how colonialism has been intrinsic to the nature of post-coloniality in the region.

Rim Naguib is a EUME Fellow at Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin. She received her Phd in Sociology from Northwestern University (2016) and her MA from Sciences Po, Aix-en-Provence (2006). She was a post-doctoral fellow with the Arab Council for the Social Sciences, then a EUME fellow since 2019. Her research interests address three different, but not unrelated, fields: the genesis and development of Egyptian patriarchal nationalism; the securitization of nationality practices and foreigners' residence in post-colonial Egypt; and the colonial roots of the practice of ideological deportation in interwar Egypt. Outside strict academia, she is interested in various mediums and venues to popularize suppressed histories and the critical social sciences, among which is her graphic interpretation of stories she finds in the archives. She has co-translated several historical graphic novels into Arabic.

This Berliner Seminar will take place on-site at AL.Berlin. Please register in advance via eume(at) Depending on approval by the speakers, the Berliner Seminar will be recorded. All audio recordings of the Berliner Seminar are available via Soundcloud.


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