EUME Lecture
Di 29 Mai 2012 | 17:00–19:00

Empire, Nation, and the Seductions of Translation in Egypt: Afterwords to the Revolutions of 1919/2011

Shaden M. Tageldin (University of Minnesota / EUME Fellow 2006/07), Welcome: Friederike Pannewick (Philipps-Universität Marburg / EUME member), Introduction: Michael Allan (University of Oregon / EUME Fellow 2011/12)

Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Wallotstr. 19, 14193 Berlin

Modern French and British empires often secured power in Egypt by translating—or appearing to translate—themselves into the Egyptian, the Arab, or the Muslim. Egyptian nationalist intellectuals writing after the 1919 anti-colonial revolution, in turn—among these Ibrahim ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Mazini, Muhammad Husayn Haykal, Ahmad Hasan al-Zayyat, and Salama Musa—defined Egyptian claims to national identity, culture, and literature in equally translational terms, predicating all three on likeness to Europe.

Haykal contended that a “chaos” of languages, intellectual and sartorial, had plunged Egypt into intranational untranslatability; al-Zayyat dubbed Arabic literature “chaos,” arguing the incompatibility of an unreformed literary tradition with national modernity. Indicting “tradition” for its Babel-like heterogeneity, each sought to eradicate local incommensurabilities within a “national universal” of European colonial origins.

Becoming nationally Egyptian, then, often meant remaining colonially “European.” The nation-translation nexus of the post-1919 period sheds light on the possible foreignness of “vernacular” revolution in post-2011 Egypt.

Shaden M. Tageldin is Associate Professor of cultural studies and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota. A specialist in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literatures in Arabic, English, and French, she earned her Ph.D. in comparative literature from the ­University of California, Berkeley. In 2006—2007 she was a EUME postdoctoral fellow. Her research engages empire and post­colonial studies, critical translation theory, and the politics and ideologies of language and literature.
Tageldin’s first book, Disarming Words: Empire and the Seductions of Translation in Egypt, emerged from her EUME Fellowship and was published by the University of California Press in 2011; recent essays include “The Returns of Theory,” in the International Journal of Middle East Studies (2011); “Secularizing Islam: ­Carlyle, al-Siba‘i, and the Translations of ‘Religion’ in British Egypt,” in PMLA (2011), and “One Comparative Literature? ‘Birth’ of a Discipline in French-Egyptian Translation, 1810—1834,” in Comparative Literature Studies (2010). She is currently at work on a second book, ­provisionally titled Toward a Transcontinental Theory of Modern Comparative Literature.

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