EUME Berliner Seminar
Di 15 Nov 2016 | 15:00–16:30

From Revolution to Authoritarianism: Algeria in Arabic Literature

Anne-Marie McManus (EUME-CNMS Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung 2016), Chair: Maaike Voorhoeve (EUME Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung 2016-18)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Viewed from Arabic literary centers like Beirut, Baghdad, and Cairo, the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962) was an icon of revolution for a region in the throes of decolonization. An outpouring of poetry, short stories, and essays celebrated writers’ discovery of the distant, yet fraternal Algerian struggle to end more than a century of French colonial rule. Many of these texts appeared in the Beirut-based journal al-Adab, which was then endeavoring to create a new, transregional print culture in Arabic. The potent symbolism of Algeria in the Mashriq literary imagination was clear by 1962, when al-Adab’s editor, Suhail Idriss, visited the newly independent country and reported to his readers that he kissed the soil of this 'sacred' land of Arab emancipation. In the ensuing years, other Mashriq writers and intellectuals - notably from Syria and Iraq - would follow in Idriss’ footsteps. But their texts betray a new ambivalence, attesting to realities wracking independent Algeria: language reform, state suppression of the left, and power struggles over Islam. Through a reading of Syrian author Haydar Haydar’s novel Banquet for Seaweed (1984), this paper shows that Algeria remained a site for Arabic literature to evaluate the emancipatory and transregional hopes of the mid-20th century -- and to reckon with the onset of postcolonial authoritarianism.

Anne-Marie McManus received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University in 2013. She is Assistant Professor of Modern Arabic Literature and Culture at Washington University in St. Louis, where she teaches in the departments of Jewish, Islamic, and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (JINELC) and Comparative Literature. Her research engages debates in comparative and world literatures, Arabic and Middle Eastern studies, translation theory, and anthropology, with a particular interest in the multilingual and circulational literary ties that have internally traversed North Africa and the Middle East since decolonization. She maintains an active research profile in contemporary Syrian literature and political thought, which is supported by her work as co-director of the interdisciplinary "Wastelands" seminar at Washington University in St. Louis.

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