EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 24 Mai 2023 | 17:00–18:30

The Soviet Union as ‘Future’: The Socialist Imaginary of Lebanese Leftists, 1920-1948

Sana Tannoury-Karam (Lebanese American University / EUME Fellow 2020-23), Chair: Oraib Toukan (EUME Fellow 2020-23)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Omar Fakhoury (1895-1946), a Lebanese intellectual and literary critic, published an article inal-Tariq in 1943 arguing for the Soviet Union as “the cornerstone for building a new world…for building a new humanity.” That entire March issue of al-Tariq, a journal established as the mouthpiece of the League Against Nazism and Fascism in Syria and Lebanon in 1941, was dedicated to the anniversary of the Red Army. Boasting a portrait of Joseph Stalin at the front page, the issue featured a range of articles from intellectuals within the League and the circles of the Communist Party of Syria and Lebanon praising the prowess of the Red Army and enumerating Soviet society’s advancements in medicine, social and economic development, literature, and military power.
For a generation of Arab leftist intellectuals active during the interwar years and particularly during World War Two, the Soviet Union represented a ‘miraculous’ case of modernization, a success story of a country that managed to rapidly modernize and even exceed the levels of development of western nations. Its trajectory since 1917 represented a model for progress achieved through socialism and internationalism. Standing firmly against western colonialism, and steadily against the Nazi war machine, the Soviet Union became the model for a modern Arab future. The Soviet Union as ‘future’ was not only a temporal construct as much as it was a spatial framework through which Arab intellectuals shifted modernization discourses of the Nahda from west-east dimensions to east-east imaginaries.

Sana Tannoury-Karam is a writer and a historian of the modern Middle East, with a special focus on the cultural and intellectual history of the left in Lebanon during the Mandate period. She also writes on the subjects of memory, exile, and belonging. Tannoury-Karam is currently a EUME fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin (2020/2023). She was most recently a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Lebanese Studies, University of Cambridge (2022), an Early Career Fellow at the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (2019/2020) and a post-doctoral fellow at Rice University (2018/2019). Tannoury-Karam’s work has appeared in a range of publications, including her most recent co-edited volume, The League Against Imperialism: Lives and Afterlives (Leiden University Press, 2020). Tannoury-Karam is an Assistant Professor of Modern Middle East History at the Lebanese American University in Beirut.

Oraib Toukan is an artist and scholar. She holds a PhD in Fine Arts from the University of Oxford, Ruskin School of Art. Until 2015 she was head of the Arts Division and the Media Studies program at Bard College, Al Quds University. Exhibition venues include KW Berlin, Akademie der Künste Berlin, Istanbul Biennale, Mori Art Museum, Asia Pacific Triennial, Sommerakademie Paul Klee, CCA Glasgow, Heidelberger Kunstverein Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie, Kyiv Biennial, among others. Toukan is author of the book Sundry Modernism (Sternberg Press, 2017), and the essay-films Via Dolorosa (2021), The Offing (2021), When Things Occur (2016) among others. She is currently a EUME fellow at at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin (2022-2023) and an SNF fellow from 2021-2022.



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