Alternative Modernities: Rethinking the Arab-West Encounter Panel at the ACLA 2014, NY

full name / name of organization: 
Maya Kesrouany (American University of Sharjah), Andrew Ryder (University of Pittsburgh)
contact email:

According to the traditional narrative of the colonization of the Arab world, the European subjugation of different Arab states involved an obvious imposition of a similar but entirely unfamiliar illusion of order on all aspects of life. With this imposition, the argument goes, came ideas of “modernization” and “progress” in all cultural and material fields of production in the Arab world. This traditional narrative, however, suggests that before European colonization, the Arab world had not experienced a sense of cultural and political order that made possible its own narrative of modernization. For example, the number of cultural texts circulated in the 18th century exceeded that in the 19th century, which is considered to be the age of the Arab renaissance, coming after the arrival of Napoleon with the printing press (1798) to Alexandria. In other words, this narrative obscures the dynamic of interaction between European capitalistic intervention and Arabic culture before the onset of European colonialism and suggests that modernity was inserted into a cultural and material void in the Arab world precisely with that onset.

This panel seeks papers that challenge the traditional narrative of colonial imposition of “modernity” on the Arab world, arguing for alternative modernities that have emerged before, during, and after the interaction between colonialism and the Arab world.

Topics include, but are not limited to:

Circulation of cultural capital and censorship
Modernism and modernities
Abstractions of Arab culture and political realities
Contemporary effects of colonial legacy on Arab countries
European philosophy and the Arab.

SEMINAR KEYWORDS: Arab world; modernism; modernity; Arabic literature; French philosophy; French literature; Anglophone Literature; colonialism; imperialism; translation

cfp categories: 
modernist studies