The Historical Turn in Contemporary Arabic Fiction

deadline for submissions: 
February 14, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
MESA - October 28-31, 2021
contact email: 

Proposed Panel Title: The Historical Turn in Contemporary Arabic Fiction

The recent proliferation of Arabic novelistic production that reimagines historical periods, events and past popular figures is quite remarkable. While earlier Arabic historical novels found in past Arab and Muslim history a rich source to fashion stories that served to consolidate a sense of cultural identity and infuse Arab nationalism, the recent turn to historical material in recent Arabic fiction represent a shift by its diverse subject matter and complex narrative structures. Judging by the number of prizes recent Arabic historical novels won in various prize categories, this turn to history seems to enjoy not only warm critical reception but also special meritorious recognition for creativity and artistic achievement. In this panel, we welcome papers that explore the significance of this historical turn in terms of the recent transformations in Arab societies and cultures. What kind of aesthetics and politics shape and inform representation in these historical novels? What ‘rhetorical stance’ do these writers adopt in appropriating, adapting or reimagining the historical time and space, and for what ends? To what extent do these narratives reflect anxieties about continuities/ discontinuities with the past or preemptively attempt to resist prospective iterations in the future? Is this turn to history indicative of new and emergent revisionist perspectives on identity, nation and belonging? Please send a 250-word abstract and a short bio to by February 14, 2021.