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Contemporary Arab Thought
Cover of Contemporary Arab Thought
Contemporary Arab Thought
Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective
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During the second half of the twentieth century, the Arab intellectual and political scene polarized between a search for totalizing doctrines-nationalist, Marxist, and religious-and radical critique. Arab thinkers were reacting to the disenchanting experience of postindependence Arab states, as well as to authoritarianism, intolerance, and failed development. They were also responding to successive defeats by Israel, humiliation, and injustice. The first book to take stock of these critical responses, this volume illuminates the relationship between cultural and political critique in the work of major Arab thinkers, and it connects Arab debates on cultural malaise, identity, and authenticity to the postcolonial issues of Latin America and Africa, revealing the shared struggles of different regions and various Arab concerns.

During the second half of the twentieth century, the Arab intellectual and political scene polarized between a search for totalizing doctrines-nationalist, Marxist, and religious-and radical critique. Arab thinkers were reacting to the disenchanting experience of postindependence Arab states, as well as to authoritarianism, intolerance, and failed development. They were also responding to successive defeats by Israel, humiliation, and injustice. The first book to take stock of these critical responses, this volume illuminates the relationship between cultural and political critique in the work of major Arab thinkers, and it connects Arab debates on cultural malaise, identity, and authenticity to the postcolonial issues of Latin America and Africa, revealing the shared struggles of different regions and various Arab concerns.

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About the Author-
  • Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab (PhD, Philosophy, Fribourg) is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Head of Program at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in Qatar. She is the author of Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective (Columbia, 2010), which received the 2013 Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Contribution to the Development of Nations, one of the most prestigious and well-funded prizes in the Arab world. Kassab has been a research fellow at Columbia (2000-2004) and a visiting professor at Columbia's Middle East Institute (2008), among other previous appointments. Her interests include modern and contemporary Arab philosophy, postcolonial cultural critique, and modern European philosophy.
Table of Contents-
  • Preface
    Introduction: Cultural Malaise and Cultural Identity in Twentieth-Century Western, Postcolonial, and Arab Debates
    1. The First Modern Arab Cultural Renaissance, or Nahda: From the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Mid-Twentieth Century
    2. Critique After the 1967 Defeat
    The Existential Dramatization of Critique the Day After the Defeat: Saadallah Wannous's Theatrical Oeuvre
    Humanistic Nationalism and Critical Reason: Qustantin Zurayq
    The Critique of Religious-Metaphysical Thought: Sadeq Jalal al-Azm
    The Critique of Ideology and Historicization: Abdallah Laroui
    Gendering Critique: Nawal el-Saadawi and the Late-Twentieth-Century Arab Feminists
    The Radicalization of Critique and the Call for Democracy: Reclaiming the Individual's Critical Faculties
    3. Marxist, Epistemological, and Psychological Readings of Major Conferences on Cultural Decline, Renewal, and Authenticity
    The Cairo Conference of 1971: "Authenticity and Renewal in Contemporary Arab Culture"
    The Kuwait Conference of 1974: "The Crisis of Civilizational Development in the Arab Homeland"
    The Cairo Conference of 1984: "Heritage and the Challenges of the Age in the Arab Homeland: Authenticity and Contemporaneity"
    Critique in These Conferences: The Fixation on Tradition and the Intellectualization of the Malaise
    4. Critique in Islamic Theology
    From the Unthought and the Unthinkable to the Thinkable: Mohammed Arkoun
    The Historicity of Revelation and the Struggle for Thought in the Time of Anathema: Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd
    Feminist Historicization of Religious Traditions: Nazira Zain al-Din, Fatima Mernissi, and Leila Ahmed
    An Islamic Theology of Liberation: The "Islamic Left" of Hassan Hanafi
    A Christian Arab Theology of Liberation: Naim Ateek and Mitri Raheb in Palestine-Israel
    On the Potential for Critique in Traditional Islam: Talal Asad's Analysis of the Public Criticism by Ulemas in Saudi Arabia
    Islamic Critique and the Cultural Malaise
    5. Secular Critique
    Critique of the Exclusive Monopoly over "True" Islam: Farag Fouda
    The Importance of Keeping the Debate on the Human Level: Fouad Zakariyya
    Critique of the Essentialist and Romantic Conception of Identity: Aziz al-Azmeh
    Critique of the Islamicization of Knowledge and the Quest for an Indigenous Social Science: Bassam Tibi, Abdelkebir Khatibi, and Hisham Sharabi
    Critique of the Conciliatory Pattern of Thinking: Muhammad Jaber al-Ansari, Hisham Sharabi, and Nadeem Naimy
    Secularism, Democracy, and Cultural Critique
    Recentering the Historical, the Human, and the Partial: The Secular Call for Democracy and Human Rights
    6. Breaking the Postcolonial Solitude: Arab Motifs in Comparative Perspective
    The Western Debates
    The Non-Western Postcolonial Debates
    Common Leitmotivs and Arab Specifi cities
    Shifting Priorities
    Conclusion: The New Nahda Impulses, Reclaiming the Right to Freedom and Life
    Notes
    Bibliography
    Index

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Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective
Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab
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