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.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

The Middle East Journal - Issa J. Boullata

A must read for all those who want to understand the Arab world's cultural predicament.

H-Levant - Yoav Di-Capua

[An] outstanding contribution that does an excellent job of exposing the self-analysis of contemporary Arab culture.

International Journal of Middle East Studies - Orit Bashkin

...a very important contribution to the field of Arab intellectual history...a much-need addition to our field.

The Middle East Journal
A must read for all those who want to understand the Arab world's cultural predicament.

— Issa J. Boullata

[An] outstanding contribution that does an excellent job of exposing the self-analysis of contemporary Arab culture.

— Yoav Di-Capua

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231144896
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 11/19/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab is a research fellow at the German Orient Institute in Beirut. She has studied in Beirut and Fribourg, Switzerland, and has taught in Lebanon at the American University of Beirut and at the University of Balamand, and in the United States at Columbia University and Yale University. She is the author of The Theory of Social Action in the Schutz-Parsons Debate.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface xi

Introduction: Cultural Malaise and Cultural Identity in Twentieth-Century Western, Postcolonial, and Arab Debates 1

1 The First Modern Arab Cultural Renaissance, or Nahda: from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Mid-Twentieth Century 17

2 Critique After the 1967 Defeat 48

The Existential Dramatization of Critique the Day After the Defeat: Saadallah Wannous's Theatrical Oeuvre 48

Humanistic Nationalism and Critical Reason Qustantin Zurayq 65

The Critique of Religious-Metaphysical Thought Sadeq Jalal al-Azm 74

The Critique of Ideology and Historicization Abdallah Laroui 82

Gendering Critique Nawal el-Saadawi and the Late-Twentieth-Century Arab Feminists 91

The Radicalization of Critique and the Call for Democracy: Reclaiming the Individual's Critical Faculties 113

3 Marxist, Epistemological, and Psychological Readings of Major Conferences on Cultural Decline, Renewal, and Authenticity 116

The Cairo Conference of 1971: "Authenticity and Renewal in Contemporary Arab Culture" 117

The Kuwait Conference of 1974: "The Crisis of Civilizational Development in the Arab Homeland" 121

The Cairo Conference of 1984: "Heritage and the Challenges of the Age in the Arab Homeland: Authenticity and Contemporaneity" 150

Critique in These Conferences: The Fixation on Tradition and the Intellectualization of the Malaise 171

4 Critique in Islamic Theology 173

From the Unthought and the Unthinkable to the Thinkable Mohammed Arkoun 174

The Historicity of Revelation and the Struggle for Thought in the Time of Anathema Nasira Hamid Abu Zayd 183

Feminist Historicization of Religious Traditions Nazira Zain al-Din Fatima Mernissi LeilaAhmed 195

An Islamic Theology of Liberation: The "Islamic Left" of Hassan Hanafi 200

A Christian Arab Theology of Liberation Naim Ateek Mitri Raheb in Palestine-Israel 207

On the Potential for Critique in Traditional Islam: Talal Asad's Analysis of the Public Criticism by Ulemas in Saudi Arabia 213

Islamic Critique and the Cultural Malaise 217

5 Secular Critique 220

Critique of the Exclusive Monopoly over "True" Islam Farag Fouda 221

The Importance of Keeping the Debate on the Human Level Fouad Zakariyya 224

Critique of the Essentialist and Romantic Conception of Identity Aziz al-Azmeh 228

Critique of the Islamicization of Knowledge and the Quest for an Indigenous Social Science Bassam Tibi Abdelkebir Khatibi Hisham Sharabi 238

Critique of the Conciliatory Pattern of Thinking Muhammad Jaber al-Ansari Hisham Sharabi Nadeem Naimy 253

Secularism, Democracy, and Cultural Critique 269

Recentering the Historical, the Human, and the Partial: The Secular Call for Democracy and Human Rights 280

6 Breaking the Postcolonial Solitude: Arab Motifs in Comparative Perspective 282

The Western Debates 282

The Non-Western Postcolonial Debates 304

Common Leitmotivs and Arab Specificities 335

Shifting Priorities 344

Conclusion: The New Nahda Impulses, Reclaiming the Right to Freedom and Life 347

Notes 365

Bibliography 431

Index 473

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