Wednesday, 26 April 2017, 6 pm |
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Ḥukm al-Nās (The Rule of the People?): Conceptualising the Collective in Egypt around 1900


Maha AbdelMegeed

(EUME Fellow 2016/17)

Chair: Michael Allan
(U of Oregon, EUME-CNMS Fellow of the AvH 2017-18)

Abstract
Muhammad al-Muwaylihi’s (1858-1930) Hadith ‘Isa Ibn Hisham (1907) is central for debates on Arabic literary modernity and its history. It has long been held in-between the binary of ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’, furnishing the necessary transition to modern Arabic literature. In fact, Roger Allen’s seminal study of al-Muwaylihi’s text (1967) is the first foray into establishing Modern Arabic Literature as a discipline in the Anglophone academy. In this manner, Jeffrey Sacks could argue that positing Hadith ‘Isa Ibn Hisham as transitional has been at the crux of constructing Modern Arabic literature as a discipline and object of knowledge.
In this talk, AbdelMegeed returns to the problem of categorizing Hadith ‘Isa Ibn Hisham between the traditional and modern. Her aim is not to position it in either camp. Rather, she probes the matter as a manifestation of the challenge of conceptualising change in cultural and literary forms in the wake of capitalist modernity. Taking stock of these changes necessitates a radical departure from the encounter paradigm (between ‘East’/‘West’, or coloniser/colonised) as a ready access for making sense of this period. Rather, she proposes opening up the literary vis-a-vis what she describes as moments of historical urgency. In this light, the text can be reconsidered as an attempt to make present the collective subjectivity of al-nās (people). At stake is not just wrenching one singular text out of its bind, but putting forth a mode for thinking moments of transformation both through and beyond the literary.

Maha AbdelMegeed is a Cairo-based Literary scholar. She received her PhD in Arabic literature from SOAS, University of London (2016) with a dissertation on Muhammad al-Muwailihi’s “Hadith Isa Ibn Hisham” and her MA in Comparative Literature from King’s College London (2011). She holds a BA from the American University in Cairo, where she majored in English and Comparative Literature with a minor in Philosophy. Her work is at the intersection of literature, history, and Arabic conceptual thought. Among her publications is the article "Hadith Isa ibn Hisham: Khayal al-Alam and the Problem of ‘Seeing’ World Literature", in: Comparative Critical Studies, 12.2 (2015), pp 267-281.