Wednesday, 10 January 2018, 5.00 pm - 6.30 pm |
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

No Exit: Arab Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre and Decolonization


Yoav Di-Capua
(University of Texas / EUME Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung 2017/18)

Chair: Margaret Litvin
(Boston University / EUME Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung 2017/18)

Abstract
It is a curious and relatively little-known fact that for two decades—from the end of World War II until the late 1960s—existentialism’s most fertile ground outside of Europe was in the Middle East, and Jean-Paul Sartre was the Arab intelligentsia’s uncontested champion. In the Arab world, neither before nor since has another Western intellectual been so widely translated, debated, and celebrated. By closely following the remarkable career of Arab existentialism, Yoav Di-Capua reconstructs the cosmopolitan milieu of the generation that tried to articulate a political and philosophical vision for an egalitarian postcolonial world. He tells this story through the use of new Arabic and Hebrew archives, including unpublished diaries and interviews. Tragically, the warm and hopeful relationships forged between Arab intellectuals, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and others ended when, on the eve of the 1967 war, Sartre failed to embrace the Palestinian cause. Today, when the prospect of global ethical engagement seems to be slipping ever farther out of reach, No Exit provides a timely, humanistic account of the intellectual hopes, struggles, and victories that shaped the Arab experience of decolonization and a delightfully wide-ranging excavation of existentialism’s non-Western history.

Yoav Di-Capua is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, where he teaches modern Arab Intellectual History. He received his PhD from Princeton University in 2004. He is the author of Gatekeepers of the Arab Past: Historians and History Writing in Twentieth-Century Egypt (University of California Press, 2009). His new book, No Exit: Arab Existentialism, Jean Paul Sartre and Decolonization, is forthcoming with the University Press of Chicago. In the academic year 2017/18, he is a EUME-CNMS Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung.