Wednesday, 20 June 2018, 5.00 pm - 6.30 pm |
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Excavation as Critique in/of the Arab Present

Zeina G. Halabi
(American University in Beirut / EUME Fellow 2018)

Chair: Refqa Abu-Remaileh
(Freie Universität Berlin / EUME Fellow 2017/18)

What do excavation practices tell us about the ways in which artists and writers reclaim their past and imagine their future in the context of state silencing and erasure? Halabi examines the ways in which contemporary writers and cineastes from Iran and Palestine excavate, reclaim, and reconfigure state archives in search of past narratives that elucidate their world in gestation. She argues that contemporary excavation practices are neither a statement on cultural authenticity nor a nostalgic return to an idealized past. Rather, they are the means by which artists and writers articulate an overarching disenchantment with the ways the past has been constructed and transmitted. Halabi ultimately reveals how excavation practices answer ontological questions in the aftermath of revolutions and ongoing occupation.

Zeina G. Halabi is Assistant Professor of Arabic Literature at the American University of Beirut. She specializes in modern Arabic literature with particular interest in questions of loss, mourning, and dissidence in contemporary literature and visual culture. She was a 2012-13 EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin, where she began working on her first book, entitled The Unmaking of the Arab Intellectual: Prophecy, Exile, and the Nation (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), that examines the depiction of Arab intellectuals in post-1990s fiction and film. She has authored articles on the shifting notion of political commitment in the writings of canonical and emerging Arab writers. She is currently working on her second book project provisionally entitled Excavating the Present: History, Power, and the Arab Archive, which explores archival practices in contemporary literature. She received her BA from the American University of Beirut (2001), MA from the London School of Economics (2003), and PhD from the University of Texas at Austin (2011). Currently she is a EUME-CNMS Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung.