2021/ 2022

Zeina G. Halabi

EUME-DAAD Fellow 2022; EUME-CNMS Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 2018-21

A Literary History of Arab Futures: Enlightenment, Ruins, and Dystopia

Previous Fellowships: 2020/ 2021, 2019/ 2020, 2018/ 2019, 2017/ 2018, 2012/ 2013

is Associate Professor of Arabic Literature at the American University of Beirut. Her publications in modern Arabic literature explore the contemporary legacy of 20th century emancipatory traditions, texts, and figures, with a regional focus on Egypt and the Levant. Her first monograph The Unmaking of the Arab Intellectual: Prophecy, Exile, and the Nation (2017) examines the ways contemporary writers have questioned the authority historically associated with exilic, politically committed, and nationalist intellectuals. She is the recipient of the EUME postdoctoral fellowship at the Forum Transregionale Studien (2012/13) and the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers (2018-21). Halabi is the editor of three anthologies of contemporary Arabic literature and her public scholarship in Arabic and English includes essays and translations published in pan-Arab and international media platforms on topics ranging from literature, to music and visual culture. She has served as editor of scholarly journal, board member of cultural institutions, and juror for literary awards granted by pan-Arab cultural institutions. She is currently a DAAD Research Fellow at EUME (2022), working on her second monograph.


A Literary History of Arab Futures: Enlightenment, Ruins, and Dystopia

Titled A Literary History of Arab Futures: Enlightenment, Ruins, and Dystopia, the monograph probes the notion of the future and the aspirations, imaginations, and anxieties it has triggered in Arabic literature beginning from the Nahda to the aftermath of the 2011 uprisings. It explores the ways in which writers, of different historical generations and literary sensibilities, have imagined the future, on which they have projected competing narratives for salvation. Crossing different literary genres and national spaces, the texts the project examines reveal how the future, which had been driven by Nahda hopes for emancipation, was later imbued with despair in the aftermath of military coups and failed revolutions. The book ultimately shows how the changing notion of the future can answer questions about what constitutes subjectivities in times of hope and loss.


Excavating the Arab Present: History, Power, and the Archive

Halabi’s current book project examines the ways in which contemporary writers excavate the Arab cultural archive in search for past narratives that make legible the Arab world in gestation. She reads the archive as a repository for cultural memory and a device of the knowledge and power that structures it. Addressing a palimpsest of contemporary writings from Egypt, Lebanon, and Palestine, her book reveals the ways in which the reexamination of the Arab archive by practices of excavation enables cultural actors to articulate a novel interpretation of the past and to envision the future. It suggests that contemporary excavation practices are not a nostalgic return to an imagined Arab identity and a statement on cultural authenticity. Rather, they are the means by which artists and writers articulate an overarching disenchantment with the ways stories of the Arab past had hitherto been transmitted and an effort to create a field of meaning for the future. As she proposes alternatives to the ahistorical and presentist scholarly approaches that have governed research on the contemporary Arab world, Halabi reveals the ways in which archival and excavation practices can answer ontological questions in time of wars and uprisings.

2012/ 2013

Writing Melancholy: The Death of the Intellectual in Modern Arabic Literature

In her current book project, “Writing Melancholy: The Death of the Intellectual in Modern Arabic Literature”, Halabi engages the elegiac writings of modern and contemporary Arab novelists and poets and explores the ways in which Arab writers who identify with different literary and historical generations have mourned and commemorated the death of their peers. In dialogue with theoretical contributions from psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, and gender studies, Halabi examines melancholia as a collective psychological and political experience of loss that has emerged following the 1967 Arab defeat.
During her EUME fellowship, Halabi also plans to complete a new chapter of her book on the representation of the Nahda intellectual in Rachid al-Daif’s Paving the Sea (2011), a novel in which al-Daif writes a requiem for both the intellectual and the Enlightenment values that he embodies.