2022/ 2023

Anne-Marie McManus

ERC Starting Grant 2020-2025

The Prison Narratives of Assad’s Syria: Voices, Texts, Publics (SYRASP)

Previous Fellowships: 2021/ 2022, 2020/ 2021, 2019/ 2020, 2016/ 2017

is a comparative literary scholar of Arabic, English, and French literatures in the 20th and 21st century. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University. She has published essays on poetics, comparative and theoretical methods, and contemporary Arabic literatures and cultures in venues such as Critical Inquiry (2021), The Cambridge History of World Literature, Books & Ideas, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Journal of World Literature, and Expressions Maghrébines. Her first book – Of Other Languages (forthcoming) – tracks theories and practices of linguistic clarity, ambiguity, and emotion that circled the Algerian War of Independence during the decades of decolonization between the Maghreb and Mashreq. Her work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, NYU Abu Dhabi, and the European Research Council (ERC). She currently oversees the ERC-funded project SYRASP at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin.


The Prison Narratives of Assad’s Syria: Voices, Texts, Publics (SYRASP)

Bridging the disciplines of literary studies and cultural anthropology, SYRASP researches contemporary narratives, images, social media practices, and cultural practices related to incarceration and forced disappearance in Syria under the Assad regime (1970-present). SYRASP builds on the extensive literary canon of Syrian prison narratives and their associated scholarship to reflect, in open collaboration with prison writers and intellectuals, on the artistic, cultural, and political valences of creating prison narratives today. Examples of research questions include: what forms of community, or publics, are presumed and invited by contemporary Syrian prison narratives? And how do today’s practitioners seek to re-write, re-fashion, and perhaps break from the established genres, authors, and meanings of prison literature? SYRASP’s core methods incorporate dialogue with stakeholders in the Syrian cultural field and reflexivity on the position of academic research produced on Syrian literature and culture in English. Key publications from the grant will therefore include traditional academic genres (e.g., single-author articles and monographs) as well as interviews, dialogues, and reflections on the ethics of literary studies.

This project is a five-year investigation funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No. 851393), hosted by the Forum Transregionale Studien (Forum), and related to EUME.


2016/ 2017

Of Other Languages: Arabic Literature and the Poetics of Regionalism (1956-2011)

Of Other Languages argues that the creation of cross-regional ties and circulation networks connecting North Africa and the Middle East was central to literary imaginings of decolonization in Arabic. The book traces the flowering of a postcolonial print culture through journals (e.g., Souffles-Anfas, al-Adab) that fostered transnational and multilingual exchange, rhetorics of Arab discovery and renewal, and aesthetics of greeting over distance. However, these acts were not limited to celebratory representations of, for example, the Algerian war of independence in Syrian short stories published in Beirut. Rather, the book excavates forgotten networks that led writers and intellectuals to criss-cross the region - from Morocco to Egypt, from Iraq to Algeria - between the 1950s and 1970s as teachers and students of the Arabic language. At the heart of the book’s argument is a series of literary readings that demonstrate writers’ critical and even ambivalent relationships to the geographies in which they participated in print and deed. Of Other Languages shows that in the heyday of decolonization and pan-Arab ideology, writers devised a range of materialist linguistic practices. They did so to make of Arabic literature a subversively transnational site – one that promised to counter the spread of postcolonial authoritarianism between Morocco and Iraq.