Zeina G. Halabi is Assistant Professor of Arabic Literature and Culture at the University of North Carolina. 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 2012-2013 EUME fellow at the Forum for Transregional Studies in Berlin, where she worked on her first book, The Unmaking of the Arab Intellectual: Prophecy, Exile, and the Nation (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), in which she 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, which explores excavation practices in literature and film. Halabi writes on music, visual culture, and literature in Arabic e-zines.
The Unmaking of the Arab Intellectual: Prophecy, Exile, and the Nation
Zeina G. Halabi (University of North Carolina / EUME Fellow 2012/13), Chair: Georges Khalil (Forum Transregionale Studien / EUME)
Halabi probes the legacy of the intellectual-prophet in contemporary Arabic literature. She identifies the 1990s as a critical historical juncture, in which writers displaced the archetype of the prophetic intellectual that had governed literature since the 19th century Arab enlightenment era. In fictionalizing and subsequently displacing the figure of the modern, secular, nationalist, and exilic intellectual, contemporary Arab writers have elicited a counter-discourse of criticism that questioned intellectuals as knowledge producers and disseminators. She shows how, as they crossed generational, linguistic, and generic thresholds, novelists and poets relocated the political to an affective discourse on loss that predicates the political on the personal. Halabi ultimately makes the hitherto opaque conjuncture of the 1990s legible by highlighting the political critique inherent in a presumed post-political aesthetic moment.