The Arab Revolutions that began in 2011 reignited interest in the question of theory and practice, imbuing it with a burning political urgency. In his recently published book, Revolution and Disenchantment: Arab Marxism and the Binds of Emancipation (Duke University Press, 2020), Fadi A. Bardawil redescribes for our present how an earlier generation of revolutionaries, the 1960s Arab New Left, addressed this question. Bardawil excavates the long-lost archive of the Marxist organization Socialist Lebanon and its main theorist, Waddah Charara, who articulated answers in their political practice to fundamental issues confronting revolutionaries worldwide: intellectuals as vectors of revolutionary theory; political organizations as mediators of theory and praxis; and nonemancipatory attachments as impediments to revolutionary practice. Drawing on historical and ethnographic methods and moving beyond familiar reception narratives of Marxist thought in the postcolony, Bardawil engages in “fieldwork in theory” that analyzes how theory seduces intellectuals, cultivates sensibilities, and authorizes political practice. Throughout, Bardawil underscores the resonances and tensions between Arab intellectual traditions and Western critical theory and postcolonial theory, deftly placing intellectuals from those traditions into a much-needed conversation.
Fadi A. Bardawil, an anthropologist by training, is assistant professor of contemporary Arab cultures in the Department of Asian Studies and Middle East Studies at Duke University. His research investigates the international circulation of critical theory, the genealogies of post-colonial critique, and the traditions of intellectual inquiry and modalities of political engagement of contemporary Arab thinkers. His writings have appeared in boundary 2; Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East; The Journal for Palestine Studies (Arabic edition); Jadaliyya; al-Jumhuriya; The Immanent Frame; Kulturaustausch; Megaphone; and South Atlantic Quarterly. He is the author of Revolution and Disenchantment: Arab Marxism and the Binds of Emancipation (Durham: Duke University Press, 2020).
Sana Tannoury-Karam is a historian of the modern Middle East, writing on the intellectual history of the Left in the Levant. She received her PhD in History from Northeastern University and holds an MA in Political Studies from the American University of Beirut. In 2019/2020, Sana Tannoury-Karam was an Early Career Fellow at the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS) affiliated with the Center of Arab and Middle East Studies at the American University of Beirut, and a lecturer in the Humanities Department at the Lebanese American University. Her work has appeared in a range of publications including the Journal of World History, Jadaliyya, Megaphone, and TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research. Her most recent publication is a co-edited volume, The League Against Imperialism: Lives and Afterlives (Leiden University Press, 2020). In the academic year 2020/21, Sana Tannoury-Karam is a EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien, affiliated with the Center for Global History at Freie Universität Berlin.
Leyla Dakhli is a full-time historian at the French Center for National Research (CNRS), presently settled in the Marc Bloch Center in Berlin. Her work deals with the study of Arab intellectuals and social history of the South Mediterranean region, with a particular focus on the history of women and the question of exiled intellectuals and activists. She is the Principal Investigator of the ERC-founded program DREAM (Drafting and Enacting the revolution in the Arab Mediterranean). She is a member of the editorial comittee of the International Review of Social History (Amsterdam) and Le Mouvement social (Paris), and of the Scientific Committee of the MuCem (Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée, Marseilles). Her last publications include Histoire du Proche-Orient contemporain, Paris, La Découverte, 2015; Le Moyen-Orient (fin XIXe-XXe siècle), Éditions du Seuil “Points Histoire”, 2016; and L’Esprit de la révolte. Archives et actualité des révolutions arabes, Éditions du Seuil, October 2020.
In accordance with the measures against the spread of the coronavirus, this seminar session will be held virtually via ZOOM. Please register in advance via eume(at)trafo-berlin.de to receive the login details. Depending on approval by the speakers, the Berliner Seminar will be recorded. All audio recordings of the Berliner Seminar are available via the account of the Forum Transregionale Studien on SoundCloud.