The Arab Nahda in its Regional and Global Contexts

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Ertegun House, University of Oxford, 22-23 April 2015

This workshop aims to situate the nineteenth-century “Nahda” (the Arab revival, enlightenment or renaissance) in its regional and global context. Too often considered solely within Arab or nationalist frameworks, and with relation to “the West”, this movement is rarely examined alongside developments in other societies of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. We hope to draw on links and parallels with the Ottoman Tanzimat, the Greek and Balkan Enlightenments, the Armenian Renaissance, and comparable movements further afield, to place the Nahda in its global context. We also aim to direct attention to another often neglected area, that of the specific material and often conflictual realities that generated such movements.

To achieve this, the workshop will bring together scholars from various disciplines (intellectual history, global history, literary theory, and comparative literature, art history) who engage with the material and political world from within which ideas are generated as well as the transformative influence of ideas on material reality. In particular, it invites participants to consider the ways in which concepts and ideas are formed through social conflict rather than simply through circulation and exchange. It seeks to redraw the ways in which a new world and a new imaginary was conceived by intellectuals during the nineteenth-century. It is no longer enough to declare the Nahda a “liberal age” or an “age of nationalism”. Rather, we invite scholars to use the particularity of the Nahda to interrogate the formation of universality within the global project of capitalist modernity. Interdisciplinary as well as trans-disciplinary contributions are encouraged.

Particular areas of interest include:

- Comparisons between the “nahda” and experiences in other regions which were undergoing similar processes of change
- Situating the emergence of modern Arab thought within a context of capitalist modernity: the incorporation of the Arab-Ottoman countries into a European-dominated world economy and state system
- The linkages between the intellectual and cultural production of the “nahda” and social conflict in the Arab world, such as class struggle or sectarian violence
- The creative role of people from the Arab countries (not restricted to writers and intellectuals) in defining the nahda’s version of modernity, rather than simply reacting or assimilating to Western models
- The Nahda in relationship to nationalism, liberalism, and comparative political thought

Please send abstracts of no more than 200 words, in English, along with your institutional affiliation, to by 21 February 2015.

The workshop will include both paper presentations of 15-20 minutes and themed round-table discussions.

A limited amount of travel and accommodation reimbursement may be available for speakers travelling from the UK, Europe and the Middle East.