The Politics of Arab Authenticity - by Ahmad Agbaria (Paperback)
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"About the Book ""It is a remarkable yet oft-forgotten fact that the beginning of the 1970s marked the birth of a new age of Arab thought. This age is characterized by a preoccupation with the question of cultural heritage and intellectual inheritance in the fields of Islamic law, medieval philosophy, religious ethics, and classic literature. No event marked the beginning of this era as powerfully as the shattering defeat in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. Vanquished Arab people emerged disenchanted with revolutionary Arab regimes (1950s-1960s) that sought to decolonize and reinvent anew the Arab subject but ended up amplifying its sense of cultural alienation. To alleviate this feeling of social estrangement, a significant swath of Arab intellectuals engaged a long-forgotten cultural heritage. This engagement pointed to a widespread dissatisfaction with the postcolonial condition, which had promised to overcome colonial modernity with a new vision of Arab modernity, erasing its past. Arab intellectuals began to ask how a society could do away with its cultural heritage and still retain its sense of authenticity and orientation, seeing the dark side of colonial modernity, which for long was heralded as a transformative catalyst for progress. This book addresses a set of key questions: What is cultural heritage (turåath) and why was there a marked intellectual shift toward it in the Arabic-speaking world? What solutions does this shift offer to a host of postcolonial problems, and why did it become so controversial? After the 1967 defeat a culture war ensued, pitting so-called ""social critics,"" who espoused Western theories to modernize Arab society and bring about social and cultural change, against ""connected critics,"" who insisted that without connection to their cultural heritage Arab subjects had lost an essential component of their identity and authenticity. Fueled by anxiety over political abuses and social and economic injustices, the culture war took over the entire intellectual conversation in the Middle East, giving shape to new literary aesthetics, new cultural institutions, and an entirely new literary canon and generating a new intellectual habitus that disrupted many of the previously dominant sensibilities in the Arab world and that persists to this day. By bringing these long-forgotten and invisible debates to the fore, Age of Authenticity presents the first full-fledged history of the Arab quest for self-determination and cultural authenticity""-- Book Synopsis By the beginning of the 1970s, the modernizing political and cultural movements that had dominated the postwar Arab world were collapsing. The postcolonial project they had fashioned, which sought to create a decolonized order and a new Arab man, had suffered a shattering defeat in the wake of the Arab-Israeli War in 1967. Disillusioned with modern ideologies that presented the past as a burden from which postcolonial societies must be liberated, a growing number of Arab thinkers began to reconsider their cultural heritage. The Politics of Arab Authenticity illuminates how Arab societies and their leading intellectuals responded to the collapse of the postcolonial project. Ahmad Agbaria tells the story of a generation of postcolonial thinkers and activists who came to question their modernist commitments and biases against their own culture. He explores the rise of a new class of postcolonial critics who challenged and eventually superseded the old guard of Arab nationalists. Agbaria analyzes the heated cultural and intellectual debates that overtook the Arab world in the 1970s, uncovering why major figures turned to tradition in search of solutions to postcolonial predicaments. With balanced attention to cultural debates and intellectual biographies, this book offers a nuanced understanding of major cultural trends in the contemporary Arab world."



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