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The Unmaking of the Arab Intellectual

Prophecy, Exile and the Nation

Zeina G. Halabi

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Examines the depiction of intellectuals in contemporary Arabic literature

Zeina G. Halabi examines the unmaking of the intellectual as prophetic figure, national icon, and exile in Arabic literature and film from the 1990s onwards. She comparatively explores how contemporary writers and film directors such as Rabee Jaber, Rawi Hage, Rashid al-Daif, Seba al-Herz and Elia Suleiman have displaced the archetype of the intellectual as it appears in writings by Elias Khoury, Edward Said, Jurji Zaidan and Mahmoud Darwish. In so doing, Halabi identifies and theorises alternative articulations of political commitment, displacement, and loss in the wake of unfulfilled prophecies of emancipation and national liberation. The Unmaking of the Arab Intellectual offers critical tools to understand the evolving relations between aesthetics and politics in the alleged post-political era of Arabic literature and culture.

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List of Stills
Note on Translations and Transliteration
Introduction: In the Beginning Was the Word
Chapter 1. Requiem for the Enlightenment
Chapter 2. Elegy for the Intellectual
Chapter 3. The Banality of Exile
Chapter 4. Ruins of Secular Nationalism
Chapter 5. The Political Remains

About the Author

Zeina G. Halabi is Assistant Professor of Arabic Literature at the American University of Beirut. She specializes in modern Arabic literature with particular interest in questions of loss, mourning, and dissidence in contemporary literature and visual culture. She has authored articles on the shifting notion of political commitment in the writings of canonical and emerging Arab writers.


'The Unmaking of the Arab Intellectual is one of those rare works that manages to describe an aesthetic formation — in this case, a generation of contemporary Arab writers — in order to reflect generatively on the intersections of history, politics and culture. Accessible and eloquent, this brilliant book forges new ways of relating to literary pasts and futures.'

- Michael Allan, Associate Professor in Comparative Literature, University of Oregon

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