The Naksa at 50: Nostalgia and Memory in the Middle East and Beyond

The Naksa at 50: Nostalgia and Memory in the Middle East and Beyond

Cropped book cover of Unexpected Bride in the Promised Land: Journeys in Palestine and Israel (Nighthawk Press, Taos, New Mexico, spring 2017), used with permission by Iris Keltz.

A panel with Hosam Aboul-Ela (University of Houston), Elliott Colla (Georgetown University), and Nadia Yaqub (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Friday, April 28, 2017
12:00 PM
Charles E. Young Research Library (YRL) Presentation Room 11348

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The Naksa—the widely-­‐used Arabic term for the “setback” suffered by Palestinians in the 1967 war—represented not only a defeat but also a turning point. While this turning-point had important political implications, its cultural ramifications and the explosion of creative expression it engendered also marked the Arab world indelibly. The proliferation of critical output produced by Arab thinkers and artists in its aftermath deserves to be at the center of academic inquiry as we observe this anniversary. Instead of focusing on political or legal repercussions, the conference panel will consider the relatively understudied impact of the Naksa in relation to Nostalgia and Memory, highlighting cultural production and institutional aspects of art.

THE '67 WAR DID NOT TAKE PLACE: Arab Intellectuals between Critique and Resistance
In many accounts of the 1967 war and its aftermath, the conflict is treated as a primal event that shifted the trajectory of cultural and intellectual life in the Arab region. This paper offers a partial challenge to this received wisdom through readings of texts by prominent Arab writer/ intellectuals that engage the Arab scene in the years after the war. Edward Said offers a prominent example of a writer that shows a marked change in trajectory after the war. His short essay, "The Arab Portrayed," grows over the course of several years into one of his masterworks, Orientalism. Simultaneously, Moroccan intellectual Abdallah Laroui crystallized earlier work after the war by publishing his The Crisis of the Arab Intellectual: Traditionalism or Historicism? One key difference between the two projects is that Laroui's model included a critique of Arab nationalism that built on earlier arguments, whereas Said did not initially engage the complicity of the Arab postcolonial condition in the "crisis." A significance of this distinction can be illuminated via several readings. First, Sonallah Ibrahim's novel 67, written in Beirut in 1968, reinforces his pre-existing critique of the bourgeoisification of daily life in Egypt under Nasser and another intellectual, Arwa Salih in The Stillborn also sees the crisis as one which inheres in daily life. The ingrained, social, and self-critical dimension of the crisis pulls on Said himself in his later writings, which move toward a set of increasingly Gramscian propositions. The critical discourse of the organic intellectual that emerges out of these texts proves suggestive in the still ongoing project of comprehending the regional intifadas of 2011 and after.

Hosam Aboul-Ela
is an Associate Professor in the University of Houston’s Department of English. He is the translator of 4 Arabic novels and the author of critical articles in the areas of literature of the Americas, literary theory, and Arab cultural studies. He is the author of Other South: Faulkner, Coloniality, and the Mariátegui Tradition, co-editor with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak of the Seagull Books series "Elsewhere Texts," and series editor for Seagull Books' Arabic list. His book-length study of U.S. imperial culture as read through the lens of cultural critical theory from the Global South will appear in 2018.

Imperfect Reunion: The June War in Emile Habibi’s Six-Day Sextet
For Palestinian citizens of Israel, the June War effectively ended the twenty-year siege that had isolated them from the Arab world. As welcome as this outcome was, the fact that it came about through military defeat rather than victory only accentuated their abject state. In this context, it is not surprising that Palestinian intellectuals inside Israel spoke about the war and its aftermath in terms of meetings that were as sad as they were happy, and reunions that, on the one hand, reaffirmed Palestinian connections, and on the other, reminded Palestinians of the divisions that separated them. In this paper, I will explore how Emile Habibi’s 1968 Sudasiyyat al-ayyam al-sitta (The Six-Day Sextet) was the most important work of Palestinian literature on the immediate effects of the war on Palestinian life. I will also expand on how it marked a major transition in Palestinian fiction—from the short story to the novel—which in turn, paved the way for new literary understandings of Palestine.

Elliott Colla teaches in the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. He is author of Conflicted Antiquities: Egyptology, Egyptomania, Egyptian Modernity (Duke University Press, 2007). He has translated of works of contemporary Arabic literature, including most recently Raba‘i al-Madhoun’s The Lady from Tel Aviv.

Viewing '1967' Arab cinema in the 2010s
One of the immediate consequences of the 1967 Arab defeat was the rise of a new type of alternative cinema in the Arab world. In Egypt a group talented of young filmmakers formed the the New Cinema Group (Jama`at al-sinima al-jadidah), seeking to steer the direction of non-commercial Egyptian cinema in a progressive direction. In Syria, under the directorship of Abd al-Hamid Mar`i, a very young public sector film and television industry took a decidedly political turn, producing an impressive number of long and short works related to the rapidly developing Palestinian liberation movement. Film and photography units began to appear among the constitutive organizations of the PLO. The newly created Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage (JCC) in Tunisia also took a decidedly political turn, incorporating recurring themed programs dedicated to the liberation of Palestine and Africa beginning in 1972. The works and programming produced in the late 1960s and 1970s in the Arab world were largely forgotten for many decades, new technologies that have enabled a redistribution of these works to new audiences and a desire among new generations of filmmakers and activists for alternatives to the cultural and political impasses of the twenty-first century have ignited renewed interest in these works. In this paper I explore recent engagement by filmmakers and other cultural workers with Arab alternative cinema form this earlier period. Works from this period evoke both irony and nostalgia, but also an emerging understanding of film history in the Arab world in which these works and the feelings of political possibility inherent within them are newly relevant to the present cultural moment.

Nadia Yaqub is associate professor of Arabic Language Cultures at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of Pens, Swords and the Springs of Art: the Oral Poetry Dueling of Palestinian Weddings in the Galilee (Brill, 2006) and numerous articles and book chapters about Arabic literature and film. She is the co-editor with Rula Quawas of Bad Girls of the Arab World (forthcoming from University of Texas Press, 2017). Her book manuscript “Palestinian Cinema in the Days of Revolution” is currently under review.

Sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies, UC Berkeley Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UC Santa Barbara Center for Middle Eastern Studies