Great Conversations: The Literary Atlas of Cairo by Samia Mehrez

Mon, April 25, 2011 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

(View all great conversations »)

Followed by a Discussion with Joseph Massad

Samia Mehrez's groundbreaking work presents original research on cultural politics and battles in Egypt at the turn of the twenty-first century. It deconstructs the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, drawing on conceptual tools in cultural studies, translation studies, and gender studies to analyze debates in the fields of literature, cinema, mass media, and the plastic arts. Anchored in the Egyptian historical and social contexts and inspired by the influential work of Pierre Bourdieu, it rigorously places these debates and battles within the larger framework of a set of questions about the relationship between the cultural and political fields in Egypt.

In the introduction to her latest book, The Literary Atlas of Cairo Mehrez writes: "Through a careful selection and juxtaposition of reconstructions and representations of the city of Cairo in Arab literary works throughout the twentieth century, The Literary Atlas provides a literary topography of the sociocultural, political, and urban history of the city by bringing together some one hundred works of Egyptian and Arab writers who represent several generations of men and women, Muslims, Copts, and Jews, citizens and lovers of the globalized metropolis, writing in Arabic, English, or French about the city of Cairo."

In this presentation Professor Mehrez in conversation with Joseph Massad will review the cultural ambience of Egypt, literary articulation of dissent, in addition to consent and co-optation that have been a mark of Egyptian cultural politics and life and whose many signifiers played out randomly and elegantly in the mass revolts in Tahrir square and the rest of Egypt over the past several months.

Samia Mehrez obtained her BA and MA degrees at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and completed her PH.D. at UCLA where her dissertation focused on the works of the Egyptian writer Gamal al-Ghitani. She taught at Cornell University from 1984-1990 in the Department of Near Eastern Studies before she came to AUC where she currently teaches modern Arabic literature in the Department of Arab and Islamic Civilizations. She is the founding director of the newly established AUC Center for Translation Studies. She has published numerous articles in the fields of modern Arabic literature, postcolonial literature, translation studies, gender studies, and cultural studies. She is the author of Egyptian Writers between History and Fiction: Essays on Naguib Mahfouz, Sonallah Ibrahim and Gamal al-Ghitani, AUC Press, 1994 and 2005 and Egypt’s Culture Wars: Politics and Practice, Routledge 2008, AUC Press 2010. Her edited anthologies A Literary Atlas of Cairo: One hundred Years in the Life of the City and The Literary Life of Cairo: One Hundred Years in the Heart of the City was published in Arabic and in English simultaneously by Dar al-Shurouk and AUC Press respectively in Spring and Fall 2010.

Joseph A. Massad is associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University. He is the author of Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan; The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians and Desiring Arabs.

Great Conversation is series that invites thinkers to choose people from other disciplines who are of intellectual and inspirational interest to them in an attempt to enlarge the scope of our understanding of the production of knowledge. The series is meant to offer a paradigm of comparative experiences, where other forms of knowledge can better enrich consciousness of the self.

Last updated: 2011-10-31 12:10:45

Samia Mehrez
Samia Mehrez

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