[P4779] "Arab Arabists:" Public Intellectuals and the Production of Knowledge About the Arab World

Created by Ellen L. Fleischmann
Sunday, 11/19/17 10:30am


This panel is about the role, lives and work of "Arab Arabists:" "indigenous" public intellectuals who produced and disseminated knowledge about the Arab world. We analyze a range of individuals; including little-known intellectuals who persevered in intellectual endeavors in the classroom, government service, the press, and published research. The panel engages with social, political and intellectual history. It asks, who is a public intellectual and how do they perform that role? How did they choose their various publics? What were the influences -- educational, personal, political -- that contributed to their intellectual formation? How did they influence their targeted audiences? How might lower profile individuals, who nevertheless opened up new spaces for public discussion, shape our understanding of what constitutes a public intellectual? Edward Said's public intellectual (he argues there are no private intellectuals) is "adversarial," speaks truth to power, is a "witness to persecution and suffering" and supplies "a dissenting voice in conflicts with authority."

Our panel historicizes the concept and role of the public intellectual. We foreground the role of Arab intellectuals in representing, analyzing, and explaining their ideas and interpretations of the Middle East, in contradistinction to the American diplomats, educators, politicians, missionaries, and spies who have been populating the "new" history on Americans and the Middle East, and whose interpretations have been the subjects of this new history.

Each paper introduces Arab public intellectuals from the Arab Middle East. Paper 1 analyzes academics in area studies from within the region constructing an insider view of the major issues confronting the Arab world in the 1940s to the 1950s. Paper 2 uncovers the story of Najla Abu-Izzeddin, the American-educated, first Arab (and Druze) woman PhD, who advocated for Palestinian and Arab nationalist causes in the 1940s and 1950s. Paper 3 traces the evolving concept of the Arab World through key educators cum ideologues’ biographies and writings across the transition from Hashemite to Ba’thist Iraq. Paper 4 discusses two prominent Arab-American public intellectuals who developed very different visions of Arab nationalism; and paper 5 examines the role of Taha Hussein as a policymaker in building the modern institutions he believed were necessary to take the Nahda project forward. Each paper demonstrates that what constitutes a public intellectual was a fluid, contested and often ambiguous concept that changed over time and place.






Ellen L. Fleischmann

(University of Dayton)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

John Meloy

(American University of Beirut)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Ilham Khuri-Makdisi

(Northeastern University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;

Hilary Falb Kalisman

(Furman University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Aaron Berman

(Hampshire College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Hussam Eldin Raafat Ahmed

(McGill University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;