CfP: Modernisms/modernities in the Middle East

As part of the “Irreconcilable Differences? Modernism and Area Studies” panel stream at the Modernist Studies Association in Brooklyn, New York on October 22-25, 2020, I (Kaitlin Staudt) am proposing and organizing a panel on Modernisms/modernities in the Middle East.

Working at the intersection of Modernist Studies and Middle Eastern Area Studies can often feel like the two protagonists of Susan Stanford Friedman’s “Definitional Excursions” do daily battle inside your scholarship. As a field indebted to the disciplines of history, political science, and international relations, the “modernism” of Middle Eastern Studies skews heavily towards the concepts of development and civilizational progress, definitions which are heavy with unspoken connotations of Western paradigms and Orientalizing worldviews. This disciplinary desire to reckon with the ways in which modernities elsewhere have been interpreted, rejected or embraced has led the field to take up the articulation of multiple modernities. In the past two decades, scholars have demarcated the unique modernities of Turkey, Iran, the Maghreb, the Arab World, the Caucasus, the Black Sea, and the Balkans, to name only a few of the potential locations and configurations of Middle Eastern modernity. Yet, despite the discourse of multiple or alternative modernities that has dominated historical and sociological scholarship of the past few decades, more remains to be said about how authors, artists, and poets engage with these modernities as a starting point for elucidating the particular configurations aesthetic modernism within the various locales of the Middle East.

This panel contends that Middle Eastern modernisms have a unique contribution to the New Modernist Studies’ global focus. From the state-sponsored modernities of Turkey and Iran to the anti-colonial movements of Lebanon and Egypt, directed equally towards the Ottoman and European imperial legacies, Middle Eastern modernism has much to contribute to the field’s emerging focus on inter-imperial networks, asymmetrical global power relations, south-south collaborations, and the aesthetic practices that engage with them. This panel invites abstracts for twenty-minute papers that consider how the disciplinary conventions of Modernist Studies engage with those of Middle Eastern Area Studies and/or the ways in which literatures from the Middle East can contribute to the ongoing retheorization of modernist studies.

If you are interested in participating in this panel, please send a 150–2000-word statement to kestaudt@eduhk.hk no later than Friday 28 February 2020. For more details on the MSA and the 2020 conference, see: https://msa.press.jhu.edu/conferences/msa2020/

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