The Making of the Arab Intellectual: Empire, Public Sphere and the Colonial Coordinates of Selfhood, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Making of the Arab Intellectual

Empire, Public Sphere and the Colonial Coordinates of Selfhood, 1st Edition

Edited by Dyala Hamzah


284 pages

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In the wake of the Ottoman Empire’s nineteenth-century reforms, as guilds waned and new professions emerged, the scholarly ‘estate’ underwent social differentiation. Some found employment in the state’s new institutions as translators, teachers and editors, whilst others resisted civil servant status. Gradually, the scholar morphed into the public writer. Despite his fledgling status, he catered for the public interest all the more so since new professionals such as doctors, engineers and lawyers endorsed this latest social role as an integral part of their own self-image.

This dual preoccupation with self-definition and all things public is the central concern of this book. Focusing on the period after the tax-farming scholar took the bow and before the alienated intellectual prevailed on the contemporary Arab cultural scene, it situates the making of the Arab intellectual within the dysfunctional space of competing states’ interests known as the ‘Nahda’. Located between Empire and Colony, the emerging Arab public sphere was a space of over- and under-regulation, hindering accountability and upsetting allegiances.

The communities that Arab intellectuals imagined, including the Pan-Islamic, Pan-Arab and socialist sat astride many a polity and never became contained by post-colonial states. Examining a range of canonical and less canonical authors, this interdisciplinary approach to The Making of the Modern Arab Intellectual will be of interest to students and scholars of the Middle East, history, political science, comparative literature and philosophy.


"This compilation presents a very rich analysis of the intellectual profile of the Arab World, which was lost somewhere between history and historiography. In addition, this book reintroduces the Jewish contribution to the Arab intellectual movements, which was almost forgotten."

Omair Anas

Insight Turkey Volume 17 No. 1 Book Reviews

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Making of the Arab Intellectual: Empire, Public Sphere and the Colonial Coordinates of Selfhood Dyala Hamzah 2. Pharaoh’s Revenge: Translation, Literary History and Colonial Ambivalence Samah Selim 3. Public Deliberations of the Self in Fin-de-Siècle Egypt (1880-1910) Michael Gasper 4. Inscribing Socialism into the Nahda: al-Muqtataf, al-Hilal, and the Construction of a Leftist Reformist Worldview, 1880-1914 Ilham Khuri-Makdisi 5. From ‘Ilm to Sihafa or the Politics of the Public Interest (Maslaha): Muhammad Rashîd Rida and his journal al-Manar (1898-1935) Dyala Hamzah 6. Partitioned Pasts: Arab Jewish Intellectuals and the Case of Esther Azhari Moyal, 1873-1948 Lital Levy 7. The "Mahjar" as literary and political territory in the first decades of the 20th century: the example of Amîn Rîhânî (1876-1940) Leyla Dakhli 8. The Generation of Broad Expectations: Nationalism, Education, and Autobiography in Syria and Lebanon, 1930-1958 Christoph Schumann 9. Waiting for the Superman: A New Generation of Arab Nationalists in 1930s Iraq Peter Wien 10. Afterword

About the Editor

Dyala Hamzah is Assistant Professor of Middle East History at the Université de Montréal. She holds an M. Phil. in Philosophy from the Sorbonne and a Ph.D. in History and Islamic Studies from the Freie Universität Berlin and the EHESS (Paris). She is currently completing a book entitled Muhammad Rashid Rida (1865–1935) ou le “Tournant Salafiste”. Intérêt général, Islam et Opinion Publique dans l’Egypte Coloniale.

About the Series

SOAS/Routledge Studies on the Middle East

This series features the latest disciplinary approaches to Middle Eastern Studies. It covers the Social Sciences and the Humanities in both the pre-modern and modern periods of the region. While primarily interested in publishing single-authored studies, the series is also open to edited volumes on innovative topics, as well as textbooks and reference works.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Middle East / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies