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Title: "Attachment to the soil and aspiration toward departure" : tradition, modernity, cosmopolitanism, globalisation & identity in Amin Maalouf
Author: Alhathlool, Khalid
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis critically engages with Amin Maalouf’s (b. 1948) contribution to the pressing socio-cultural debates of the contemporary world. By drawing implicitly on Lucien Goldmann’s concept of worldview, it traces the development of a number of ideas across Maalouf’s work, including revivalism, tradition, modernity, cosmopolitanism, globalisation and identity. I argue that although Maalouf’s oeuvre is an attempt to ‘reclaim’ history from the gaze of the ‘Other’, seeking self-representation through a ‘native’ perspective and bridging the chasm between East and West, it fails to transcend the discourses of ‘inferiority’ manifest in orientalist writings about the ‘Arab World’ and the ‘Third World’ in general. Maalouf’s self-claimed role as a cultural interpreter and mediator is put into question by reading his works against two contexts: Arab cultural debates and postcolonial debates that are centred around the classical ‘self/other’ dichotomy. I place special emphasis on the historical context of those debates and demonstrate how ideas of ‘failure,’ ‘backwardness,’ ‘cultural malaise’ and ‘the absence of democracy’ stand in contrast to Western notions of ‘progress,’ ‘civilisation,’ ‘development’ and ‘modernity’. In doing so I underline how these conceptions of civilisational difference did not originate with contemporary theorists (for example, Samuel Huntington). Maalouf’s obsession with ‘failure’ is no coincidence but rather the symptom of a theoretical preoccupation that can be traced back to the very formation of modern Arab subjectivity during the Arab Renaissance or Al-nahdah Al- Arabiyah. Ultimately, I argue that Maalouf’s body of work fails to distinguish itself from the widespread conceptions that understand the ‘European’ model of economic and political development as representing the only path to modernity. I try to show that Maalouf subscribes to a particular version of universalism involving what Samir Amin has described as a twofold ‘cultural involution’: on one side of the ledger he places European/ Western provincialism, thereby confirming Western exceptionalism; on the ‘other’, he places reactionary Third World fundamentalism, which in its corresponding provincialism affirms a totalising cultural Otherness vis-à-vis the West. The thesis is divided into two sections. In the first of these, I engage thematically with six of Maalouf’s novels, discussing his representation of the contest over cultural ‘authenticity’ in ‘the Arab world’, his suggestion (advanced most centrally in The Rock of Tanios) that the Arab peoples have failed to ‘enter’ or ‘realise’ modernity, and his mobilisation of the idea of cosmopolitanism, notably cast in his work in terms of a nostalgic figuration of a better world, now ‘lost’. The second part of the thesis engages with Maalouf’s non-fiction. Its objective is to trace the development of Maalouf’s understanding of identity in the ‘era of globalisation.’ My engagement with this body of work draws upon a range of critical methods and conceptions – cultural studies as well as Marxist, postcolonial and world-system theories – as I attempt to situate Maalouf work in the context of wider Arab considerations of identity, modernity, secularism and globalisation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Imam Muhammad ibn Saud University ; Saudi Arabia Cultural Bureau
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN Literature (General)