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Chronotopias: Revolution and the Cultural Magazine in the Arab Long Sixties (2022-)

Yvonne Albers, Research Area 1: "Competing Communities"
Postdoctoral Research Project

The project investigates the relationship between the Arab cultural magazine as a particular modern form of print publication that embodies and materializes the intellectual project of the Arab Nahda (usually translated as 'renaissance') since its beginnings in the 19th century; and of 'revolution' as both a historical concept in and a metaphor of transition, that is intrinsically linked to the idea of modern time. It focuses on how periodicals between the 1950s and 1970s contributed to and counterpointed an Arab Leftist project of emancipation that synchronized the Arab world with the global Long Sixties, and the way this historical print form has enabled particular understandings of 'revolution' while sidelining others. Entry point will be the periodical landscape of Beirut – a "nodal city in the Global Sixties" (Zeina Maasri) – which was, in the context of the Cold War, a battleground of competing positions on this most contested term of the era.

A first major aim of this project is to link the Arab cultural magazine of the Long Sixties back to its own history since the emergence of the genre in the 19th century. It will scrutinize to what extent these magazines' call for revolution can be considered as a continuity that is less inherent to the debates than to the structure of the genre: the production and experience of modern time and historical progress, which was crucial for the (post)colonial cultural project of the Arab Nahda, yet which lost momentum in the Arab world at the end of the 1970s. This transtemporal perspective is complemented by a translocal, synchronous perspective, that brings the Arab magazines under consideration in conversation with a small sample of non-Arab magazines from other countries of the postcolonial Global South published in the same period, and with which Arab magazines were connected through their transregional intellectual networks. Cultural magazines have served as the central media of literary community-building, intellectual self-fashioning and transnational solidarity in the era of decolonization. This is why a study on how the Arab cultural magazine of the Long Sixties should not attempt to exceptionalize the Arab case, but contextualize it as part of the postcolonial condition of Southern societies and a shared experience of modernity, which is often described in temporal terms such as "delay", "disruption", "asynchronicity", and so forth.

The cultural magazine is conceived here of both as a form structured by time and as a time-structuring form. The project asks how the periodical allows for particular, divergent reading experiences of past, present and future, through which this "world form" (Eric Bulson) created competing communities of historical contemporariness. It ultimately aims for a historicization and a theorization of the cultural magazine in the Arab world and its exiles in light of doing literature, or theory, today.