The Contested Space of the Arab Spring (Panel)

Comparative Literature / French and Francophone

Joan Listernick (Boston University)

This session seeks papers that explore how the Arab Spring has been reflected in literary texts. As the Arab Spring unfolded, it opened a complex and problematic staging of opposition to the status quo. This panel asks: how was the Arab Spring understood by writers living within the area where it occurred and by writers viewing it from the exterior? Has the Arab Spring found its novelist(s)?

Youssef Rakha, the Egyptian author of The Book of the Sultan's Seal (2015), has argued that the Arab Spring has been commercialized and has led to an "Arab Spring Industry, " focusing on the " lucrative practice of political analysis." Our panel asks: to what extent has the vast literary output been a positive effect of the Arab Spring? How has the literary encoding of the Arab Spring transformed the Arab imaginary?

Some of the questions we hope to explore in this panel include, but are not limited to:

Arab Spring as gender emancipatory or gender problematic Arab Spring as reconceptualizing public space Public space as central to Arab Spring: Cairo's Rabaa Square and Tahrir Square, Baghdad's Firdos Square, Tunisia's Bourguiba Avenue and Syria's Clock Tower Square as depicted in literature Arab Spring in the context of past Arab revolutions against social discrimination: Zinj ( Revolt of the Blacks) and Qarmatian How individualism emerged from the Arab Spring in contrast to the prior emphasis on the "umma" The Arab Spring as depicted in cartoons The symbolism of the martyr's mother in literature The documentary nature of certain literary texts The role of digital space in the Arab Spring
Protesting against corruption and dictatorship in favor of democracy, men and women poured onto the streets during the brief, but historically critical period of the Arab Spring. This potential watershed has produced a literary tide reflecting on its significance, a tide itself waiting to be explored. This panel will examine how contemporary literature has viewed the emancipatory possibility of the Arab Spring-- as a moment of historic exceptionalism or a slumbering ember.