Islamism and Arab Cultural Expression

islamism_logoArab Islamism has been something of an obsession in the West since 9/11. This project arose out of a perceived need to engage representations of Islamism by cultural and creative workers embedded in, or closely affiliated to, the Arab world who do not primarily target a Western audience. A key objective is to pluralise Islamism in the face of generalising and/or totalising representations.

An initial archiving and preliminary analysis project, entitled Islamism in Arab Fiction and Film, 1947 to the Present, was funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) UK under the auspices of the Religion & Society programme, and ran from Feb. 2010 to Feb. 2011. It mapped ways in which ‘Islamism’ is defined and imaginatively reflected and contested in fiction, memoirs and film in Arabic, French, and English, produced by artists closely affiliated to the Arab world. The project team produced an open-access electronic catalogue of over a hundred texts that reflect Islamism in terms of theme, context, organising consciousness, aspect of characterisation and/or plotting. We ran two public film screenings at Dukes Cinema, Lancaster, and an international symposium at the Storey Creative Industries Centre entitled ‘Imagining Islamism: 1947 to the Present’, featuring keynote addresses by Professors Rasheed El Enany and Sabry Hafez.

The forthcoming major edited collection, entitled Islamism and Arab Cultural Expression (Routledge, 2014), analyses Islamism in a range of creative and other cultural forms (fiction; feature films; television series; television reportage; the press; fine arts; rap; new media) produced in Arab contexts in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Edited by Abir Hamdar (Durham) and Lindsey Moore (Lancaster), it has chapters by Lila Abu-Lughod (Columbia), Walter Armbrust (Oxford), Loubna Bijidguen (Goldsmiths), Nabil Echchaibi (Colarado), Joel Gordon (Arkansas), Sabry Hafez (SOAS/Qatar), Souad Halila (Tunis), Hamdar (Durham), Zahera Harb (City), Mohammed Ibahrine (AU Sharjah), Omar Kholeif (journalist and curator), Moore (Lancaster), Ammar Naji (Wisconsin) and Caroline Rooney (Kent). It brings together ways of imagining, propagating, seeking to understand and/or condemning Islamism in the Arab cultural field. The book explores trends and tensions in the representation of Islamism to Arab audiences, considering themes, motifs, structures of feeling and modes of engagement; the wider context of a struggle for symbolic power in the region; and Islamism’s intersections and conflicts with nationalism, the left, anti-imperialism and feminism. It promotes a more nuanced understanding of Islamism and wider knowledge, amongst English readers, of Arab cultural and creative contexts.

The webpages of the 2010-11 project are available at: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fass/projects/islamism/index.htm