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Symposium -- Left-Wing Trends in the Arab World (1948-1979): Bringing the Transnational Back In (Beirut, 12-13 December 2016)

Left-Wing Trends in the Arab World (1948-1979):
Bringing The Transnational Back in

12-13 December
Orient-Institut Beirut

Gilbert Achcar, Abdulnabi Alekry, Haggag Ali, Abdulsalam Alrubaidi, Anne-Linda Amira Augustin, Orit Bashkin, Dalal al-Bizri, Michaelle Browers, Musa Budeiri, Jeffrey Byrne, Maher Charif, Elliott Colla, Yasmeen Daifallah, Nicolas Dot-Pouillard, Alexander Flores, Nate George, Gennaro Gervasio, Laure Guirguis, Dyala Hamzah, Jens Hanssen, Sune Haugbolle, Elizabeth Holt, Idriss Jebari, Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab, Kamel Mhanna, Marlene Nasr, Malika Rahal, Matthieu Rey, Giedre Sabaseviciute, Margaret Scarborough, Aline Schlaepfer, Abed Takriti, Fawwaz Traboulsi, Philipp Winkler.

At the Orient Institut. Hussein Beyhum Street. Zoqaq al-Blat. Beirut

For an online version of this program, visit the OIB website by clicking here.

12 December:    

09.00 am - 07.15 pm: Panels and Roundtables

07.30 pm: Screening of A Hundred Faces for a Single Day, by Christian Gazi (1972), accompanied by diner-aperitif

13 December:

10.00 am- 05.045 pm: Panels

6.00 pm: Keynote Speech by Gilbert Achcar
"The New Arab Left of the 1960-70s and th Global New Left: Commonalities and Differences"

Organized by Laure Guirguis, Post-Doctoral Reseacher, OUB
In collaboration with The Mansion: Nadi li-Kull Nas, Zoqaq al Blat, Beirut
With the support of the ERC-Programma WAFAW (When Authoritarianism Fails in the Arab World)

14 December:    

07.00 pm: Screening and Discussion

With the support of the ERC Program “When Authoritarianism Fails in the Arab World” (WAFAW)

Scholarship’s neglect of Arab revolutionary left-wing trends in the 1960-70s falls along with the near complete erasure of Arab radical traditions, especially in the context of the post-9/11 world. And Arab revolutionary movements have long been set apart of the emerging scholarship on the Tri-continent and the new Cold War history. Yet, whereas “movements and intellectual currents of the Arab ‘liberal age’ had their gaze fixed on Europe (…), a shift occurred in the revolutionary age of the 1960s, and the South-South connections began playing a much more important role.” (Takriti, 2013).

This workshop unfolds in continuity with the personal research of the organizer, as well as with previous projects carried out at the Orient-Institut in Beirut, which has notably hosted a workshop on the Arab Lefts in 2012. Whereas this first event was focusing on Left-wing debates and intellectuals, the proposed workshop aims at shedding light on the transnational dynamics in which Arab left-wing trends have been embedded, especially but not exclusively during the 1960-70s, the glorious period of Left-wing revolutionary movements throughout the world, in one word: the Tri-Continent moment.

Indeed, at one time, not too long ago, Communist and radical left-wing trends were prevalent in the area. As soon as the end of the nineteenth century, socialist and anarchist ideas start being disseminated and reworked among intellectuals as well as workers from Beirut to Alexandria. During the interwar period, the development of left-wing ideas and trends take shape through workers organizations and mobilizations, and by linking class-based struggles to the struggle for national liberation —thereby putting into question the official stance of the USSR towards communist parties in the periphery. After the Second World War, in a way, the huge workers strikes and the political turbulence in the Arab World unfold in the continuity with the liberation struggles that had started before the war. However, the Yalta Conference marks the dawn of a new balance of power on a global scale, whereas, between the two Titans in a bipolarized world, a new protagonist steps onto the stage, the Third-World. Not only do we observe massive conversions to left-wing organizations in the 1960s, but the left-wing syntax has infused in the nationalist, anti-imperialist, and Arabist rhetoric, as clearly reflected in the Nasserian Charter (1962). However, Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser’s emergence onto the world stage is soon eclipsed by a radical new generation, which draws on the revolutionary models of Chinese, Cuban, Algerian, and Vietnamese fighters.

This radical left that emerged after 1967 mainly took a critical stance towards the USSR, the Arab communist parties, and the Arab regimes which have proved unable or unwilling to take the bull by the horns. But how did left-wing syntax and revolutionary imaginaires become a driving force throughout the world? And how have they opened the path to revolutionary romance and revolutionary violence? Violence, however, does not constitute the main criteria defining radicalism. By radical, we point to the desire to initiate social and political change involving the transformation of cultural practices and ethical principles, of man itself.

Strangely enough, the sparse scholarship devoted to the 60-70s is restricted within a national framework. But the national scale of analysis does not allow one to take into account the revolutionary passions involved, which were shaped by a transnational interpretative framework inspired by Marxism and embedded within the wider context of the struggles for decolonization and the Cold War. Hence, the study of left-wing radicalism at that time requires a transnational approach, which allows us to decipher the dialectical processes of social, discursive, and symbolical practices whose interconnections are constitutive of structuring continuities. Thus, this workshop will present communications that shed light on circulations and transnational networks, at the regional and global scales, as well as on ideas, emotions, practices, and models diffusion and transformation, although it does not exclude the national framework, which remains a relevant scale of analysis.


9.00: Welcoming Address and Introduction

  • Stefan Leder, Director of the Orient-Institut Beirut
  • Laure Guirguis, Postdoctoral Researcher, OIB, and Organizer of the workshop

09.30-12.45: (Arab) Nationalism and the Left: Convergences, Tensions, Aporia

Discussant: Marlene NASR, Researcher, Doha Institute, and Musa BUDEIRI, retired Professor, Bir Zeit University

09.30: Dyala HAMZAH, Assistant Professor, University of Montreal
Editing  “Marxism” in and out of Pan-Arab Histories and Lives. Tarikh al-umma al-‘arabiyya and Darwish al-Miqdadi (1897-1961)

09.50: Matthieu REY, IREMAM, CNRS
Baathism: An Original Experiment with Leftist Ideas (1943-1970)

10.10: Sune HAUGBOLLE, Associate Professor, Roskilde University
Reconstructing Discord through Everyday Ideology: Khaled Bakdash and the Palestine Question

10.30-11.00: Coffee Break

11.00: Jeffrey BYRNE, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia
Of Cosmopolitanism and Color: Reconciling Arabism, Pan-Africanism, Maghribism, and Socialist Internationalism in Algeria’s Postcolonial Revolution

11.20: Gennaro GERVASIO, Senior Lecturer, Roma 3 University
Between Pan-Arabism and Communism: the Radical Left in Egypt in the 1970s

11.40-12.30 Discussion

12.30 - 02.00: LUNCH

: Genealogies of an Arab Tradition of Radical Thought   

Discussant: Dyala HAMZAH, Assistant Professor, University of Montreal

02.00: Giedre SABASEVICIUTE, Postdoctoral Fellow, Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague
The Journal Al-Adab and Transnational Intellectual Network between Cairo, Baghdad and Beirut

02.20: Jens HANSSEN, Associate Professor, Toronto University
The Arab Radical Tradition in Comparative Perspective

02.40 Michaelle BROWERS, Professor, Wake Forest University
Counter-Hegemonic Interventions in a Time of Authoritarian Modernism: Egypt’s Movement of Peace Supporters

03.00 - 03.45 Discussion

03.45 – 04.15: Coffee Break

Years of Revolutionary Joy سنوات السعادة الثورية (Dar al-Tanwir, 2015)

Discussion with Dalal al-BIZRI, Writer and Columnist for Al-Modon

05.00-06.00Paradoxes and Legacies of the Southern Yemeni Left

Discussion around South Yemen under the Rule of the Left: A Personal Testimony (Riad El Rayyes Books, Beirut, 2015), by Fawwaz TRABOULSI

جنوب اليمن في حكم اليسار. شهادة شخصية                                  

  • Anne-Linda Amira AUGUSTIN, PhD Candidate, Centre for Near and Middle East Studies, Philipps-University Marburg
  • Abdulsalam ALRUBAIDI, PhD Candidate, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
  • Fawwaz TRABOULSI, Visiting Professor, AUB

06.15-07.15The Dhofari Revolution: Model and Exception? 

  • Abdel Razzaq TAKRITI, Associate Professor, Houston University
  • Dr Kamel MHANNA, President of Amel Association
  • Fawwaz TRABOULSI, Visiting Professor, AUB
  • Abdulnabi ALEKRY, CEO at The National Center for Studies, Bahrain


07.30-10.00: Screening and Diner-Aperitif

A Hundred Faces for a Single Day (1972), 60’, by Christian Ghazi



10.00-11.50: Left-Wing Trends in the 1960-70s: Intellectual Linkages and Disjunctions between the Three Worlds

Discussant: Yasmeen DAIFALLAH, Assistant Professor, UMass-Amherst

10.00: Margaret SCARBOROUGH, PhD Candidate, Columbia University
Abdel Khaliq Mahgoub: The Question of Sudanese Spontaneity between European, Arab and African Marxist Milieu

10.20: Haggag ALI, Assistant Professor, Academy of Arts, Cairo
An Egyptian Leftist Reading of the Frankfurt School in the 1970s

10.40: Idriss JEBARI, ACSS Postdoctoral Fellow at CAMES, AUB
Perspectives,’ the Tunisian Student Movement (1963-1974) and the European New Left 

11.00: Alexander FLORES, Professor Emeritus, Hochschule, Bremen
Coping with Decline: Trajectories of the Arab Left and their Perception by European Leftists

11.20- 11.50 Discussion

12.00-12.50: Digital Histories of the Underground: Teaching the Palestinian Revolution

Abdel Razzaq TAKRITI, Associate Professor, University of Houston           

12.50-02.00: LUNCH

02.00-05.30: (Counter-)Revolutionary Circulations in the Interplay of Transnational Networks and Local Challenges

Discussants: Laure GUIRGUIS, OIB Postdoctoral Fellow, and Aline SCHLAEPFER, Swiss National Science Foundation Fellow, University of Geneva & AUB

02.00: Orit BASHKIN Professor, Chicago University
Iraqi Jewish Communists in Iraq and in Palestine - Trans-regional Communism and the Question of Palestine

02.20: Philipp WINKLER, PhD Candidate, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen Nuremberg 
The "Che Guevara of the Middle East". Khalid Ahmad Zaki and the Revolutionary Struggle in Iraq’s Southern Marshlands

02.40: Maher CHARIF, Researcher, The Institute for Palestinian Studies
الشيوعيون الفلسطينيون وإشكالية العلاقة بين "الخاص" و "العام" في النضال الفلسطيني
Palestinian Communists: The Problem of the Relationship between the ‘Particular’ and the ‘General’ in the Palestinian Struggle

03.00: Nicolas DOT-POUILLARD, Researcher, ERC-programme WAFAW
The Fatah’s Student Brigade (Katiba tullabiya): between Maoism, “Asian models” and Islamism (1972-1979)

03.20-03.50: Coffee Break

03.50: Malika RAHAL, Researcher, Institut du Temps présent, CNRS
The Algerian PAGS Inside Out: Circulating Between Clandestinity and Legality from Dakhil to Kharij 

04.10: Elliott COLLA, Associate Professor, Georgetown University
Elegy for a Movement: Amal Dunqul’s “Ughniyyat ka‘aka hajariyya”

04.30 Nate GEORGE, PhD Candidate, Rice University
“The Day of Judgment Has Fallen Upon this Generation”: The Front for Freedom and Man in Lebanon and Global Counterrevolution

04.50 Elizabeth HOLT, Assistant Professor, Bard College
Covert Cold War in the Arabic Press: Archives of 1950s and 1960s Beirut and Cairo

05.10-05.50 Discussion


06.00-07.00: Keynote Speech: Gilbert ACHCAR, Professor, SOAS, University of London 

اليسار العربي الجديد في الستينيات والسبعينيات: بماذا يشترك مع اليسار الجديد العالمي وبماذا يختلف عنه؟

The New Arab Left of the 1960-70s and the Global New Left: Commonalities and Differences


Discussant: Elizabeth Suzanne KASSAB, Associate Professor, Doha Institute


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