SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Hala Halim (NYU) - Lotus Journal: Translating along the Afro-Asian Hyphen


Date: 17 January 2018Time: 3:15 PM

Finishes: 17 January 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 4429

Type of Event: Talk

“The Empire Writes Back”--such was the catchphrase of a postcolonial theory launched within the Anglo-American academy in the 1980s and ’90s. Yet, the empire in question--that is, the nascent post-independence nation-states of the Third World--had earlier advanced a rather different cultural project: to talk to each other. One signal forum for this Third-Worldist project was the Afro-Asian Writers’ Association, launched in Tashkent in 1958. In Cairo, to which its permanent bureau was to relocated in the 1960s after a spell in Colombo, the association would publish a trilingual--Arabic, English and French--quarterly journal which came to be named Lotus: Afro-Asian Writings. Talking to each other threw into sharp relief not only the linguistic dilemmas of the postcolonial writer but the question of translation between African and Asian literatures. Focusing on Lotus and its publications, this presentation asks, among other questions: what were the terms of the debates on language politics? What conjunctions between editing and translating might we discern in the endeavour to anthologize Afro-Asian literature, and how do they come to inflect our understanding of the notion of the “canon”?


Hala Halim is an associate professor of Comparative Literature and Middle Eastern Studies at New York University. She is the author of Alexandrian Cosmopolitanism: An Archive (Fordham University Press, 2013), which received an Honorable Mention from the American Comparative Literature Association for the Harry Levin Prize for Best First Book in Comparative Literature. Her translation of a novel by Mohamed El-Bisatie, Clamor of the Lake, won an Egyptian State Incentive Award. Her presentation draws on her previous publications on Lotus: Afro-Asian Writings. These are the 2012 article Lotus, the Afro-Asian Nexus, and Global South Comparatism” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and the 2017 essay “Afro-Asian Third-Worldism into Global South: The Case of Lotus Journal” in the digital scholarship project Global South Studies.

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