SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

What is world theory? Abdallah Laroui and the Language of Ideas


Date: 22 May 2019Time: 3:00 PM

Finishes: 22 May 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Faber Building, 23/24 Russell Square Room: FG01

Type of Event: Seminar

Speaker: Prof Hosam Aboul Ela (Houston)

Abstract: An analysis of the reception/circulation of Moroccan Abdallah Laroui’s work suggests the way a resilient nationalism shapes canons of theory, even in the era of post-national criticism. At a key moment in his career, Laroui published a series of texts in Arabic that treated conceptual questions via readings of global cultural theorists. Of the many stages in his long and prolific career as a polyglot thinker writing mostly in French, this era of analyzing conceptual discourse in thoroughly researched, Arabic-language texts is little known outside the Arab world. The absence of discussion of these works in the North Atlantic academy reinforces the picture of a monopoly over canons of theory by writing in English and European languages. This talk will discuss two of Laroui’s works from this period—“The Concept of Freedom” and “The Concept of the State”—in order to consider Laroui as a global producer of ideas and to shed light on the challenges of producing ideas beyond Europe.

Bio: Hosam Aboul-Ela's work examines the point of connection between the literary and the social through the historicization of critical theory. He is the author of Other South: Faulkner, Coloniality, and the Mariátegui Tradition (U of Pittsburgh P, 2007) as well as Domestications: American Empire, Literary Culture, and the Postcolonial Lens (Northwestern, 2018). He has also translated Voices by Soleiman Fayyad (Marion Boyars, 1993), Distant Trainby Ibrahim Abdel Meguid (Syracuse UP, 2007), and Stealth (New Directions, 2014) by Sonallah Ibrahim. He is also co-editor with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak of "Theory in the World", a new publication series translating critical theory from outside Europe and North America.