“Bread or Freedom”: The Congress for Cultural Freedom, the CIA, and the Arabic Literary Journal Ḥiwār (1962-67)

In: Journal of Arabic Literature
Elizabeth M. Holt Bard College

Search for other papers by Elizabeth M. Holt in
Current site
Google Scholar
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



In 1950, the United States Central Intelligence Agency created the Congress for Cultural Freedom, with its main offices in Paris. The CCF was designed as a cultural front in the Cold War in response to the Soviet Cominform, and founded and funded a worldwide network of literary journals (as well as conferences, concerts, art exhibits and other cultural events). From 1962 until its scandalous collapse over the course of 1966 and the early months of 1967, Tawfīq Ṣāyigh edited the CCF’s Arabic outpost Ḥiwār from Beirut, joining a growing web of CCF journals, including London’s Encounter, Kampala’s Transition, Bombay’s Quest, and the Latin American, Paris-based Mundo Nuevo. Ḥiwār, a journal funded by the Congress for Cultural Freedom, and thus covertly by the CIA, sought to co-opt the Arab avant-garde, offering authors both material compensation for their writing, as well as the much lauded cultural freedom. By 1966, Ḥiwār’s promise to writers of both bread and freedom collapsed in the pages of the Arabic press under the weight of paradox and a worldwide scandal on the eve of the 1967 Arab defeat.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 965 220 25
Full Text Views 162 26 0
PDF Views & Downloads 275 111 11