Dār al-Ṭalīʿah and the Question of Arab Authenticity in the 1960s

In: Journal of Arabic Literature
Author: Ahmad Agbaria1
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  • 1 Post-Doctoral Fellow 2019-2021, The Zvi Yavetz School of Historical Studies, Tel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
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Cultural institutions and publishing houses have been essential to the making of Arab intellectual conversations in the post-colonial era. The publishing house of Dār al-Ṭalīʿah (est. 1959) played a central role in naturalizing social classifications, ideological views and cultural expectations that have influenced the then-new articulation of the notion of Arab authenticity. Yet, al-Ṭalīʿah was more than a publishing house: it was an intellectual hub that sustained intellectuals and unified them into a coherent group. Despite its centrality, however, the group of authors published by al-Ṭalīʿah has rarely drawn the attention of literary critics or intellectual historians. This article rethinks the connection between ideas and their institutional location, rejecting the conventional view that institutions are only secondary to, or even parasitic on, the supremacy of ideas. Looking at the idea of cultural authenticity (aṣālah) fiercely opposed by al-Ṭalīʿah authors, this article examines the ways the publishing house informed the meaning and deployment of aṣālah during the 1960s, even while rejecting it.

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