Essays and Features

Fadwa Tuqan: A Romantic Feminist Poet and Reluctant Political Witness

Emaleah Shackleton

Fadwa Hafez Tuqan is perhaps the most famous and well-loved woman poet in Palestine. Fadwa would have loved to have kept writing poetry about personal and social subjects, but the political earthquakes of 1948 and 1967 turned her away from this course toward politics. Mahmoud Darwish, Palestine’s most eminent poet, considers the “1967 earthquake” to have made her stray away from her poetic bounds. 

Egyptian Belly Dance Losing Touch with Roots as Cultural Phenomenon

By 
Naomi Pham

Belly dance in Egypt has undergone major cultural and social transformations since the mid-20th century. Dancers often perform at live gatherings and across social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. However, belly dancing as an art form has become redefined in today’s age. It has increasingly been the target of criticism, the latest being a claim by Abdel Halim in Al Araby that the dance has deteriorated further under neoliberalism.

Rethinking Who is an Arab American: Arab American Studies in the New Millennium

Gary C. David

Arab Americans and studies focusing on them have received increasing attention and interest over the past three years, a predictable outcome of the September 11th attacks and the “War on Terror.” As a result, the field of Arab American studies has shifted from the periphery of social science research and is now a more central interest. This increased interest also provides a timely opportunity to critically examine the state of research on Arab Americans, as well as the work that has formed the foundation of this field. Undoubtedly, important contributions of substantial worth form the foundation of contemporary Arab American studies. However, as in any field of scholarly endeavor, we need to critically reexamine this work and determine how it pertains to the Arab American experience today. 

Beauty Before Age Remains Dominant Casting Trend in Arab Film

By 
Naomi Pham

The presence of women on the Arab silver screen has historically suffered under patriarchy. Though the “male gaze” is not exclusive to Arab cinema and television, the marginalization of women on the screen has increasingly affected Arab discourse. Hiyam Bannout’s article “Masculinity Dominates Arab Drama and Marginalizes Women” in Independent Arabia explores the lack of veteran and older actresses occupying major roles in film. Arab actresses are “dramatically marginalized” once they turn 40, brushed aside in favor of young actresses at the expense of limited talent and experience, according to Bannout.

A Multifaceted Diaspora: New History Explores the Many Reasons for 20th Century Exodus of Egyptian Jewry

By 
Al Jadid Staff
 
Once home to as many as 75,000 Jews, today’s Egypt has a sparse population, with only nine Jewish Egyptians living in the country in 2021, according to the Jewish Virtual Library. Dr. Muhammad Abu al-Ghar’s new book, “The Jews of Egypt in the Twentieth Century: How They Lived and Why They Left” (Dar al-Shorouk, 2021, 476 pp) addresses the departure of Jews from the country from the early to mid-19th century to the present.

'Living on the Edge': Shukri Ayyad, Pioneer of Modern Literary Renaissance

Elie Chalala
Come this Summer, it would have been a year since the death of Egyptian writer, literary critic, and academic Shukri Ayyad at the age of 78, whose loss marked the end of a cultural era, that of the second-generation pioneers of the modern literary renaissance. 
 
Ayyad had great influence on Arabic culture, establishing a new construction in the world of Arab literature. “Ayyad combined an open-minded awareness of the literary and artistic achievements of the West with a profound and enlightened understanding of the Arabic literary heritage as well as the depths and breadths of Islamic thought,” commented Youssef Rakha in the English-language Al Ahram weekly. He was pre-eminently knowledgeable about the deep dialogue between the Arab and other cultures, Rakha noted. Ayyad was also more informed than anyone of his generation in modern literary criticism; this was the subject of his doctoral thesis, which he ended with a creative dialogue with the most recent of critical approaches, structuralism.

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