Arab Modernities is a critical interrogation of some of the ideologies of so-called modernity and modernization in the post-colonial Arab world, with a specific focus on three political ideologies: liberalism, nationalism, and Islamism. By providing a critical analysis of the work of major Arab intellectuals/activists (namely, Abdallah Laroui, Mohamed Abed al-Jabri, and Abdessalam Yassine), Arab Modernities brings together three political ideologies that have hitherto been considered competing and even incompatible in the Arab world. This much-needed intervention is also best understood as an inquiry into one of the central paradoxes of post-colonial Arab societies (and Middle Eastern societies more generally): the rise of Islamism and Islamist fundamentalism at a time when global neo-liberalism has declared the end of history. Arab Modernities is a sophisticated attempt to name contemporary Islamism and Arab nationalism and liberalism - to delineate the social, cultural, ecomic, and political conditions under which they first emerged, evolved, and ultimately failed, and thereby to shed light on Arab-Islamic societies at the current historical conjuncture. Arab Modernities argues against facile analyses that attribute the rise and subsequent decline of liberalism and nationalism, as well as the current rise of Islamism, to purely cultural, religious, or ideological factors and provides a rigorous, complex materialist critique, where Arab ideologies of modernity are placed in the context of the particular historical formation within which they have developed and to which they have responded.
The Author: Jaafar Aksikas is Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia College Chicago. He is also the author of The Sirah of Antar: An Islamic Interpretation of Arab-Islamic History (2002) and the founding editor of Cultural Landscapes.