In this talk, Hussam R. Ahmed will speak about his new book, The Last Nahdawi: Taha Hussein and Institution Building in Egypt, released in June 201 by Stanford University Press.
The book explores the efforts of Taha Hussein (1889-1973), one of the most influential thinkers and statesmen of the modern Arab world, in formulating and implementing Egypt’s cultural and educational policies within a challenging colonial context. Neither existing historiography nor literary projects grounded in postcolonial studies do justice to the institutional and political context in which Hussein was writing and making decisions. Drawing on state and university archival records and Hussein’s private papers, The Last Nahdawi shifts the focus from Hussein the Dean of Arabic Literature to the lesser-known politician and civil servant and offers the first biography in which his intellectual outlook and public career are taken equally seriously. Examining Hussein's actions against the backdrop of his complex relationship with the Egyptian state, the religious establishment, and the French government, the book situates modern Egypt's cultural influence in the Arab and Islamic world within the various structural changes and political processes of the parliamentary period (1922-1952). It offers both a history of modern state formation, revealing how the Egyptian state came to hold such a strong grip over culture and education—and a compelling examination of the life of the country's most renowned intellectual.
Hussam R. Ahmed is a historian of the modern Middle East. He completed his Ph.D. at McGill University in 2018 focusing on the social and cultural history of modern Egypt. He then took up postdoctoral fellowships at KU Leuven and the University of Cambridge before joining the Department of History at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth as Assistant Professor.
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