2016 Keynote Speeches

Dr. Zeina G. Halabi, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The End of Prophecy: The Figure of the Intellectual in Contemporary Arabic Literature

Halabi probes the legacy of the intellectual-prophet in contemporary Arabic literature. She identifies the 1990s as a critical historical juncture, in which writers displaced the archetype of the prophetic intellectual that had governed literature since the 19th century Arab enlightenment era. In fictionalizing and subsequently burning an effigy of the modern, secular, nationalist, and exilic intellectual, contemporary Arab writers have elicited a counter-discourse of criticism that questioned intellectuals as knowledge producers and disseminators. She shows how, as they crossed generational, linguistic, and generic thresholds, novelists and poets relocated the political from an explicit logocentric nationalist and secular discourse to a latent affective discourse on loss that predicates the political on the personal. Halabi ultimately makes the hitherto opaque conjuncture of the 1990s legible by highlighting the political critique inherent in a presumed post-political aesthetic moment.

Dr. Kristen Brustad, University of Texas at Austin

The Culture of Language

Although most of us would agree that language and culture are intimately related, and perhaps inseparable, we often think of culture as something to be taught alongside language. In this talk, I am concerned with a different aspect of culture: the set of (mostly subconscious) assumptions that speakers of a language carry with them about how language should be used. Building on theories of language ideology and performance, I propose that each language has a culture, and offer a preliminary description of some of the key aspects of the culture of Arabic.