Muta’ Safadi and The Generation of Fate : a study of an Arab existentialist

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Harb, Reem Hussein

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Mutaʿ Safadi, a Syrian thinker and writer born in French-mandated Syria in 1929, belongs to a forgotten generation of Arab intellectuals who were active during the pivotal historical period that spanned the two decades following World War II. Despite its importance, Safadi’s generation has not occupied as central a position in contemporary Arab thought as those of its predecessors and successors. This lapse of attention has been linked to a greater lack in the literature on the intellectual history of the Arab World’s decolonization in Western academia. However, recent scholarship on the intellectual production of this post-war generation has exposed it as a dynamic community of brilliant and remarkably young thinkers and writers who created a space for participating in the process of decolonization through attempts at creating a new post-colonial Arab thought. This thesis will build on this emerging scholarship by studying the works of one of the major thinkers of this generation, Mutaʿ Safadi, and in so doing will shed further light on the intellectual preoccupations and trends that defined the milieu of the post-war intelligentsia and informed the entire period of Arab decolonization. The study will examine two of Safadi’s theoretical and literary works, al-Thawrī wa-al-ʿArabī al-Thawrī and Jīl al-Qadar, which were written during the nationalist revolutionary fervor of the late 1950s and early 1960s. It will depict how through his concomitant philosophical and literary pursuits, Safadi sought to formulate an Arab nationalist philosophy within an existentialist framework to harness the period’s pervasive revolutionary zeal. It will also argue that Safadi’s project, which followed in the footsteps of the guru of existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre, whose calls for committed and engaged intellectuals received enthusiastic response within the Arab intelligentsia circles, articulates a new Arab self with a distinct modern subjectivity and thus must be situated in the Arab chapter of decolonization.


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