Tents in the Desert – Participants

Ali Abdullatif Ahmida
Saʻid al-Ghanimi
Ibrahim al-Koni
Miral Al-Tahawy
Roger Allen
Miriam cooke
Luc-Willy Deheuvels
Amira El-Zein
Sharif Elmusa
Hartmut Fähndrich
William Maynard Hutchins

Ali Abdullatif Ahmida

Ali Abdullatif Ahmida is the founder and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of New England, Biddeford, Maine, USA. His expertise is in Political Theory, Comparative Politics, and Historical Sociology. His scholarship focuses on power, agency and anti-colonial resistance in North Africa, especially modern Libya. He is the author of The Making of Modern Libya: State Formation, Colonialization and Resistance (State of New York University Press, 1994) and Forgotten Voices: Power and Agency in Colonial and Postcolonial Libya (Routledge Press, 2005). He the editor of Beyond Colonialism and Nationalism in the Maghrib: History, Culture and Politics ( Palgrave Press, 2000) and Bridges Across The Sahara (London: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009). Professor Ahmida has lectured in a variety of U.S., Canadian, European, Middle Eastern, and African universities and colleges. He has received the Social Science Research Council national grant award, the Shahade award, and the Keannely Cup Award for distinguished academic service of the year at the University of New England.

Professor Ahmida obtained his B.A. from Cairo University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Washington University.

Saʻid al-Ghanimi

Saʻid al-Ghanimi is an Iraq-born writer and translator of more than 50 works, currently living in Australia. His original writings in Arabic include: Al-Maʻna wa-l-Kalimat, Aqni’at al-Nass, al-Katr wa-l-Ta’wil, Mantiq al-Kahsf al-Shiʻri, Mi’at ʻAmm min al-Fikr al-Naqdi, Malhamat al-Hudud al-Qiswa, Khizanat al-Hikayat, al-ʻAsabiyya wa-l-Hikma, Yanabiʻ al-Lugha l-Ula, Kunuz Wabar, and Harathat al-Mafahim. His translations into Arabic include: Blindness and Insight by Paul de Man, Interpretation Theory by Paul Ricoeur, The Great Code: the Bible and Literature by Northrop Frye, Muhammad and the Golden Bough by Jaroslav Stetkevych, and many more.

Ibrahim al-Koni (b. 1948)

Nearly a century ago, Max Weber described modernity as “the disenchantment of the world.” Apparently the message was never delivered to the Libyan writer, Ibrahim al-Koni. Born in 1948 into the Kel Ajjer (Twareg) of southern Libya, al-Koni did not learn Arabic until the age of twelve. A few years later, al-Koni was sent to the Soviet Union to study at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute. After working as a journalist in Moscow and Warsaw for many years, al-Koni finally turned to writing fiction. Though his first language is Tamahaq, al-Koni writes mainly in Arabic and since the 1970s, has published dozens of novels, short story collections, as well as books of aphorisms, critical studies and cultural histories. For his accomplishments, he is regarded as one of the most enigmatic and inventive writers of the contemporary Arab world.

Al-Koni is sui generis, most at home treating stark themes from Twareg life in the desert—a nomadic environment marked by intense scarcity, reliance on one’s self and one’s mount, and the persistence of human slavery. Because these are also the themes of the oldest, pre-Islamic works of Arabic literature, the Mu‘allaqat (or “hanging poems”), al-Koni has been praised for his classicism. Al-Koni’s language is similarly classical. His mannered, lyrical style can only be accomplished by someone, like al-Koni, who chooses to write in something other than his mother tongue. At the same time, al-Koni is a promiscuous reader, and his is an eclectic library of citations. Throughout his works, one encounters reworkings of Twareg folklore, Moby Dick and Gilgamesh alongside references to Russian realism, medieval Sufism or the postmodern Latin American novel.

Miral Al-Tahawy

Miral Al-Tahawy is a writer, novelist and academic professor. She earned her Ph.D. with honors from Cairo University in Egypt in Arabic Literature. Dr. Al-Tahawy’s thesis was written on Aesthetics and the Artistic Formation of the Desert Novel: the Sacred and its Forms in Pastoral Imagination (2006).

Dr. Al-Tahawy contributes to conferences and cultural events on women’s issues, literature and creative writing and she has participated in a number of debates and discussion programs on national and Pan-Arab Radio and TV stations mainly on gender and women’s issues.

A columnist and journalist who has written mainly about women’s and literary issues in Egyptian and Arab periodicals Dr. Al-Tahawy is also a published author of several novels published in multiple languages.

Roger Allen

Roger Allen is currently (2011) the Sascha Jane Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics in the School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature in the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations. In 2009-10 he served as President of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA).

Among his published works are: A Period of Time (1st [microfiche] edition, 1974; 2nd edition 1992); The Arabic Novel: an historical and critical introduction (1st edition 1982, Arabic edition, 1986; 2nd edition 1995, 2nd Arabic edition 1998); and The Arabic Literary Heritage, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998 (abbreviated paperback edition [2000] Introduction to Arabic Literature; in Arabic, Muqaddima li-al-adab al-`Arabi, Cairo: Al-Majlis al-A`la, 2003).

In addition to a large number of studies in book, encyclopedia and article from on modern and pre-modern Arabic literature, he has translated fictional works by a number of Arab writers, including Naguib Mahfouz, Yusuf Idris, `Abd al-Rahman Munif, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Hanan al-Shaykh, Salim Himmich and Ahmad al-Tawfiq.

Dr. Allen will read from Ibrahim al-Koni’s works on Thursday April 28 at 5pm, and will chair the panel “Signs and Wonders” on Friday at 10:45 am.

Luc-Willy Deheuvels

Luc Deheuvels (º1957) is a university professor of Arabic language and literature. Since 2009, he has been the vice-president of the Paris-based Institut National des Langues et Civilations Orientales (INALCO). He taught at the university of Paris-4 Sorbonne from 1983 until 1994. Since then, he has served at INALCO as the Director of the Department of Arab Studies from 2003 until 2007, from 2007 onward as the Chairman of the Academic Committee. Since 2002, he has lead the Arabic research group of the Arab World, which in 2006 was integrated into CERMOM (the Center for Mediterranean and Middle-East Studies), led by Dr. Deheuvels until 2009. He has served as the chairman of the jury for the Arabic CAPES (1999-2003) and for the Arabic agrégation (2005-2009). Dr. Deheuvels is a member of the Comité Interuniversitaire Des Etudes Arabes, and of the scientific council of the French Institute of the Near-East.

Recent publications include:

  • Manuel d’arabe moderne, new revised edition with CD, Paris, l’Asiathèque, vol.1, 2008, 310 pp.
  • Grammatica araba, Manuale di arabo moderno con esercizi e cd audio per l’ascolto, Volume 1, Edizione italiana a cura di Antonella Ghersetti, Coll. Lingua in pratica, Bologne, Zanichelli, 2010, 352 pp.
  • Manuel d’arabe moderne, new revised edition with CD, Paris, l’Asiathèque, vol.2, 2008, 320 pp.
  • Luc Deheuvels, Barbara Michalal-Pichulska and Paul Starkey (eds.), Intertextuality in Modern Arabic Literature since 1967, Durham University, 2006, 227 pp.
  • La Quarantième pièce, bilingual translation of the novel al-Ghuraf al-Ukhrâ by Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, with annotations and commentary, Langues et Mondes, l’Asiathèque, Paris, 1997, 397 pp.

Amira El-Zein

Amira El-Zein is Visiting Associate Professor with Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar. She is a published poet, literary critic, and translator. She has written extensively in Arabic, French, and English on an ample range of topics including but not limited to Sufism in medieval and contemporary Islam, Francophone literature, the Arabian Nights, and contemporary Arabic poetry and fiction. Her publications include The Jinn and Other Poems (a book of poetry in English with Arrowsmith Press, 2006); Culture, Creativity and Exile, co-edited with Munir Akash (Jusoor, Kitâb Publications, 1996); and Bedouin of Hell (a book of poetry in Arabic, with Kitâb Publications, 1992). Her latest book, Islam, The Arabs, and the Intelligent World of the Jinn was published by Syracuse University Press in 2009.

Sharif Elmusa

Sharif Elmusa is currently visiting at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar from the American University in Cairo, Egypt, where he is an associate professor in the Political Science Department. He teaches courses on sustainable development; global environmental politics; technology and culture and industrialization; and the everyday politics of Palestine. Dr. Elmusa received his undergraduate degree from Cairo University, Egypt, and his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research and writing covers environmental politics, including hydropolitics, resources conflict/ cooperation, culture and the natural environment, and the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab conflict. Among his writings, apart from articles in books and periodicals: A Harvest of Technology: The Super-Green Revolution in the Jordan Valley, and Water Conflict: Economics, Politics, Law and the Palestinian-Israeli Water Resources. Dr. Elmusa co-wrote the text of All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Depopulated and Occupied by Israel in 1948. He is editor of Culture and the Natural Environment: Ancient and Modern Middle Eastern Texts (Cairo Papers in Social Science series, AUC Press). Elmusa is a poet, co-editor of Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab-American Poetry, and author of Flawed Landscape: Poems 1987-2008. He has been an occasional contributor to Al-Ahram Weekly Online, Egypt’s English-language weekly. 

Hartmut Fähndrich

Hartmut Fähndrich (º1944 in Tubingen, Germany) is a translator of Arabic literature into German. He obtained his Master of Arts in Comparative Literature at UCLA in 1971, and his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies (with a major in classical Islamic Literature) at the same university in 1972. He has taught Arabic literature and history across Europe at the universities of Bern, Istanbul, Freiburg im Breisgau, Napels and Lyon II. In addition, he has lectured on Arabic language and civilization at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. In 1990, Dr. Fähndrich co-founded the Swiss Society of the Middle East and the Muslim World, which he directed until 1997.

Dr. Fähndrich has been the recipient of a number of awards and scholarships for literature and translation. These include literary awards from the city of Bern for his translation of Sonallah Ibrahim’s novel al-Lajna (1988), and for his translation of Ibrahim al-Koni’s novels al-Tibr (1996) and al-Majus (1998), as well as a literary award from the Arab League for the translation of contemporary Arabic literature into German (2004), an honoring by the Supreme Council for Culture at the Egyptian Ministry of Culture (2006), and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Abdallah Ibn Abdalaziz’ International Award of Translation (2009).

Since 1984, Dr. Fähndrich has served as the editor in charge of the Arabic Literature collection at the LENOS publishing house in Basel. He has translated more than 40 works from contemporary Arabic literature into German. In 2008, he served as a member of the jury of the International Booker Prize for Arabic Fiction.

William Maynard Hutchins

An American translator of contemporary Arabic literature, William Maynard Hutchins is a professor in the Philosophy and Religion Department of Appalachian State University of North Carolina. He is best known for his translations of Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street, and Cairo Modern by Naguib Mahfouz. He has translated Anubis, The Seven Veils of Seth (for which he received a National Endowment for the Arts grant for Literary Translation), and The Puppet by Ibrahim al-Koni. His translations appear in Banipal Magazine and online at www.wordswithoutborders.org and www.brooklynrail.org.