Beyond the Colonial/Orientalist Encounter: “European” Cultural Contributions to Arab Modernity


  • Alaaeldin Mahmoud American University of the Middle East, Kuwait



Colonial encounter, Orientalism, the Nahḍah, Arab modernity


Albeit what can be described as the “European” contributions to world modernities (with Arab modernity included) are often perceived as a self-evident fact, a scrutinizing look is useful in shedding more light on the mostly ignored European cultural contributions to the Arab Nahḍah (Arab Renaissance) and modernity that were neither colonial nor orientalist, especially during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, with particular focus on Egypt and the Levant. This study examines the contributions of Europeans who settled in Egypt and the Levant, such as the Hungarian photographers Otto Schoefft (1833-1890s) and Zoltan Kluger (1895- 1977), Hungarian illustrator and painter Éric de Nemès (1910-??), the Spanish cartoonist Juan Santez and the Armenian cartoonist Alexander Saroukhan (1898-1977), to name a few. It also challenges the perception that the Europeans who migrated to and settled in the Arab region (especially in the early twentieth century) were living in “cultural ghettos.” Instead, the work of the above artists, literati and others shows that the European communities in Egypt and the Levant were cultural agents who contributed to the literary and artistic landscapes in their respective fields of expertise.






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