Anti-blackness has until recently been a taboo topic within Arab society. This began to change when Nader Kadhem, a prominent Arab and Muslim thinker from Bahrain, published the first in-depth investigation of anti-black racism in the Arab world in 2004. This translation of the new and revised edition of Kadhem’s influential text brings the conversation to the English-speaking world. Al-Istifraq or Africanism, a term analogous to Orientalism, refers to the discursive elements of perceiving, imagining, and representing black people as a subject of study in Arabic writings. Kadhem explores the narratives of Africanism in the Arab imaginary from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century to show how racism toward black people is ingrained in the Arab world, offering a comprehensive account of the representations of blackness and black people in Arab cultural narratives - including the Quran, the hadith, and Arabic literature, geography, and history.
Africanism: Blacks in the Medieval Arab Imaginary (McGill-Queen's UP, 2023) examines the pejorative image of black people in Arab cultural discourse through three perspectives: the controversial anthropological concept that culture defines what it means to be human; the biblical narrative of Noah cursing his son Ham’s descendants - understood to be darker-skinned - with servitude; and Greco-Roman physiognomy, philosophy, medicine, and geography. Describing the shifting standards of inclusion that have positioned Arab identity in opposition to blackness, Kadhem argues that in the cultural imaginary of the Arab world, black people are widely conflated with the Other. Analyzing canonical Arabic texts through the lens of English, French, and German theory, Africanism traces the history of racism in Arab culture. Africanism digs deep into the cultural constructions of blacks in all aspects of the Arab imaginary, including language, religion, philosophy, literature, geography, and history.
Author: Nader Kadhem is a professor emeritus of cultural studies at the University of Bahrain. Kadhim authored many literature and cultural criticism articles and studies published in Bahraini Arabic media. He has published 16 books that can be found here.
Translator: Amir Al-Azraki is an Arab-Canadian playwright, literary translator, Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner, Associate Professor, and Coordinator of the Studies in Islamic and Arab Cultures Program, Renison University College, University of Waterloo. His research interests include Arab Theatre, Afro-Arab Cultural Heritage and Representation, and Literary Translation (Arabic-English)
Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law, the occult sciences, and the environment across the Western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at [email protected]
or on X @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome.
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/islamic-studies