Islamism in Arab Fiction and Film: Introduction
Islamism in Arab Fiction and Film, 1947 to the Present was funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) UK under the auspices of the Religion & Society programme. Taking account of the term's shifting, often controversial meanings, the project mapped and is now critically assessing ways in which 'Islamism' is imaginatively reflected, transmitted, critiqued and contested. It examines fiction and film in Arabic, French, and English produced by artists closely affiliated to the Arab world, from 1947 to the present.
Arab fiction and films offer compelling and – in the Anglophone world – neglected accounts of how the interface being religion and politics is being defined, who inhabits that defined space, how he/she is produced, and how he/she narrates his/her beliefs and actions to the world. The project identifies a contemporary current of work that runs contrary to what has been a prevailing secular aesthetic in the Arab world, suggesting that it is possible to combine religious belief, political commitment, and aesthetic value. Just as importantly, Arab fiction and films complicate caricatures in the Western imaginary: the ‘terrorist’ and the ‘suicide bomber’. Fiction and films illuminate imaginative life worlds, subjective experiences, and wider structures of feeling; they posit plural narrative trajectories and emplotments of history; they dramatize conflicts and project diverse resolutions; they often reflect upon themselves and, by extension, wider frames of representation; and they solicit and/or help to produce accepting or dissenting audiences.
We believe that creative texts represent valuable sites of enquiry into interrelationships between religion and society in a contemporary world in which local and global contexts are mutually informative. By foregrounding Arabic language material alongside English and French – hence engaging three major languages of the Arab world – the project aims to highlight creative engagements with Islamism by writers and filmmakers either embedded in or closely affiliated to parts of the Arab world, who do not necessarily target a Western audience.
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