'Being Arab'

Arena_invite-41.jpgArena’s newly renovated ‘reception’ area in Kerr St. Fitzroy was packed with people last night attending the launch of their newly published book ‘Being Arab’. Professor Ghassan Hage launched the book with an interesting comment on the need to open up spaces in identity politics which allow for movement between particularistic attachments (place, tradition, culture, language, religion, etc.) and adherence to universalist principles such as human rights.
The book is edited by Christopher Wise Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Western Washington University, and Paul James, Director of the Global Cities Institute at RMIT. Contributors include Gilbert Achcar ( whose excellent book Arabs and the Holocaust I’ve just finished reading) of the University of London, Ali A. Mazrui, Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities, State University of New York, and 10 other notable scholars and experts in contemporary Arabist studies from Jordan, America, Australia.
The contributions are introduced by Christopher Wise followed by a couple of poems from Aisha Khawaja Razem, a Jordanian poet. Then follow four sections, each with three or four essays, headed, Arab Identity and Political Recognition, Arabism and Diasporic Voices, Arabism and Nationalism and lastly Arabism and Africa. It sells for $25.00 and is 265 pages in length.
The launch of the book was accompanied by a display of large excellent quality photographs of Bedouin and Palestinian people offered for sale by a young Australian photographer who had spent time with their communities in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.
I have offered to review ‘Being Arab’ for Arena before Christmas as part of a multiple review of 3 books including ‘The Arabs: A History’ by Eugene Rogan, and the abovementioned work by Gilbert Achcar, “Arabs and the Holocaust’. I think they’ll go together well as a triple book review in one.
It was seriously proposed last night that Arena should consider a follow up book to ‘Being Arab’ on the theme of ‘Being Jewish’. Such a book would present a variety of viewpoints on contemporary Jewish identity and diversity issues.

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