Tuesday, June 7, 2016

RESEARCH: Sino-Arabic Enlightenments: At the Limits of Comparison By Michael Gibbs

Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars 2016
Associate Professor
Department: Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
University of South Carolina
Sino-Arabic Enlightenments: At the Limits of Comparison

At the end of the nineteenth century, intellectuals in Beijing, Cairo, Shanghai, and Beirut grappled with problems that were strikingly similar: whether the written language could transmit modern knowledge; the pressure to reconcile classical learning with “modern” (understood as Western) thought; the role of traditionally educated people in new institutions; and the extent of the authority granted to those who could import, or translate, modern knowledge. Pursuing a new line of inquiry in comparative literary and cultural studies, this project connects the intellectual “enlightenment” in China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century with the “enlightenment” or “awakening” (Nahḍah) in Arabic-language cultural and intellectual history of the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth century. Through a historically and linguistically rigorous account of these developments in the Chinese and Arabic-language worlds, this research contributes to the fields of world history, comparative literature, translation studies, Asian studies, and Middle Eastern studies.