Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab (Beirut/Bonn): Arab Thought and Arab Revolts: Arab intellectuals as legislators in transformative times


In my talk I will be looking at the work of two public intellectuals from Egypt, namely Khaled Fahmy and Hoda Elsadda. I will discuss the way in which they draw on their scholarly expertise in order to comment on the current events in their country since the beginning of the uprising. Fahmy is historian of modern Egypt and Chair of the History department of the American University of Cairo. He has been involved in a governmental project of archiving the oral history of the revolution and in drafting a new law on the freedom of access to information. His main themes have been the army, the police, torture, and forensic medicine. Elsadda is Professor of comparative literature at the University of Cairo and co-founder of the Women and Memory Forum. She headed the Freedoms and Rights Committee in the Constituent Assembly in charge of drafting the new constitution. Her main topics have been gender issues, family laws, and human rights. I will look at the type of public intellectuals Fahmy and Elsadda represent and compare them to the more prominent literary figures of the older generation. Finally, I will situate my current research on Arab intellectuals and Arab revolts within the larger framework of my reflections on contemporary Arab intellectual history writing.

Dr. Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab


Curriculum Vitae

Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab studied philosophy at the American University of Beirut and the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), where she obtained her doctorate degree with the thesis on “The Theory of Social Action in the Schutz-Parsons Debate”. She was subsequently postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bielefeld, before teaching first at the American University of Beirut, and then at the University of Balamand. In 1999, Dr. Kassab received a Fulbright scholarship at New School University, New York. She was then visiting scholar at Columbia University, before researching at the Yale Center for International and Area Studies as Visiting Associate Professor from 2006 to 2007 and holding a post as Arcapita Visiting Professor at the Middle East Institute of Columbia University in 2008. From 2008 to 2009, Dr. Kassab was further research fellow at the Orient Institut Beirut, which forms part of the Max Weber Foundation. In 2010, she was guest researcher at the department for West-Asian History at the University of Erfurt’s faculty of history, before moving on to the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies at FU Berlin in 2011. In the spring semester of 2012, Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab was visiting professor at the Cogut Center for the Humanities at Brown University. Since October 2013, she is fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture”.

Her research interests lie both in Western and post-colonial cultural philosophy, with particular focus on contemporary Arab thought, as well as studies into cultural crisis, authenticity and critique. Dr. Kassab received the 2013 Sheikh Zayed Book Award in the category “Contribution to the Development of Nations” for the Arabic version of her latest book “Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective” (2010).