The Naha and the Haskala: A comparative reading of revival and reform

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This article compares the modern Hebrew and Arabic renaissance movements (the haskala and the naha) to argue that the naha can and should be studied comparatively, and to illustrate some of the insights gained through a comparative reading of non-Western cultural modernity. Much as the naha is often read as the formative moment of modern Arab identity, the haskala is viewed as the originary moment of Jewish modernity. Comparative analysis sheds light on the ideas and psychology of the two movements as well their progenitors similar historical experiences. In particular, the contribution of Arab Jewish intellectuals to the haskala and the naha opens new vistas into intersections of modern Arabic and Hebrew thought, further eroding long-standing assumptions about the boundaries between Arab and Jewish cultures. The textual output of Arab Jews in Arabic and in Hebrew illuminates the cross-cultural circulation of ideas and tropes of modernity and enlightenment underlying both the naha and the haskala. I use the comparison to underscore that the naha was at one and the same time an Arab movement, part of a multilingual regional discourse, and one of many global enlightenment discourses that emerged contemporaneously in the colonial and post-colonial world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)300-316
Number of pages17
JournalMiddle Eastern Literatures
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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