Mapping/Tracing National Literature without a Nation-state: Interview with Refqa Abu-Remaileh
Michael Allan interviewed Refqa Abu-Remaileh on her current project in the framework of the Transregional Academy “Minor/Small Literature(s). Perspectives on World Literature from Elsewhere”, which was held in Berlin on 11-20 July 2019. The Academy was organised by the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung in cooperation with the Center for Literary and Cultural Research Berlin (ZfL) in Berlin. Both Refqa and Michael were part of the Steering Committee of the Academy.
The Transregional Academy aimed to question common assumptions of world literature through the prism of minor/small literature(s). Even though Eurocentric foundations have been criticized and questioned for more than two decades, especially from a post-colonial perspective, there has yet to be an alternate literary historiography through which to imagine world literature otherwise.
Refqa’s current project, PalREAD, is one way of engaging with the construction of a different literary historiography. It aims to tell the story of Palestinian literature by tracing, collecting, mapping and analyzing the development and evolution of Palestinian literary and cultural production and practices from 1948 to the present across various Arab, European, American, and Latin American countries. The project departs from a holistic approach, researching authors and literary texts in their trajectories, production, reading sites, reception, and circulation. PalREAD intends to explore the potentials of digitalization and Big Data in collecting, (re)searching, evaluating and sharing Palestinian cultural production. PalRead is a 5 year project funded by the European Research Council.
Refqa Abu-Remaileh is Assistant Professor at the Freie Universität Berlin’s Arabic Department. She is the Principal Investigator of the ERC project “PalREAD – Country of Words: Reading and Reception of Palestinian Literature from 1948 to the Present”. She received her DPhil and MSt in modern Middle Eastern Studies, with a focus on modern Arabic Literature and Film, from the University of Oxford (2010, 2004). In 2012-13, she was a EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin. From 2014-16, she was an Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral Fellow affiliated with EUME and continues to be affiliated with EUME to the present.
Michael Allan is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon, where he is also program faculty in Cinema Studies, Arabic, and Middle East Studies. He is the author of In the Shadow of World Literature: Sites of Reading in Colonial Egypt (Princeton 2016, Co-Winner of the MLA Prize for a First Book). He earned his Ph.D. in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, under the direction of Judith Butler, Saba Mahmood and Karl Britto. He was previously a EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin (2011-12 and 2017-2018).