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Homeward Bound: Ḥusayn Muruwwah’s Integrative Quest for Authenticity

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Abstract Ḥusayn Muruwwah was one of the most influential Arab intellectuals of the second half of the twentieth century. In the 1950s and 1960s he was critical in reinventing literary criticism and was at the vanguard of the postcolonial intelligentsia and its search for a new Arab culture. Before that he was cleric at Najaf, then a follower of Arab Liberalism, then a Marxist and, eventually a Communist. In the process of this intellectual metamorphosis Muruwwah moved from South Lebanon, to Najaf, Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Moscow. This article reconsiders the importance of Muruwwah’s personal narrative of displacement, search and commitment to Arab postcoloniality. It argues that much of what has been written about Ḥusayn Muruwwah’s life underscores a polarization of experience—as movement from the village to the city, from religion to secularism, from Liberalism to Communism. In contrast, this article suggests that Ḥusayn Muruwwah, and dozens of others like him, never really shifted between positions, or “converted.” Instead, Muruwwah kept adding layer after layer to what became a complex and highly integrative intellectual identity that simultaneously drew on several seemingly contradictory traditions and intellectual genealogies, culminating in his methodology of critical Socialist Realism and the effort to re-read Islamic turāth along Marxist lines.

Affiliations: 1: University of Texas at Austin


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