Assessing contemporary Arab thought

By Harry Hagopian
February 24, 2010

Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab's new book, published recently by Columbia University Press (CUP), is a timely assessment of the challenges facing Arab thought today, and contains some material which is unique in terms of research.

Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective has been described and summarised as follows:

"Arab intellectuals of the post-1967 period struggled with issues of politics, religion, secularism, democracy, and gender. Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab identifies the main topics and preoccupations of these thinkers and traces their ideas back to the Arab Renaissance of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She crucially connects Arab debates concerning cultural malaise, identity, and authenticity to the postcolonial issues of Latin America and Africa, revealing the shared struggles of different regions and various Arab specificities. Kassab also reflects on the challenges of critical thinking in postcolonial settings caused by a disrupted sense of history, a distorted sense of reality, and a disturbed sense of self, aggravated by post-independence disenchantment."

Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab is a research fellow at the German Orient Institute in Beirut. She has studied in Beirut and Fribourg, Switzerland, and has taught in Lebanon at the American University of Beirut, at the University of Balamand, and in the United States at Columbia University and Yale University. She is also the author of The Theory of Social Action in the Schutz-Parsons Debate.

There is a helpful syndicated article about the issues raised in her latest book in the Daily Star (Lebanon), penned by Rami Khouri. It is entitled Coherent Arab statehood is inevitable.


(c) Harry Hagopian is a former executive secretary for the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC). He is now an ecumenical, legal and political consultant for the Armenian Church. As well as advising the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales on Middle East and inter-faith questions, Dr Hagopian is involved with ACEP, the Paris-based Christians in Political Action ( His own website is Epektasis (

See also: 'Decoding the Iraqi legislative elections', by Harry Hagopian -

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