The Poetics of Incivility: Satire and Subversion in Arab Culture


ACLS Fellowship Program


Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


In Arabic, the word for literature, adab, is also the word for culture and propriety—for civility itself. “The Poetics of Incivility” reads adab against the grain, arguing that Arab literary modernity is indebted to the aesthetic practices of incivility. Through readings in literature and visual culture, the book charts the arc of incivility from mid-1800s to present, focusing on cultural production in Lebanon and Egypt. From discussions of women’s education in 1850s Beirut to farcical plays in Nasser’s Egypt, from street art in the 2011 protests to post-revolution graphic novels, the book examines incivility as including genres such as satire and comedy. Through the breaking and re-making of norms, incivility acts as a means of creative innovation and political contestation.