Negotiating the Empty Time of Modernity: Sufi Temporality in Postcolonial Arabic Thought and Literature


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation studies the reception of Sufi concepts of time in a selection of post-1967 Arabic philosophical and literary projects. It explores how different understandings of modernity condition the way the tradition of Sufi writing on time is negotiated. Sufi thought presents a view of time as a relational construct marked by heterogeneity and punctuated with messianic moments of convergence with eternity. This dissertation considers how key modernist thinkers object to this tradition of thinking time as incompatible with the modern sensibility of time as linear, homogenous, and progressive flow. It debates this reductive position and engages alternative Arab voices who make use of the moral, existential, and aesthetic dimensions of these concepts of time in critical and novelistic projects. Ultimately, these repurposings draw on the rich semantics of temporal heterogeneity to critique the emptiness and uniformity of modern global time which depends on capitalism as a life form.