MESA Banner
Heritage Activism through the Literary Arts: Publishing as Resistance Practice in Contemporary Yemen
This paper will examine contemporary currents of literary formalism that are being mobilized through a grass-roots, active publication industry in southern Yemen. In stride with efforts to bring about restorative justice, Yemeni publishers, along with their authors and audiences, are renewing enquiry into the histories and dynamism of literary genre in efforts to resist the ongoing perils of neo-colonial domination and militarized nation-states. Coordinating their work with post-graduate research universities across Yemen as well as with welfare organizations and non-government organizations, a handful of publishing houses in Aden in and Hadramawt, especially, have succeeded in producing dozens of volumes annually focusing on such genres as historical narrative and its regional inflections, the print-news obituary, the art of the essay, the biographical memoire, the encyclopedia, tribal poetry and its social media uptake, and Western Orientalist historiography relating to Yemen. Renewed attention to the formal demands of genre, I argue, provides Yemenis with a way to recognize past violence while also seeking to circumscribe its effects. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with Yemenis in Cairo, I focus, in particular, on literary and heritage activism sponsored by Dar Al-Wefaq, a distributor that was founded in approximately 2014 to help develop Yemen’s academic publishing industry. Special attention will be given to the distributor’s use of social media to engage Yemenis in the diaspora as well as Arabic readerships across the Middle East in re-envisioning what the literary arts can bring to political reform efforts in the country.
Religious Studies/Theology
Geographic Area
Sub Area