Bassem Shahin, “Albert Cossery’s Revolutionary Poetics of a Poetics of Revolution.” Journal of Postcolonial Networks Vol. 1, Issue 2 (October 2011): 1-41.
Assistant Professor of French, Drew University
This essay will attempt to draw out the structural assumptions of the high-profile Egyptian revolution by revisiting a few short stories and novels by the Egyptian francophone novelist and philosopher of revolution, Albert Cossery. Writing between the late 1930s and the turn of the 21st century, Cossery offered a controversial reading of revolution, focusing his critical lens on his native Egypt. The Egyptian context of the 1930s and 40s informed his reading of revolution—Egypt remained under British jurisdiction; Arab and Egyptian Renaissance, and specifically Egyptian surrealism; the end of Turkish rule and the strategic location of Egypt during World War II. Cossery eventually moved to Paris at the end of the war, took a hotel room, and died in the same room sixty years later, having gone back to Egypt only a couple of times and having lost his command of Arabic. A dandy, a highly marginal character, Cossery befriended many of his famous contemporaries—Egyptian writers and surrealists, French novelists, actors and filmmakers, Italian and Greek painters, and American writers. His entire body of work, from the initial collection of short stories (Men God Forgot, 1946) to his last novel (The Colors of Infamy, 2001), can be read as a thoughtful exploration of revolutionary impasses.
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Jason Craige Harris is a third-year master's candidate in Black Religion in the African Diaspora and a Marquand merit scholar at Yale Divinity School, where he was recently awarded the Mary Cady Tew Prize for exceptional ability in history and ethics. He earned a bachelor’s in religion and African-American studies from Wesleyan University and received the Giffin Prize for excellence in the Study of Religion, Spurrier Award for ethics, and an official citation for academic excellence issued by the 2009 Connecticut General Assembly. As a fellow at Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities and a recipient of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, Harris wrote a senior honors thesis analyzing theological anthropologies along political and racial fault lines in U.S. Evangelical history. His research and writing are principally concerned with black life, Christianity, (post)colonialism, violence, feminisms, critical social theory, and ultimately planetary flourishing. Concerns arising from the academic study of Africana religion, philosophy, and ethics particularly inform his inquiries. Through an interdisciplinary framework, he probes the systems of values that undergird dominant epistemological, rhetorical, cultural, and religious forms to determine to what extent, if at all, they conduce to robust conceptions of justice. With an eye toward contemporary social problems, he considers the religious strategies and visions that historically marginalized peoples have created to respond to conditions of living and being delimited by restrictive understandings of race, gender, religion, and nation. He is a general editor at the Journal of Postcolonial Networks, where, among other things, he helps to facilitate conversations on race and postcolonial/liberation theologies. As a Christian minister and budding public intellectual, Harris seeks and invites others into more holistic and attuned, less violent and constrained, ways of narrating the self and the divine.
Areas of Interest and Research:
African American Religious Studies
African American Moral, Social, and Political Thought
African American Intellectual History
Liberation and Postcolonial (Christian) Thought
Philosophies of Liberation
Contemporary Religious Thought
Race, Gender, and American Christianities
Evangelicalisms and Pentecostalisms
Histories of Race Discourse in the Americas
(Christian) Social Ethics
Critical Social Theory/Social Philosophy
Theories of Race, Gender, and Power
Method and Theory in the Study of Religion
He is deeply committed to a praxis in which dualities of mind/heart, mind/body, and emotions/thought are consistently challenged and replaced with integrated models of selfhood that cherish self-multiplicity - the point at which the postcolonial becomes self-consciously embodied. He also enjoy taking walks in the coolness of the day, singing, laughing, and writing poetically and theoretically on his lived experience, whatever helps to bring more beauty and justice into the world.