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Stuart Hall once wrote that we mustn’t use Gramsci like ‘an Old Testament prophet who, at the correct moment, will offer us the consoling and appropriate quotation.’ Instead, we must ‘think’ our problems in a Gramscian way. What would it mean to ‘think’ some of the problems facing Egypt and the broader Middle East in such a way, and what are some of the challenges and productive encounters this might produce? This talk looks at how Gramsci has ‘travelled’ to the Middle East, and what made this travel possible. In particular, Sara Salem traces some of the ways in which Gramsci’s concepts have been thought with in contexts such as Egypt, and argues that the productive debates that have emerged around this suggest a continuing usefulness of Gramsci for scholars of the region. More importantly, Salem also argues that the particularities of capitalism in the colony and postcolony pose important challenges to prominent interpretations of Gramsci’s work. She suggests that thinking about Gramsci through ‘traveling theory’ allows for both productive conversations as well as challenges to Eurocentric accounts of Marxist theory, and sheds light on some of the afterlives of empire in the Middle East.
Sara Salem (@saramsalem) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at LSE. Her main research interests include political sociology, postcolonial studies, Marxist theory, feminist theory, and global histories of empire and imperialism. Salem is an editor at the journal Historical Materialism.
John Chalcraft is Professor of Middle East History and Politics in the Department of Government at LSE and leads the Social Movements and Popular Mobilisation in the MENA Research Netwrok.
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