Reconsidering the 60s generation in the Arab world and beyond


A common understanding of the 1960s is that of an integrated global era marked by a revolutionary quest for self-liberation, transnational solidarity, sexual revolution, radical self-fashioning, anti-imperialism, a renewed understanding of gender and race relationships as well as an intellectual drive to articulate universal ethics of emancipation. But in the Arab world, with few exceptions, most narratives portray a radically different image: one of a failed revolutionary project marked by ideological bigotry, political messianism, personality cults, ethnocentric particularism, economic ruin, and an overall sense of a cultural defeat. Are these two images reconcilable? In this talk – the fruit of a decade of research on Arab thought – I offer a comprehensive empirical, theoretical, and methodological reassessment of the Arab 60s as a global pursuit with lessons that transcend the geography of the Middle East.


Yoav Di-Capua is a Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, where he teaches modern Arab intellectual history. He is the author of Gatekeepers of the Arab Past: Historians and History Writing in Twentieth-Century Egypt (University of California Press, 2009) and No Exit: Arab Existentialism, Jean Paul Sartre and Decolonization (University Press of Chicago, 2018). His work appeared in the American Historical Review, Modern Intellectual History, Past & Present among other places. Supported by the Simon Guggenheim Foundation, he is currently at work on The First Arabs: An Intimate History of Their Struggle for Dignity and The Aftermath of Defeat.