Crown Center for Middle East Studies

Saharanism: Intellectual and Literary Histories of a Desert-focused Imagination

A Crown Seminar with Brahim El Guabli in conversation with Samia Henni

December 7, 2022
Missed the event? The recording is available.

Deserts have been imagined as and made into testing grounds for nuclear weapons, zones of detention and death, and spaces of ecological disaster and geopolitical threat. Deserts today evoke images of narcotraffickers, smugglers, undocumented immigrants, and terrorist militias. Deserts have also been associated with grandiose construction and agricultural projects. Whether in the Sahara, Arabian Desert or in the US-Mexico border, Brahim El Guabli's work argues these desert imaginaries have eclipsed deeper connections and exchanges that have existed between the desert and its inhabitants for millennia, thus justifying policing and extractive practices. In this virtual Crown Seminar, El Guabli, in conversation with Samia Henni, will explore how racialization, extraction, and emptiness have been central to this powerful desert imaginary, which he calls "Saharanism," in sources as varied as colonial scholarship and today's literature, film, and social media.

Brahim El Guabli is an assistant professor of Arabic studies and comparative literature at Williams College.
Samia Henni, moderator, is an assistant professor of architecture at Cornell University.
Naghmeh Sohrabi, chair, is the director for research at the Crown Center and the Charles (Corky) Goodman Professor of Middle East History.

Cosponsored by the Mandel Center for the Humanities and the Department of English at Brandeis.