Africanism: Blacks in the Medieval Arab Imaginary (Hardcover)
Anti-blackness has until recently been a taboo topic within Arab society. This began to change when Nader Kadhem, a prominent Arab and Muslim thinker, published the first in-depth investigation of anti-black racism in the Arab world in 2004. This translation of the new and revised edition of Kadhem’s influential text brings the conversation to the English-speaking world. Al-Istifraq or Africanism, a term that is analogous to Orientalism, refers to the discursive elements of perceiving, imagining, and representing black people as a subject of study in Arabic writings. Kadhem explores the narratives of Africanism in the Arab imaginary from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century to show how racism toward black people is ingrained in the Arab world, offering a comprehensive account of the representations of blackness and black people in Arab cultural narratives – including the Quran, the hadith, and Arabic literature, geography, and history. The book examines the pejorative image of black people in Arab cultural discourse through three perspectives: the controversial anthropological concept that culture defines what it means to be human; the biblical narrative of Noah cursing his son Ham’s descendants – understood to be darker-skinned – with servitude; and Greco-Roman physiognomy, philosophy, medicine, and geography. Describing the shifting standards of inclusion that have positioned Arab identity in opposition to blackness, Kadhem argues that in the cultural imaginary of the Arab world, black people are widely conflated with the Other. Analyzing canonical Arabic texts through the lens of English, French, and German theory, Africanism traces the history of racism in Arab culture.
Nader Kadhem is professor emeritus of cultural studies at the University of Bahrain. Amir Al-Azraki is associate professor of Islamic and Arab cultures at Renison University College affiliated with the University of Waterloo.
“Amir Al-Azraki’s excellent translation of Nader Kadhem’s book brilliantly fills a critical gap in our understanding of the history of racism in Arab societies. This captivating and well-researched work is suitable for both academic and general audiences.” Abderrahman Beggar, author of L’Amérique latine sous une perspective maghrébine