Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Instituting Renaissance: The Early Work of the Arab Academy of Science in Damascus, 1919-1930
by Khoury, Shaadi, Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2016, 282; 10010879
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the career of the Arab Academy of Science in Damascus roughly over its first formative decade, from 1919 to 1930. It situates the Academy’s work in relation to concerns about language modernization characteristic of the Nahda, or Modern Arab Renaissance, and in the context of great changes in the political and social order of the Middle East. It highlights the ways the pioneering Levantine man of letters Jurji Zaydan sought to reconcile indigenous traditions of linguistic thought with modern concepts of evolutionary change and historicism in the development of a new science of language and the cultivation of a new kind of scholarly elite, from the late nineteenth century to the eve of the First World War. This dissertation also analyzes Arab Academy founding member ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Maghribi’s wide-ranging writings in matters of religion, politics, ethics, and language. Al-Maghribi wrote on behalf of the Islamic and Arab umam or communities, as well as for a constitutional Ottoman caliphate around the time of the Young Turk Revolution of 1908. The educability of the public was central to his vision as ordinary believers and Arabic-speakers became the population of the new national state of Syria following the Ottomans’ defeat in 1918. This project demonstrates how the three succeeding political orders over the territory that would become modern Syria influenced the thought of the founding members of the Academy in Damascus and contributed to the life of their institution: the late Ottoman state, the Amir Faysal’s short-lived Arabist kingdom in the aftermath of the First World War, and the imposition of the French Mandate for Syria from 1920. It argues that the late Ottoman Empire and its revolutionary and constitutional moment imparted qualities of ecumenicalism and worldliness, and that the Academy shared a spirit of experimentation and standardization with the Faysali and Mandatory regimes. Finally, this project turns to the relations of Arab Academy founding members, notably of their president Muhammad Kurd ‘Ali, with the Western orientalist scholars elected as corresponding members of their company. It chronicles how Arab and European scholars of Islam and Arabic collaborated in producing a body of knowledge and a discourse of friendship in their shared area of study, characterized by both sympathetic and objective norms. It argues that the Arab Academicians and their Western colleagues collectively sketched the contours of a globalized discussion of Nahda, history, and modernity in the quasi-colonial context of French Mandate Syria.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rizk Khoury, Dina
Commitee: Colla, Elliott, Kennedy, Dane, Robinson, Shira, Zimmerman, Andrew
School: The George Washington University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 77/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Middle Eastern history, Education history
Keywords: Arab academy, Arabic language modernization, Damascus, French mandate, Nahda, al-Maghribi, 'Abd al-Qadir
Publication Number: 10010879
ISBN: 9781339468907
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