• The tension between feminism and national liberation is a commonplace of political mobilization across the postcolonial world. This essay traces how postcolonial nationalist and transnational feminist agendas were brought into conflict during the defense of a thesis on the novels of the Syrian writer Ghada al-Samman (b. 1942) that took place in Damascus, Syria in 2010. As an Arab woman writer whose writing and life deviates from her culture’s dominant mores but who also incorporates nationalist discourse into her writings, Ghada al-Samman is a controversial figure in her Syrian homeland. This essay considers why the Syrian academic establishment failed to engage with al-Samman’s transnational feminism, and instead channeled its energies into excluding feminist critique from postcolonial nation building.