How does a generation without personal memory begin to grapple with its urban past in a nation that has silenced its memories? How are symbolic sites of memory recovered and represented by such a generation? Much recent scholarship on post-war Lebanon has studied the memory culture of the decades following the declared end of civil war. This scholarship deals with the implications of Lebanon’s ‘amnesiac’ political culture on the social and political landscape. In the meantime, Lebanon—and especially Beirut’s—urban landscape has been altered beyond recognition by post-war reconstruction, mostly by private real estate holding companies, the most notorious of which is Solidere. In the early 2000s, a slew of historical novels about Lebanon and especially Beirut was published in both Arabic and French. In this article, I will focus exclusively on the strategies of urban commemoration in Rabī Jābir’s trilogy. I argue that the genre of historical fiction is used in these novels to re-create the downtown life of Beirut in and around Martyrs’ Square from the 19th and early 20th century, a commemoration of a cityscape and an urban lifestyle that its author recreates using the tools of the archive (documents, bibliographies, etc.). This post-memorial fiction—here, I use Marianne Hirsch’s definition of postmemory as “second-generation memories of cultural and collective traumas and experience” (22)—attempts to recover Beirut’s repressed Ottoman urban history, and to re-write Solidere’s narrative of the city center. By intertwining downtown Beirut’s past with its present, in a clever back-and-forth palimpsestic act that superimposes the historical city upon the present city—site of capitalist consumption—Jābir’s novels map out the old upon the new, and thus refuses the erasure of the ancient city by its newest urbanists. In Jābir’s novels, a new, contestatory commemorative narrative of Beirut’s history and—more significantly, its present—emerges.
This is a response to the review of my edited volume, Memory and History: Understanding Memory as Source and Subject (Routledge, 2013) published online by the Institute of Historical Research’s ‘Reviews in History’ website. The original review, as well as the author response is included here.
The relations between Economics and Literature in Spain’s Restoration Period.
The theoretical and philosophical dialectic between positivism and literature in Spanish Naturalism.
The tensions between Science and Catholicism in Spain’s fin de siècle.
The influence of science, technology and industry on the Spanish literature and culture.
The appropriation of mathematical concepts in debates over the religion-science tension in nineteenth-century Spain.
Contemporary Spanish Literature. Contemporary Spain. 18th, 19th and 20th Century Literature in Spain. Cadalso, Goya and Larra. Continental Western Philosophy, Philosophy in relation to literature. Frankfurt’s School and post-marxisms.
Transatlantic Literatures and Cultures
Film and Television Studies
Post-dictatorship cultures in Spain and Argentina
I’m working at the Marx Memorial Library in London. The library is home to the Spanish Collection, which is an archive of more than 7000 items, initially gathered by British International Brigaders and their families. We have just completed cataloguing the collection thanks to a grant from the National Archives (link below). Only very few […]
Contemporary Spanish literature, film, and culture; memory studies; feminist, gender, and women’s studies
Cultural memory in comics studies mostly seems to revolve around nonfictional graphic novels tackling major historical events. Drawing on recent trends in cultural memory studies, this paper focuses on Jacques Ristorcelli‘s Les Écrans (2014) as an experimental counterpoint where memory is animated by the author’s use of collage. Delving into an ‘archive’ of heterogeneous elements, Les Écrans borrows from old war comics in a way that reflexively constructs a discourse on the past of the medium and its memory. Through the analysis of Ristorcelli’s book, this paper highlights how collage can function in comics as a work of memory that reaches back to appropriative practices common to both readers and fine artists.