(in progress:) "Expanding vocabulary and the frontier of unspeakable. The names of love in Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya's Rawdat ul-Muhibbīn", projected as a contribution to Oriens, 2020.
I come back to the topic of my conference paper and essay once published in Poland, inspired by Fatema's Mernissi bilingual appropriation of Ibn Qayyim's Garden of Lovers. This time, I'm curious to examine more in detail the place of this little treatise in the multifaceted work of the Islamic scholar, as well as in a larger tradition of codifying love, at the intersection of mystical venture and earthly eroticism.
(in progress:) "The 20th/21st-century Neo-Sufi adventure and the quest for extra-cultural dimension of man", 2020.
A step toward my Poetics of the Void, this essay will deal with several recent novels in which mystical traditions of Islam are creatively transformed into a secular quest for liberation from cultural paradigms.
(in progress:) "Tertium datur. The terms of vital choice in the 'Orientalist' novels Auá. Novela negra and Ali und Nino", projected submission for Sjani, 2020.
The comparison of the novels Aua and Ali und Nino is supposed to throw a new light on the question of vital choice presented to the native heroes as the choice of a –or the– civilisation and hiding, in fact, a potential of oppression. The heroes, on their side, refuse to chose, recognizing the terms that are proposed to them as essentially false. Although utterly vanquished, they conserve till the end the value of fidelity to themselves. The fact that neither of the analysed texts may be attributed to a culturally representative author (both were written by dilettante “Orientalists” of their day) creates an interesting intricacy, as both novels are not infrequently seen as foundational texts of their respective local or regional literatures.
(in progress:) "Limes. An essay in liminal criticism"
After the Syrian refugee crisis, the aim of preventing the Saharan and Sub-Saharan refugees from crossing to Europe becomes the topic of the day in the media; at the same time, the existence of largely uncharted and uncontrolled territories so close to the European shores haunts the imagination of the public. In fact, the Saharan limes have been, since the beginnings of the European history, not only the natural frontier of the Euro-Mediterranean oecumene, but also of the “civilized” world of states, governments, official policies and law enforcement. Growing actuality of the topic justifies a glance back to Driss Chraïbi's novel Une enquête au pays, first published in 1981. Its hero, inspector Ali, hostile to the author of the book in which he is the main protagonist (he comments unfavourably on Driss Chraïbi the dangerous intellectual, or rather, as he calls him, the insectuel), penetrates the wasteland interior of the country not to investigate any crime in particular, but rather to establish the presence of the police in the otherwise uncontrolled territory – bled es-siba (“region of anarchy” in contrast to the civilized, tax-paying and law-abiding bled el-makhzen according to a categorization first established in the 14th c., valid throughout the colonial era, and apparently till the present day). The detective is a forerunner of modernity and civilisation (an important key word of the Chraïbian writing), penetrating a world that refuses to let itself be governed, submitted to taxation, and policed. Significantly, Ali's endeavour is backed up by Europe, closely collaborating with the Maghrebian state. On the other hand, the nomads oppose those joint efforts by their only resource – mobility, the readiness of abandoning their abodes and disappearing in the desert. Control and detection prove to be inherent to the sedentary world; even crime narration – a tool of criminalization of the human existence – is forced to capitulate in confrontation with the wasteland.
(in progress:) "Adelard of Bath and his De avibus tractatus. Falconry as a field of pre-modern empiricism", 2020.
The aim of this presentation of the figure of Adelard of Bath (1080-1152) and his treatise dedicated to falconry is to reflect on the transfer of knowledge across the Mediterranean world in the Middle Ages. The East-West transmission of falconry skills as a specific competence is usually associated with the Sicilian court of Frederic the Great, the emperor that became famous as a falconer and an early researcher interested in birds; nonetheless, the precedent had already been created before by some scholars traveling across the Mediterranean, namely Adelard.
Falconry inspired a new approach towards nature that had progressively emerged since the 12th century. In the eyes of a northern scholar such as Adelard, falconry was an important part of the Arabica studia (the “Arabic studies”), an attractive inspiration for the new scientia naturalis (the “science of nature”), as this new knowledge was called in the Christian world. The importance of Adelard's treatise, De avibus (“On birds”) is thus to be seen not only in the narrow context of the falconry history, but also as a part of a larger process of the birth of science, to which the Arabic world gave a substantial contribution, also through falconry. It became a kind of early empirical paradigm based on careful observation and interaction with a non-human element that fostered the medieval beginnings of modern science.
(submitted:) "Intimate microspheres in Fernando Pessoa and other refugees from History: notes on topology of symbolic space and extracultural condition", Acta Iassyensia Comparationis, 25 (1)/2020 ("History / Histories").
The essay deals with the poetic creation of intimate space bubbles, as if isolated from the rest of the world reducible to a map dominated by History and the imperial mechanism as its driving force. The text in focus is Antinous by Fernando Pessoa, where such a microsphere of affect is built around an homoerotic relationship. The case of the poet living in the times of the advent of Portuguese fascism is put in the context of several East-European refugees from History striving to reconstruct their lost intimacies in the margin of the hegemonies that ousted them from their own countries (Cioran, Eliade, Miłosz). I claim that the subject constructing his intimate topology transgresses the limitations of his cultural inscription, that appears as disgracefully locatable, hemmed in History; he adopts an extracultural stance. The refugees from History, losing their language and the immediate contact with their national cultures, strive to communicate with a larger, universal dimension. In a way, such private, extracultural topologies run parallel to the imperial claim of universalism. Yet the microsphere of affect communicating with the universalist macrosphere introduces a qualitative difference, as it is built upon the authenticity of loss and longing, rather than drive for hegemony and control.
(forthcoming:) “Mia Couto and his African context: Invention of an origin”, The Worlds of Mia Couto, Kristian Van Haesendock (ed.), Frankfurt, Peter Lang, 2020.
The main line of argumentation in this chapter traces the process of “invention of an origin” performed by a white, blue-eyed descendant of the colonisers. In response to the criticism voiced by his African interlocutors at the moment of the publication of Vozes Anoitecidas (1986), Mia Couto legitimises his existence as a forerunner of a genuinely African intellectual, whose advent is announced in Um rio chamado tempo, uma casa chamada terra (2002). The literary construction of autochthonism brings him close to other Lusophone writers such as Pepetela, facing the same racial situation as descendants of the colonisers rather than the colonised. This process involves a creative redefinition of the notions of kinship, paternity and transmission, as well as the work on the Portuguese language. Mia Couto tries to rebuild it in such a way that it might render the African vision of the reality, creating a highly peculiar and recognisable style, implying a translingual dimension of the text. At the same time, this endeavour is interpreted as an echo of the centuries-old Portuguese millenarianist vision of the recuperation of the ideal, pre-Babelian speech of man. Nonetheless, the chapter's conclusion focuses on the paradoxical outcome of Couto's struggle for “Africanization”, putting in the limelight precisely the lowly, maculate origin of language and community.
(Forthcoming:) "Ondjaki's Classmates Read Honwana. Towards a Transcolonial Theory", World Literature and the Postcolonial: Narratives of (Neo)Colonialization in a Globalized World, Elke Sturm-Trigonakis (ed.), 2020.
In order to trace the stakes of transcolonial theory, the chapter explores the relationship between the colonial text of Luís Bernardo Honwana, Nós Matámos o Cão Tinhoso, and its reading in Ondjaki's short-story Nós Chorámos pelo Cão Tinhoso. The aim of transcolonial creative and interpretative practice is to search for innovative ways of deconstructing and replacing the hierarchical patterns, inherited from the colonial past and reproduced in the postcolonial reality, that frame the individuals as subordinate and superordinate. Instead, patterns of partnership and cooperation between equal, autonomous persons should be conceived and promoted. Such a new mentality is designed by Ondjaki in the narration depicting collective reading of Honwana's text by Angolan schoolchildren. The reinvented ritual of sacrificing the Mangy Dog (as a textual representation and not as a substitutive victim) is supposed to foster the formation of new communitarian bonds, healthier than those that characterized the “coming of age” of the colonial assimilados.
"From crux transmarina to Portuguese maritime expansion: a globalisation of the Mediterranean", Analele Universităţii Bucureşti - Seria Istorie.
The aim of this article is to present the continuity between the Mediterranean project of the crusades and the conquest of the New World at the level of the general patterns of imagination and the strategies of justifying and legitimizing violence. Old arguments were adapted to a conflict with new adversaries under novel conditions (maritime exploration and expansion). The question raised is to know in what measure the Europeans recycled the pre-existing categories and in what measure they created new ones, specific for the New World. I argue that the strategies of legitimization put into practice at an early stage of globalization reflect even older mentalities and ideologies, such as Christianized paradigms of Roman imperial rule. Early-modern global imagination reverberates with an echo of the medieval Mediterranean one.
“Congregatio mundi today. New perspectives on Guillaume Postel (1510-1581)”, Primerjalna Knijževnost, no 41, 1/2018, p. 191-199. ISSN 2591-1805
The aim of this paper is to reflect on the perspectives of a critical return to certain aspects of the Postelian heritage, while in the recent decades the figure of this heterodox Renaissance thinker has been apparently downgraded from fascinating to merely secondary. Certainly, his equation between intercultural communication and universal concordia remains generally valid to the present day, even for those who do not share his Adamitic and cabbalistic conceptions of language. On the other hand, his concept of congregator mundi appears as a valuable starting point for the discussion on the role and prerogatives of the intellectual as a mediator between human societies and the transcendent sphere, especially if compared with the recent thought of Giorgio Agamben, re-collocating the intellectual and the cultural critic in the line of the monotheistic prophets.
“Written exercises. Ancestral magic and emergent intellectuals in Mia Couto, Lhoussain Azergui and Dorota Masłowska”, Colloquia Humanistica, no 5/2016, p. 127-140. ISSN 2081-6774
The article consists in a comparative reading of three novels: Um rio chamado tempo by Mia Couto, Le pain des corbeaux by Lhoussain Azergui and Paw królowej by Dorota Masłowska. In spite of the difference of the historical circumstances of Mozambique, Morocco and Poland, these three books meet at an intersecting point: the emergence of an intelligentsia that uses literacy and writing as an instrument to deconstruct the post-colonial concept of nation and to operate a trans-colonial renegotiation of identity. By the notion of trans-colonial, I understand the opposition against new kinds of symbolic violence that emerged after the end of the colonial period; here this new form of oppression is related to the concept of national unity – an artificial construct that leaves no place for the dualism or pluralism of cultural reality (two shores of the Zambezi river, Arab and Berber dualism in Morocco, “small homelands” in Poland).
The young heroes of the novels grasp the pen in order to break through the falseness or the taboos created by the fathers, establishing, at the same time, the relation of solidarity with the world of the grandfathers. The act of writing becomes an actualization of the ancestral universe of magic. The settlement of accounts with the parental generation concerns the vision of nation built upon the resistance against the colonizer (it also refers to the Polish cultural formation, based on the tradition of uprisings and resistance against the Russians).
“Travelling away from the 'artsy post-modern lefty-pinko university'. Noor's transcultural experience and the duties of the intellectual”, Colloquia Humanistica, no 3/2014, p. 91-102. ISSN 2081-6774
The volume Qur’an and cricket consists of several travelogues produced by a Malay intellectual, Farish A. Noor, during his trips to the most problematic places of the world, marked by the contemporary “battles of God”. This book is interpreted in terms of a quest for transcultural condition understood as a dimension of experience transcending the multiplicity of cultural orders in dissent. Noor sketches his own definition of the intellectual, contrasted in this article with the visions given by Gramsci, Adorno and Said. The subject of the transcultural condition is defined as “itinerant scholar” transgressing the limitations of the academia by his nomadic immersion in the world. The attitude of the traveller is marked by openness and readiness to listen, even if he is confronted to irrational mumbling. Precisely the mumbling of anger and hate becomes the most difficult challenge to the intellectual unable to deal with it rationally. The only remaining answer is a sheer presence and love, emotional attachment to the world, as the scholar rejects the temptation of the ivory tower that would isolate him from the otherness. The modality of speech that opposes the hateful mumbling isn’t based on clear, persuasive argumentation, but on ironic ambivalence conjugated with directness and the rejection of euphemism. Most importantly, the “itinerant scholar” is not a preacher.