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Great New Books in the Humanities: Alexandrian Cosmopolitanism: An Archive by Hala Halim

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“To read Alexandrian Cosmopolitanism is to learn,” panelist Mark Sanders commented, “both as the author instructs and by the reader’s own formation.”

In this lively discussion of Hala Halim’s  recent book, Alexandrian Cosmopolitanism: An Archive (2013) panelists explored themes such as cosmopolitanism and class, eurocentrism, colonial subalternity, and the universalism of Alexandria.  Zachary Lockman posed a question about the strong foreign presence of Alexandria in the Egyptian context and both Helga Tawil-Souri and Karen Van Dyck commented on the impressive archive that Hala Halim has created with this book, contemplating the aesthetics of this archive and its foundational properties. Panelists raised questions about how issues of multilingualism and translation impact the poetry of Cavafy explored in the book.  The book asks the following questions: Was Alexandria ever cosmopolitan? And if it was, is it possible to think of such a thing as Alexandrian cosmopolitanism?  Is there something sui generis about Alexandria’s cosmopolitanism? When, by whom, and why was its cosmopolitanism construed as exemplary?

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