New Directions in the Humanities International Award for Excellence

The New Direction in the Humanities Journal Collection offers an annual award for newly published research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of the New Direction in the Humanities Research Network.

Award Winner for Volume 17

Indigenization and Modernization: The Invention of a Truly Egyptian Drama

The development of modern Egyptian drama has been shaped by confrontations with and attempted hybridization of the Self (traditional poetics) and the Other (Western poetics). Arabic poets have operated within well-established and often hegemonic traditions and have had literary giants as ancestors to look up to or challenge. Arabic dramatists, on the other hand, had little or no indigenous traditions in which to ground themselves, and most relied on Western traditions to introduce the genre into Arabic literary tradition. Unlike poets who struggled to escape from hegemonic literary traditions, playwrights had to develop, nourish, and promote every indigenous form they could find, like al-samir and al-muqallid. This article investigates, compares, and critiques three attempts by Tawfiq al-Hakim, Yusuf Idris, and Najib Surur to simultaneously revitalize indigenous dramatic forms and employ Western theories and devices in order to forge what they viewed as a truly Egyptian drama. My investigation focuses mostly on drama because there has not been any worthwhile theorization of this issue in Egyptian theater and because very little of the playwrights’ theorization about theater has been put into practice. However, performance will occasionally be discussed whenever it intersects meaningfully with the issue of the invention of a truly Egyptian theater.


After colonization nominally ended, the conflict between the West and the former colonies has shifted into the cultural sphere. In the process of establishing new genres (drama and novel) and modernizing existing ones (poetry), modernism has been espoused by most anti-neocolonialist Egyptian authors. Postcolonial modernism, a hybrid cultural product that is neither solely derivative of nor completely independent from Western modernism, is characterized by confusingly enmeshed paradoxes. Postcolonial Egyptian intellectuals have opted to borrow cultural products from the very entity they resist. This anomaly has been intensified by their problematic relationship with their identity-bearing tradition, which has to be simultaneously preserved and interrogated. My research has espoused a two-way reading of texts, one which investigates both the indigenization of Western cultural products and the modernization of traditionalist ones. Unlike Western modernism, which has a straightforward, temporal relationship with the tradition it seeks to replace, postcolonial modernism is primarily occupied with identity preservation, solely attainable through a modernist engagement with tradition rather than its replacement.

My research has investigated and problematized continuity with and divergence from both indigenous tradition and Western modernism. My article entitled “Theorizing the Postcolonial Self: Arabo-Islamic Modernities, Modernisms, and Modernizations” published in The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies laid the theoretical groundwork for subsequent genre-specific investigations. Other published articles that tackled related issues include “Destructive Genesis: The Dialogism of Najīb Surūr’s Luzūm mā Yalzam” published in Al-‘Arabiyya: Journal of the American Association of the Teachers of Arabic, “Imagined Audience and the Reception of World Literature: Reading Brooklyn Heights and Chicago” published in Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, “Blind Obedience: Postcolonialism, Disability, and Democracy” published in The International Journal for Literary Humanities, and "Indigenization and Modernization: The Invention of a Truly Egyptian Drama" and “Crisis Poetry and the Crisis of Arabic Criticism” both published in The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies.

—Hala Ghoneim

Past Award Winners

Volume 16

Rethinking Nostalgia: Commodification Theory in Terms of the Allegory versus Symbol Debate

Mike Tadashi Sugimoto, The International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp. 11–24


Volume 15

Ecocriticism of Nineteenth-Century Taiwan in John Dodd’s “Formosa”

Li-Ru Lu, The International Journal of Literary Humanities, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp.1–8


Volume 14

From Egypt to the Arizona Desert to Places Still to Come: The Ongoing Meta-literary Journey of Eliza’s Escape to Freedom in "Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Kenneth DiMaggio, The International Journal of Literary Humanities, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp.41–49


Volume 13

Anticipating Nietzsche: Culture and Chaos in “The House of Usher” and "Wuthering Heights"

Fred Mensch, The International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp.1–15


Volume 11

Cross-Cultural Studies and Aesthetics Discursive Transformations in China

Li Qingben, The International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp.113–122


Volume 10

Role of Kant’s “Schematism of the Pure Concepts of Understanding” in Hannah Arendt’s Theory of Judgment

Tama Weisman, The International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp.1–13


Volume 9

VideoPoetry: Collaboration as Imaginative Method

Peter Lutze, James Armstrong, and Laura Woodworth-Ney, International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp.107–122


Volume 8

Cultivating Moral Sensibilities through Aesthetic Education: The Power of Everyday Cosmopolitanism

Suzanne S. Choo, International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.109–118