Ghenwa Hayek

Associate Professor of Modern Arabic Literature
Pick Hall 228
PhD, Brown University, 2011
Teaching at UChicago since 2015

Academic Bio

I am a scholar of modern Arabic literature from the late nineteenth century to the present. I work on the entangled relationships between literary and cultural production, space and place, and identity formation in the modern Arab Middle East, with a specific focus on Lebanon. I am interested in using the formal techniques of literary scholarship to nuance and complicate our understandings of the processes through which these dynamic cultures understand, represent, and position themselves in the world.

In my first book, Beirut, Imagining the City: Space and Place in Lebanese Literature, I trace modes of imagining the city of Beirut in Lebanese fiction from the late nineteenth century to the present, using an interdisciplinary engagement with literary and cultural studies, critical geography and studies of nationalism and identity. I show how anxieties about belonging to the Lebanese state have been articulated through metaphors of dislocation in Beirut, and argue that the shifting literary dynamics of space and place offer ways to frame and to interrogate notions of national identity and belonging.

My current research project explores the affective impact of a century of ongoing emigration on Lebanese culture (c.1860-present), and the imaginaries and grammars that have been mobilized to express it across a wide range of cultural forms, from prose, to poetry, to cinema. I argue that diaspora is not a monolithic experience for emigrants, nor for their compatriots who choose to remain. Instead, diaspora is a complex constellation of experiences that gain and in turn produce specific cultural and social resonances. Because of the manner in which race, gender, and class anxieties intersect in its articulation, I pay specific attention to how Lebanon and its African diaspora have been yoked together in the Lebanese national imaginary since the late nineteenth century. I argue that a close reading of these different texts that engage the African diaspora exposes a racial dialectic that has been used to highlight and sustain anxieties about the nation and national identity.

I work with students with an interest in a wide array of topics across literary and cultural studies, and have advised undergraduate and graduate theses on a broad range of subjects from modern Iraqi fiction, to political and social issues in contemporary Lebanon, to comics, and Palestinian literature. I am enthusiastic to work with students interested in literary studies of the modern Middle East; in film; in cultural studies; in literature and the urban, and in comparative literature.  

Selected Publications

Recent & Regularly Taught Courses

  • ARAB 20658/30658, Narrating Conflict in Modern Arabic Literature
  • ARAB 40250 The Literary Legacies of War in Lebanon
  • NEHC 20655/30655, The City in Modern Arabic Literature
  • NEHC 30921 Arab America
Affiliated Departments and Centers: Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry
Subject Area: Arabic Language and Literature, Islamic Thought