Home 5 Articles and Reports 5 Did keynotes go too far at Jordan seminar?

Did keynotes go too far at Jordan seminar?

by | Oct 8, 2019 | Articles and Reports

By Roger Tagholm

 

Two of the keynote addresses at the International Publishers Association (IPA) Middle East seminar in Jordan at the end of September made for uncomfortable listening.  First the Palestinian poet and writer Mourid Barghouti demolished Arab publishing, describing it as being in crisis; then the Lebanese writer and broadcaster Joumana Haddad set about demolishing the Arab character.

If either of the speaker’s speeches had been made by a non-Arab, there would have been an outcry, especially Haddad’s.  Just imagine if President Macron of France or the German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said this: “The average Arab person grows personally, educationally, culturally, socially and politically, loaded with traditional, ritual, emotional and religious values and norms that believe in accepting blindly, and do not give critical reason great attention or weight.”

She continued: “Is it not precisely for this reason, the restriction of mind, that we Arabs accept our backwardness in the fields of politics, governance, power, society and economy.  Is it not the reason why we accept being governed by multifaceted military, security, financial and religious dictatorships?’

Can you imagine a non-Arab public figure talking about ‘Arab backwardness’?  Put those words into Chinese leader Xi Jinping‘s mouth, or any other world leader (of course, you could argue that Trump talks in this manner frequently lol, or rather not lol) and you have an international incident on your hands.

In retrospect, both speakers perhaps went too far in order to make a point.  Sharjah is the first Gulf city to be named UNESCO World Book Capital, a title it may not have received if publishing – at least in this part of the Arab World – was really as bad as Barghouti maintains.  Equally, publishers from across the region have been meeting informally in a loose group called ‘Publishers for the Future of Publishing’  to discuss long-standing concerns such as piracy, so there is action taking place to tackle the ‘crisis’ that Barghouti mentioned.

Similarly, when Haddad maintains that “the absence of the critical mind puts our Arab human being outside the realms of the imagination, art, literature, poetry, philosophy and thought”, this is surely to ignore the long and noble tradition of Arab poetry that has certainly exercised the imagination across the centuries.

But on one point everyone can agree: both addresses made for thought-provoking and provocative starts to each day and for that the IPA and the Union of Jordanian Publishers deserve praise.

Recent News

22Feb
YS Chi Wins 2024 Book Fair Lifetime Award

YS Chi Wins 2024 Book Fair Lifetime Award

YoungSuk “YS” Chi, Chairman of Elsevier and the Association of American Publishers, has been announced as the recipient of the 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award by the London Book Fair.   This prestigious award acknowledges individuals who have made a significant impact on the global book industry. It is open to professionals such as publishers, agents, […]

21Feb
Muscat Book Fair: Global Stories, Local Spotlight

Muscat Book Fair: Global Stories, Local Spotlight

The 28th installment of the Muscat International Book Fair commenced on February 21 at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre, featuring an extensive assortment of over 600,000 titles from 34 countries. This year’s focal point was on Palestine, exploring various facets of the crisis, while the overarching theme revolved around artificial intelligence, encompassing numerous events […]

21Feb
Booksellers Call for Gaza Ceasefire

Booksellers Call for Gaza Ceasefire

There were calls for the American Booksellers Association (ABA) to address the situation in Gaza at the organisation’s annual Winters’s Institute meeting, this year held in Cincinnati. At various sessions, booksellers voiced their frustration that the body has, so far, not backed calls for a ceasefire.  One member, identifying as “a Jewish person for Palestine,” […]

Related Posts

Bookstores’ role in today’s Enlightenment

Bookstores’ role in today’s Enlightenment

Bookstores, and in particular independent bookstores, play a role similar to that of coffee shops during the European Enlightenment – that is the interesting view of Connecticut English professor Rick Magee's writing in CT Insider.   He writes: ‘One of the driving...

China Room by Sunjeev Sahota – Book Review

China Room by Sunjeev Sahota – Book Review

China Room is a tale of injustice that narrates the story of an alienated youth who travels to remote rural India, where his great-grandmother lived in 1929, at 18, he is in the throes of heroin addiction. His account of a summer spent in rural Punjab is interspersed...

Books Published in January 2024

Books Published in January 2024

  Glorious Exploits by Ferdia Lennon The year is 412 BC, and Sicilian potters Lampo and Gelon are planning to put on a play – of Euripides’ Medea no less. Who better to cast in it than the thousands of Athenian men who lie about starving and practically boiling...

Previous Next
Close
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this

Pin It on Pinterest