Arabic Poetry, Nationalism and Social Change: Sudanese Colonial and Postcolonial Perspectives

Heather J. Sharkey

in Literature and Nation in the Middle East

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2006 | ISBN: 9780748620739
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653102 | DOI:
Arabic Poetry, Nationalism and Social Change: Sudanese Colonial and Postcolonial Perspectives

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Living in the political context shaped by European colonialism, Sudanese Arabic poets were not unique in pressing their art into the service of nationalism. By the time Mahjub wrote, poets in Egypt had been presiding over a nationalist literary nahda or ‘awakening’. In India, Bengali poets in Calcutta were conscious of their own literary awakening, or nabajagaran, while in the sub-Saharan Africa, poet-nationalists emerged after World War II. These commonalities were not accidental. In the Middle East, South Asia and Africa alike, poetry was in this period conducive and important to nationalist expression, for at least four reasons. First, poetry had traditionally served political and education functions; second, it ennobled the nation through the creative use of language and imagery; third, it served as a tool in anticolonial nationalist activity; and fourth, it can be a tool for social change. This chapter illustrates and elaborates on these ideas about poetry, nationalism and social change, by focusing on the history and development of Arabic culture in the Northern Sudan. Starting with the assumption that poetry played pivotal roles in Sudanese culture, and that its history can therefore reflect wider social and political trends, it assesses the influence of poetry on incipient Sudanese nationalism in the early twentieth century, as well as its continuing relevance in the decades which followed.

Keywords: Sudanese Arabic poets; nahda; poetry; nationalism; social change; Arabic culture; Northern Sudan; Sudanese culture; Sudanese nationalism

Chapter.  7781 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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