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Alexandrian CosmopolitanismAn Archive$
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Hala Halim

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823251766

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823251766.001.0001

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Of Hellenized Cosmopolitanism and Colonial Subalternity

Of Hellenized Cosmopolitanism and Colonial Subalternity

(p.120) Chapter Two Of Hellenized Cosmopolitanism and Colonial Subalternity
Alexandrian Cosmopolitanism

E. M. Forster

Fordham University Press

The chapter tackles E. M. Forster's Egyptian writings to bring out their almost diametrically opposed positions and thus open up both the overdetermination of genre and the relationship between colonialism and cosmopolitanism at stake. Applying perspectives from narratology and the guidebook genre to Alexandria: A History and a Guide, the chapter argues that the book's historiography and depiction of space are imperial. Informed by Forster's own ambivalent secularism, the spiritual history of the city follows a tragic “emplotment” in that it identifies the syncretic humanism of early Christianity as the high point, then traces a decline under the Copts unto a final fall with the advent of Islam. To counter this Eurocentric/Hellenocentric narrative, the chapter foregrounds Islamic Neoplatonism and Sufism, the latter in connection to mystics of Andalusian/Maghrebian origin associated with the mosques of the elided Arabo-Islamic Alexandria. Whereas Alexandria, in keeping with the imperial genealogy of the guidebook genre, is complicit with British colonialism in Egypt, Forster coextensively produced anti-colonial texts that sought to bear witness to Egyptian subalternity. The anti-colonial commentary of Forster's political tract “Notes on Egypt” is read in terms of the homoerotic relationship he shared with Mohamed El-Adl, the Egyptian tram conductor.

Keywords:   Historiography, Guidebooks, Syncretism, Hellenocentrism, Sufism, Islamic Neoplatonism, Subalternity, Mohamed El-Adl

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