Elisabetta Benigni: Making the Nahda and the Risorgimento
Making the Nahda and the Risorgimento in the 19th and 20th Century in Italy and Egypt
The numerous evocations in the writings of 19th century Arab intellectuals of the Italian example of the Risorgimento, the fight for liberation of Italy and the rise of a nationalism invite us to rethink the historiographical paradigm of the Italian Risorgimento not as an isolated national phenomenon, born within the borders of the Peninsula and culminating in the unification of the country, but rather as a collective Mediterranean phenomenon. At almost the same time as the Risorgimento, Egyptian intellectuals were developing their own discourse of al-Nahḍa, a word often mistranslated as modernity but which can be aptly defined as Renaissance or, to draw a parallel to the Italian case, Risorgimento. In my work I examine the emergence of a shared discourse in the 19th century and across the Mediterranean, which advocated a cultural reawakening and national solidarity under various names: Renaissance, Risorgimento, Nahḍa. Mediterranean nationalisms were, in this sense, mutually influenced and at the same time imbued with the common spirit of a collective struggle. My work investigates the formation of a Mediterranean Risorgimento/Nahḍa discourse by looking specifically at the cultural production of translations, the agency of the individual translators, their networks across the Mediterranean, their background and the way this influenced the recreation of their works.
Elisabetta Benigni is Assistant Professor of Arabic and Mediterranean Literature at the University of Turin. Her research explores South European and Arabic literary and intellectual encounters during the pre-colonial and colonial periods. She was a fellow of the Italian Academy, Columbia University, and of the research programme “Zukunftsphilologie: Revisiting the Canons of Textual Scholarship”, Freie Universität Berlin. Her publications include studies on Arabic translations and readings of Dante and Machiavelli in the 19th and 20th century. She has also published on Italian translations of the Thousand and one Nights against the backdrop of the Italian colonial history of Libya. She is currently completing a monograph on modern Arabic prison literature.