Conference : “Screening Crime in the Arab World”
4 – 6 May 2023
Saint Joseph University of Beirut
This conference will focus on Arab crime films and TV series, by which are meant, broadly, works of fiction centering on crimes, criminals and criminal investigations (by law enforcement agencies or ordinary citizens), from the beginning of Arab cinema to the present. The term “Arab” is understood in a broad sense, as referring to any film or series produced in the Arab world and/or having Arabic as a main language.
The aim of the conference is not to impose a rigid taxonomy on these crime dramas, but to read them in their historical contexts of production and reception and to reflect on the multiple dimensions – narrative, cultural, social, legal, political, etc. – of crime and, where appropriate, of criminal investigations in Arab movies/shows.
The film industry in the Arab world took up the themes of crime and its investigation from an early stage. Since its rise in the 1950s, Arab cinema, particularly in Nasser’s Egypt, has featured a plethora of crimes, criminals, magistrates and investigators. The themes and atmospheres of Arab crime films are often reminiscent of American or French film noir: featuring black-and-white cinematography and dramatic music, mixing melodramatic crime stories (often murder stories) with social realism, it gives pride of place to desperate situations in which injustice, disorientation, madness and fate take centre stage.
The same applies to TV series, which were very successful long before the development of pay platforms and complex series, and often foreground criminal investigations. Parolin’s observation about Egyptian series applies to the field in general: “Enigmas or crimes often constitute the central narrative device of whole shows that are not necessarily identified as belonging to the same genre” (Parolin 2021a). The prominence of these enigmas or crimes is today reinforced by the emergence of platforms such as Shahid VIP, which were conceived under the influence of Netflix. These contribute to revitalize popular genres and to root the crime genre in the television habits of Arab audiences.
The substantial corpus of noir films and police or crime series, their place in the movie/TV landscapes of the Arab world, the formal or aesthetic expressiveness to which they aspire, the sometimes complex and elaborate discourses which they formulate on the world of crime, their appropriation of thematic or stylistic motifs from other cinemas (notably Hollywood), their critical reception and popular success: all these aspects invite us to think of them in terms of genre and to investigate their contexts, their codes, their characteristics, as well as the variety of readings they allow.
A few cinematic and serial milestones
Early cinematic representations of crime include such milestones as Rayā wa Sakīna (Raya and Sakina, 1953) or al-Waḥš (The Monster, 1954) by director Salah Abou Sayf, based on scripts by Naguib Mahfouz. Although investigations may be haphazard, the pursuit of the culprit at the head of an organized criminal system and the suspense that characterise them bring them close to the gangster film or film noir. These films also show that, while rooted in a local context, the cinema of the Egyptian classical period explicitly refers to certain Hollywood authors and codes. This trend can also be seen in Youssef Chahine’s Bāb al-ḥadīd (Cairo Station, 1957) or al-Iḫtiyār (The Choice, 1971). More recently, the German-Danish-Swedish production The Nile Hilton Incident, a multi- award-winning film by Swedish-Egyptian director Tarik Saleh (2017), has been largely perceived as “true film noir” in the Egyptian style (Jean-François Rauger, Le Monde, 2017).
Crime films appeared in the Maghreb in the mid-1970s, but only gained international visibility at the turn of the millennium. Thus Nour-Eddine Lakhmari’s Casanegra (2008, in Moroccan dialect) or Faouzi Bensaïdi’s Bay‛ al-mawt (Death for Sale, 2011) are powerful testimonies to the breakdowns and vulnerabilities of Arab societies.
Literature helps to fuel the cinema with tales of enigmatic murders. The Franco-Algerian film Morituri (2007), directed by Okacha Touita, is adapted from the novel of the same name by the writer Yasmina Khadra. The Egyptian Ahmad Mourad wrote the screenplays for the films adapted from his own noir novels: al-Fīl al-azraq (The Blue Elephant, 2014) and Turāb al-mās (Diamond Dust, 2018), directed by Marwan Hamed. In Morocco, Abdulillah Hamdoushi wrote a screenplay based on his novel al-Ḥanaš (al-Ḥanaš, 2017).
Crime drama on television is also on the rise in some Arab countries, especially during Ramadan. This is the case, for instance, with Egyptian series such as Man al-ǧānī? (Who is the culprit?, 2015); Istīfā (Preliminary Report, 2015); Kalabš (Handcuffs, 2017) or Ḍidd maǧhūl (Unsolved Case, 2018). In Syria, Luġz al-ǧarīma (The Mystery of Murder, 2003); Ḫaṭṭ al-nihāya (The Path to the End, 2002-2017) or Kašf al-aqni’a (The Masks Fall, Ramadan 2011) are among the leading shows. In Morocco, al-Qaḍiyya (The Affair, 2006-2007), al-Ġūl (The Ogre, 2016) or al-Sirr al-madfūn (The Buried Secret, Ramadan 2020) illustrate the criminal phenomenon. And the list is long.
Guidelines for conference papers
The following dimensions and issues may be addressed during the conference:
- The noir/crime/detective dimensions of Arab films and series. What kinds of crimes are committed? What are the roles/functions of criminals, victims and investigators? On what principles and methods are investigations based and what do they reveal? What are the value systems, the ideologies, the historical, socio-political, economic and psychological motives, the dominant points of view, the visual style, the narrative characteristics of these crime films and series?
- The place and popularity of the crime genre in the production and distribution systems of Arab films and series, possibly in comparison with those of other countries within the region and beyond.
- The relationship with true crime. Some real stories have made the headlines and given rise to fictional adaptations – whether in films, radio or TV shows – such as the famous case of the two sisters Rayā and Sakīna (1919-1920) or, more recently, the murder of Suzanne Tamim (2008), which has inspired a number of television series, including Layālī (2009), Ahl Cairo (2010), al-Murāfaʿa (2014) or the above-mentioned film The Nile Hilton Incident. It would be interesting to address the perceptions of such cases, their fictional narrativization, the link between crime fiction and history, or to investigate the social contexts in which such adaptations are rooted.
- The many interactions and relationships between Arab crime films/series and foreign works. One may, for example, seek to shed light on their kinship with film noir or series in other countries, as well as on the specific modalities of investigation in the case of transnational transpositions, as for example in such shows as Grānd Hotel (2016) adapted from the Spanish series Gran Hotel, or Zayy iš-Šams (2017) adapted from the Italian Sorelle.
- The comparative study of literary crime fiction and its film or television adaptations. Major directors such as Salah Abou Sayf or Tawfiq Saleh were inspired by novels by Naguib Mahfouz (al-Liṣṣ wa-l-Kilāb, 1962) or Tawfiq al-Hakim (Yawmiyyāt nāʾib fī l- aryāf, 1969). (Parolin 2021b).
- The role of writers and screenwriters in the creation of these works and in the cumulative perception of a noir/crime/police genre in the Arab world.
Presentations may choose to take a panoramic view, or to focus on a particular country or historical period, or on specific creators or works, all of which are relevant to the conference.
Abstracts in Arabic, English or French and of no more than 400 words, should be received by 15 May 2022. They should include, in a Word document, the author’s name, position, institution, e-mail address and a brief biographical note.
They should be sent to Katia Ghosn: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org and to Benoît Tadié: email@example.com
Early June 2022: sending of the scientific committee’s opinion to the authors for acceptance of the communication proposal.
Participants are responsible for their own transport and hotel expenses. They are invited to ask their research center for reimbursement.
Scientific Committee: Karl Akiki (Saint Joseph University of Beirut) ; Katia Ghosn (Paris 8 University) ; Toufic El-Khoury (Saint Joseph University of Beirut) ; Gianluca Parolin (Aga Khan University) ; Benoît Tadié (Rennes 2 University) ; Dork Zabunyan (Paris 8 University).
Bibliographie indicative / Select bibliography
- Ahmed Bedjaoui et Michel Serceau (dir.), Les cinémas arabes et la littérature, Paris, L’Harmattan, collection Images Plurielles, 2019.
- Pierre Beylot et Geneviève Sellier (dir.), Les séries policières, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2004.
- Luc Boltanski, Énigmes et complots, Paris, Gallimard, 2012.
- Raymond Borde et Étienne Chaumeton, Panorama du film noir américain (1941-1953) (1955), Paris, Flammarion, 2004.
- Denise Brahimi, 50 ans de cinéma maghrébin, Paris, Minerve, 2009.
- Ian Cameron (ed.) The Movie Book of Film Noir, Londres, Studio Vista, 1992.
- Claude-Michel Cluny, Dictionnaire des nouveaux cinémas arabes, Paris, Sindbad, 1978.
- El-Khoury Toufic, Aliénation et déterminisme dans le film noir classique (1944-1949), Paris, L’Harmattan, collection Champs Visuels, 2020.
- Jennifer Fay et Justus Nieland, Film Noir. Hard-Boiled Modernity and the Cultures of Globalisation, Londres et New York, Routledge, 2010.
- Jane Gaffney, «The Egyptian Cinema: Industry and Art in a Changing Society », in Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol.9, N°1, Belmont, 1987, p. 53-75.
- Katia Ghosn et Benoît Tadié (dir.), Le récit policier arabe/Arabic Crime Fiction, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz verlag, 2021.
- Terri Ginsberg and Chris Lippard (eds.), Historical Dictionary: Middle Eastern Cinema, Lanham, Scarecrow Press, 2010.
- Nathaniel Greenberg, The Aesthetic of Revolution in the Film and Literature of Naguib Mahfouz (1952-1967), Lanham/Londres, Lexington Books, 2014.
- Sebastien Layerle et Monique Martineau-Hennebelle (dir.), « Chroniques de la naissance du cinéma algérien », Collection CinémAction, N°166, Charles Corlet, 2018.
- Berrah Mourry (dir.), « Les cinémas arabes », Éditions Charles Corlet, collection CinémAction, N°43, 1987.
- Fawzī Nāǧī, Waqāʾiʿ būlīsiyya fī l-sīnimā, Le Caire, GEBO, 2012.
- Gianluca Parolin, « Bunyat al-Tahqîq fî ‘Yawmiyyât Nâʾib fî ’l-Aryâf’ Bayna al-Riwâya (1937) wa-l-Fîlm (1969) », in Salmā Mubārak & Walīd al-Ḫaššāb (eds.), al-Iqtibās: Min al-adab ilā al- sīnimā. Maḥaṭṭāt fī tārīḫ muštarak, Le Caire, al-Marāyā, 2021c, p. 141-162.
- Thomas Pillard, Le film noir français face aux bouleversements de la France d’après-guerre (1946-1960), Nantes, Éditions Joseph K, 2014.
- Samir Saif, Aflām al-ḥaraka fī l-sīnimā al-miṣriyya. 1952-1975, Le Caire, General Egyptian Book Organization, 1970.
- Galāl al-Šarqāwī, Risāla fī tārīḫ al-sīnimā al-‛arabiyya, Le Caire, General Egyptian Book organization, 1970.
- Alain Silver et Elizabeth Ward (dir.), Film Noir. An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style (1979), New York, The Overlook Press, 1992.
- Dominique Sipière, Le récit dans les séries policières : d’Hercule Poirot à Mentalist, Paris, Arman Colin, 2018.
- Yves Thoraval, Regards sur le cinéma égyptien, Beyrouth, Dār al-Mašriq, 1975.
- Sue Turnbull, The TV Crime Drama, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
- Shafik Viola, Arab Cinema. History and Cultural Identity, Le Caire, The American University in Cairo Press, 1998 (2007).
- Magda Wassef (dir.), Égypte. 100 ans de cinéma, Paris, Institut du monde arabe, 1995.
- Collectif, « al-Sīnimā al-maġribiyya », Maǧallat Āfāq, n° 85-86, Rabat, Manšūrāt Ittiḥād kuttāb al-Maġrib, juin 2014.
CFP: Global Histories of Crime Fiction: Redefining a Popular Genre
American Comparative Literature Association 2022 Annual Meeting, 15-18 June
National Taiwan Normal University
Seminar organisers: Jesper Gulddal (University of Newcastle, Australia) and Stewart King (Monash University)
Crime fiction today is a uniquely global genre in the sense of being written, published, sold and read on a significant scale on all continents and in almost every country. It is also global in the sense that it serves across a wide range of locations as an important vehicle for investigating and interrogating relationships between law, crime and justice. This global orientation challenges the persistent notion that crime fiction is predominantly a UK and US phenomenon and that other crime fiction traditions are either peripheral or derivative. Publishers have already embraced the idea of world crime fiction, as evidenced by the large number of crime fiction translations, not only with English as the source or target language, but also between other languages. Similarly, readers around the world have few concerns about reading foreign crime novels, and the combination of familiar forms and unfamiliar, “exotic” content has become one of the major selling points of global crime writing. The scholarly literature has been slow in catching up with these developments, but the last few years have seen lively debate around the concept of crime fiction as world literature. Following on from these discussions, this seminar seeks to overcome one of the last bastions of conventional crime fiction scholarship, namely the tendency to write the history of crime fiction either as the succession of canonical Anglophone formats (classic, hardboiled, etc.) or as accounts of individual national traditions. We pose the question, how can we globalise the historical narratives around crime fiction and move towards an account of the genre that recognises its global diversity and transnational connections.
We welcome papers dealing with any aspects of world crime fiction and the historiographical challenges it presents. Suggested focal points include:
- The historiographical challenges presented by world crime fiction
- Autochthonous crime fiction traditions in China, Japan, India, the Arab world and elsewhere
- Appropriations and localisations of canonical English-language formats around the world
- Translation as a means of localising crime fiction
- Lateral circulations of crime fiction that bypass the Anglosphere (such as between China, Japan and Korea, in the Mediterranean, and within the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War)
- Comparative perspectives on world crime fiction
- Formal innovation and hybridisation at the “periphery”
- Indigenous and First Nations crime fiction
- Reinterpreting British and American crime fiction from a transnational perspective
- Digital and data-driven approaches to world crime fiction
Conference website: https://www.acla.org/annual-meeting-2022
Submit a paper proposal here: https://www.acla.org/node/add/paper
To see the full programme and book of abstracts, please visit the conference website
The Centre Aixois d’Etudes Romanes (Aix-Marseille University) calls for papers for its 2nd conference on Caribbean Crime Fiction in Spanish, French and English. The conference will take place on May 28 & 29, 2020, in Aix-en-Provence.
All submissions must be received by 30 September 2019.
Learn more, including how to submit your paper here , or contact the organisers :
Nelly Rajaonarivelo : firstname.lastname@example.org
Dante Barrientos Tecún : email@example.com
To see the full call (and some impressive art), click here
Belfast-born author Henrietta McKervey will be reading at the Delicate Infractions Conference this week end. Her third novel, Violet Hill, was published by Hachette Ireland in 2018.
Here is a taster:
December 1918: Post-War London is grieving, the city a wound whose dressing was taken off too soon. Violet Hill, the only female private detective in the city, is hired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s business manager to uncover spiritual trickery he believes is deceiving his employer.
January 2018: Susanna is a super-recogniser, one of an elite Met Police team of officers with extraordinary powers for facial recognition. When a freak injury causes her unusual ability to suddenly disappear, a dangerous criminal whom she no longer recognises decides to close in.
More information on the conference can be found here
The programme is available here :
“Unified in Diversity?”
The Promotion and Reception of Europeanness in Contemporary Crime Fiction
Call for abstracts
We invite case studies in literary fiction, film and television series. For example, we are looking for analyses of cross-media phenomena such as Inspector Montalbano, the Millenium trilogy, or Babylon Berlin, which originated from literary works and became transnationally successful television series. Such cases would be especially interesting since the market logic for audiences in literary and screen reception is still markedly different. We are also particularly interested in case studies about television series such as The Team, Crossing Lines, or Eurocops, whose presumed Europeanness is already embedded in their production process.
A two-day conference organized in Paris at the Inalco and the Institut du Monde Arabe on March 28th and 29th will discuss Arabic crime narratives, their distinctive features and their conditions of existence and reception in the Arabic world. While a number of Literary works from the classical period represent thieves and criminals, and deal with criminal cases, crime fiction as a recognized genre is relatively recent in Arabic literature. The logico-deductive inquiry, as well as the judicial inquiry are mostly absent. The emergence and critical appraisal of Arabic Noir only really started in the past decades. International scholars from various disciplines will approach Arabic crime fiction and highlight its diversity and potential.
Full program (in French) here: