Cultural Personality of the Year: Abdullah Al-Ghathami

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

For his work in criticism, women’s studies, and critical thinking, Abdullah Al-Ghathami is the Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s honoree.

Abdullah Al-Ghathami. Image: Sheikh Zayed Book Award

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Bin Tamim: ‘A Pillar of Literary and Cultural Criticism’
As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award has announced its 2022 winners previously in all but one category: Cultural Personality of the Year.

Today (May 19), the program has identified its 2022 Cultural Personality of the Year: Abdullah Al-Ghathami, the Saudi Arabian educator in criticism and theory. The accolade is bestowed on him, according to the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, “in recognition of his notable contributions to cultural movements in the region and the Arab world.”

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award—organized and administered by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (part of the emirate’s Department of Culture and Tourism) under the direction of Dr. Ali Bin Tamim— reserves its most generous award for this category of a total nine.

The winner of the Cultural Personality of the Year: Abdullah Al-Ghathami honor receives 1 million UAE Dirhams (US$272,286) from a total 7-million-dirham purse (US$1.9 million)—the largesse of one of the world’s richest prize programs. All winners in the competition receive gold medals.

Dr. Ali Bin Tamim

In making the announcement today, Bin Tamim is quoted, saying, “The Sheikh Zayed Book Award is celebrating a renowned and highly accomplished literary figure today, one with an extensive history and commendable dedication, who led the charge in underlining the significant role that criticism plays in the broader cultural movement.

“With his discerning and deeply knowledgeable vision, Dr. Al-Ghathami highlighted the accomplishments of Arab culture.

“He delved deep into its sciences, drew from its theories, and presented modern and contemporary critical theses that covered a range of intellectual aspects.

“Dr. Al-Ghathami shed light on critical issues as a critic, thinker, philosopher, and academic with a deep-seated connection to Arab culture, which forms the basis for his analysis and research. He has undoubtedly established himself as a pillar of literary and cultural criticism in the Arab world.”

‘Strengthening the Foundations of Criticism’

The Zayed Award Scientific Committee and its board of trustees chose Al-Ghathami ‘for his efforts in the fields of cultural criticism, women’s studies, poetry and critical thinking.

Since the mid-1980s, the award program says, “He has spearheaded a major shift in the Arab critical discourse.

“The series of books he authored has helped strengthen the foundations of modern Arab literary and cultural criticism,” the group statement has it, “opening new paths to discuss poetic heritage and modern creative Arabic works by reinterpreting them from a critical perspective.”

The rationale mentions:

  • Al- Al-Khatee’a wal Takfeer (Sin and Atonement);
  • AlNaqed Al Thaqafi fee Qera’at Al Ansaq Al Thaqafiya (Cultural Criticism and the Reading of Arab Cultural Discourses);
  • Tashreeh an-Nass (Anatomy of a Text); Al-Mawqif min al-Hadatha (The Attitude Towards Modernity)
  • Al-Kitaba Did al-Kitaba (Writing Against Writing)

Those writings and others, the Sheikh Zayed Book Award commendation says, “helped strengthen the foundations of modern Arab literary and cultural criticism, opening new paths to discuss poetic heritage and modern creative Arabic works by reinterpreting them from a critical perspective.”

Al-Ghathami is considered “a pioneer of a form of modernity that does not advocate a break in knowledge, but rather stems from a belief in re-reading heritage works with a critical methodology that enriches it and sheds light on its creativity.”

‘At the Fore of the Criticial Field’

Born in Unaizah, Saudi Arabia, in 1947, Al-Ghathami worked as professor of criticism and theory on the faculty of arts in the department of Arabic at King Saud University.

His academic and research efforts have shed light on women’s studies in what’s often perceived as the catalyst that launched the subject in the Arab world. His work is also considered to be a foundational pillar of Arab critical and cultural discourse, promoting it onto the Arab academic scene.

Al-Ghathami has also cemented scientific and cultural credentials in the fields of criticism, philosophy,and reason, in which he has authored an array of books and studies, including:

  • Ma’alaat al-Falsafa: Min al-Falsafa ila al-Nathariya (The Consequences of Philosophy: From Philosophy to Theory)
  • Al-Qabeela wal-Qaba’iliyya aw Hawiyyaat ma baad al-Hadatha (Tribe and Tribalism, or Post-Modern Identities)

“Over his long career of more than five decades,” the Zayed Award program writes today, “Abdullah Al-Ghathami has established a pioneering knowledge movement, drawing attention to the importance of cultural criticism. He has stood out in numerous fields, started dialogues, and explored a host of issues and topics that helped cement his status at the fore of the critical field in the Arab region.

“Selecting Abdullah Al-Ghathami as Cultural Personality of the Year for the 16th Sheikh Zayed Book Award,” the announcement concludes, “sheds renewed light on his work and his writings, which have highlighted an array of pivotal issues in the cultural and intellectual movement.”

This is Publishing Perspectives’ 94th awards report published in the 96 days since our 2022 operations began on January 3.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is here, more on Arabic literature is here, and more on translation is here. More from us on publishing and book awards in the international industry is here

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center and the Sheikh Zayed Book Award

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.