Rhythms of the secular: The politics of modernizing Arab poetic forms

Khaled Furani*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In this article, I ethnographically trace how Arab, mainly Palestinian, poets have modernized their literary tradition during the last seven decades. Shortly after the 1948 Israeli occupation of Palestine, the reign of the classical Arabic ode collapsed, and the modern forms of free verse and, later, the prose poem became dominant. Aiming to contribute to the ethnography of modernity, I examine how poets have adopted and abandoned poetic forms by analyzing their narratives on rhythm. I explore the political salience of rhythmical transformations and argue that the secular has been a vital and complex force in the modern abandonment of metrical discipline. The secular affects how poets seek to modernize their rhythm, vocabulary, and relation to public. It also affects, I conclude, the ways in which anthropologists can and do write about modernity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-307
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Modernity and secularism
  • Palestine-Israel
  • Poetic form


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