Fadi A. Bardawil

Visiting Research Scholar
Office Phone
114B Jones Hall

Fadi A. Bardawil is Associate Professor of Contemporary Arab Cultures in the department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University. Trained as a cultural anthropologist (Ph.D. Columbia University, 2010), his work also draws from, and engages questions arising from, critical theory, global intellectual history, and postcolonial theory. His research explores the different relationships cultural production (creating and thinking), political practice (acting) and generational dwelling (living) entertain in different sites (Global North/South).

Bardawil has conducted most of his ethnographic and historical research in Lebanon. Having said that, in analyzing the archive of critical Arabic thought, which has been produced in multiple languages (predominantly Arabic, French, English), in different geographical sites, and in conversation with multiple intellectual traditions his research moves beyond methodological nationalism and monolingualism.

His book Revolution and Disenchantment: Arab Marxism and the Binds of Emancipation focuses on how the 1960s Arab New Left addressed the question of mediation between theory and practice. The book moves beyond familiar reception narratives of Marxist thought in the postcolony and unidirectional notions of translation. It does so by engaging in ‘fieldwork in theory,’ which not only sheds light on how theory is produced, translated, and put to use, but also on how it seduces intellectuals, cultivates sensibilities, and authorizes political practice. By excavating the long-lost archive of the Arab New Left the book also rethinks dominant topoi of contemporary Arab thought and stages a conversation between this tradition and postcolonial and western critical theories.

Bardawil is currently working on a second monograph – Critical Theory in the Wake of the Arab Revolutions – which emerges out of a two-fold wager. First, to show how different traditions of critical theory can lose their initial insurrectionary spark with time and start operating like mythological frames that bestow a fixed meaning on the world, which work to exclude emergent practices from the domain of emancipatory politics. Second, to argue that kernels from these same traditions can be reactivated via the labors of conceptual translation, displacement and stretching to articulate a critical theory which is resonant with the emergence of newness in the world. At the heart of the book is an engagement with anti-colonial theory, postcolonial studies, and the works of Arab diasporic thinkers. It focuses in particular on the works of Talal Asad and Edward Said, who in their own distinct, and at times divergent ways, articulated positions on central questions– orientalism, imperialism, universalism, secularism – which became the ground on which much of the metropolitan critical scholarship on the Arab world rests.

In addition to English language publications, Bardawil is a frequent contributor to Arabic journals, e-zines and alternative media platforms. He has been contributing to the Arabic edition of the Journal for Palestine Studies since 2010 and has written for the Syrian opposition e-zine al-Jumhuriyya. Since October 2019, he has contributed weekly op-eds and longer essays to Megaphone, a Lebanese online independent multi-media platform.

Bardawil is actively engaged with the Arab Council for Social Sciences (Beirut, Lebanon). He co-steered a working on group on “the critique of power,” (2017-2021), organized and taught courses in its Summer Academy (2021) for graduate students and served on the organizing committee of its sixth conference (Producing Critical Knowledge in the Arab Region, 2023). He currently serves on the board of the International Consortium for Critical Theory Programs.

Prior to joining Duke University, he was an Assistant Professor in Arabic Cultures in the Department of Asian Studies, at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (2014-2019) and a Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences and Harper Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago (2011-2014). He was a EUME fellow in Berlin (2010-2011) and a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study (2016-2107).


Selected Publications



Revolution and Disenchantment: Arab Marxism and the Binds of Emancipation (Durham: Duke University Press, 2020)

Honorable Mention, Nikki Keddie Book Award, presented by the Middle East Studies Association (2021).


Articles and Book Chapters

“Talal Asad: Anthropologist of Empire,” Political and Legal Anthropology Review Online (Emergent Conversation
            Series, Forthcoming Summer 2023)

“The Conversation: Listening and Eavesdropping across Generations,” World Records Journal (Forthcoming,
            Summer 2023)

 “Critical Theory in a Minor Key to Take Stock of the Syrian Revolution,” in A Time for Critique,
ed.Didier Fassin and Bernard E. Harcourt (New York: Columbia UP, 2019):174-192.

Césaire with Adorno: Critical Theory and the Colonial Problem,” South Atlantic Quarterly,
            Vol. 117, no.4 (October 2018): 773-789. 

 “Sidelining Ideology: Arab Theory in the Metropole and Periphery, c. 1977, ” in Transformations of
            Modern Arabic Thought: Intellectual Culture after the Liberal Age,
ed. Jens
            Hanssen and Max Weiss (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2018), 163-180.

Theorizing Revolution, Apprehending Civil War: Leftist Political Analysis and Practice in Lebanon
London School of Economics Middle East Centre Papers Series, 16 (London: LSE
            Middle East Centre, 2016): 1-16.

 “Dreams of a Dual Birth: Socialist Lebanon’s World and Ours,” boundary 2, vol. 43, no. 3
            (August 2016): 313-335.

 “The Solitary Analyst of Doxas: An Interview with Talal Asad,” Comparative Studies of South
            Asia, Africa and the Middle East
, Vol. 36, no. 1 (May, 2016): 152-173.

 “The Inward Turn and its Vicissitudes: Culture, Society and Politics in Post-1967 Leftist
” in Local Politics and Contemporary Transformations in the Arab World:
            Governance beyond the Centre
, ed. Cilja Harders, Anja Hoffman and Malika
            Bouziane (London: Palgrave, 2013), 91-109.


Short Essays and Engaged Scholarship

Border Crossings: Arab Humanities at Home and Abroad,” in Arab Region Chapter of the World Humanities
            Report (A project emerging out of the World Humanities Conference, 2017 co-organized by
            UNESCO and The International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences (June 2023).

Dwelling as Resistance, dwelling as care,” American Ethnologist, vol 50, no.2(2023):196-197.

Moving Past Models,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, vol. 42 no. 2  

 In the wake of conscription: Compradors or Bricoleurs?” The Immanent Frame, June 15, 2021

Bardawil, Thomas Dodman and Céline Bessière, “The Institute at Crossroads: Gender, Work and

Family in a Scholar’s Paradise,” Institute for Advanced Studies Newsletter and Ideas (Spring 2021)

Memoirs of Arab Intellectuals: an Archive of Intellectual Practices,” Background Paper to the Third
            Arab Social Science Monitor Report (The Academic Universes of Social Scientists in the Arab
            World: Career Trajectories and Networks in Universities), lead author Ahmad Dallal, The Arab
            Council For the Social Science, December 2020.

The Arabic Freud: Discourse Interruptus,” A Commentary on Omnia’s el Shakry’s The Arabic Freud:
            Psychoanalysis and Islam in Modern Egypt, in Science and the soul: New inquiries into Islamic
            ethics, The Immanent Frame, October 11, 2018.

Bardawil, Thomas Dodman, Ian Jauslin, Pascal Marichalar, Klaus Oschema, et al, “Immigration

 Freedom, and the History of the Institute for Advanced Study,” Notices of the American

 Mathematical Society, American Mathematical Society, 2017, 64 (10), pp.1160-1168.

            Translated into Chinese and published in Mathematics, Academy of Mathematics and Systems
            Science (Chinese Academy of Science), 2018 Vol. 37 (4): 314-322

Forsaking the Syrian Revolution: An Anti-Imperialist Handbook,” al-Jumhuriyya, Dec. 22, 2016.
            Translated into Arabic.

Sunken Mythologies,” in Jadaliyya Ezine, February 18th, 2011. Reprinted the Working Paper Series of the
            Center for Middle Eastern and North African Politics, Freie Universität and translated into German
            and reprinted in Kulturaustausch’s issue on Enlightnement in the 21st Century: Zweifeln ist
            menschlich, Aufklärung im 21. Jahrhundert (IV, 2011).