The Sheikh Zayed Book Award (SZBA) – organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), part of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), has named Dr Abdullah Al-Ghathami as the Cultural Focus Personality for its 16th edition in recognition of his notable contributions to cultural movements in the region and the Arab world.
The SZBA Scientific Committee and its Board of Trustees chose Dr Al-Ghathami for his efforts in the fields of cultural criticism, women’s studies, poetry and critical thinking. Since the mid-1980s, he has spearheaded a major shift in the Arab critical discourse. The series of books he authored – notably, 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), and Al-Kitaba Did al-Kitaba (Writing Against Writing), among others – 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. Dr Al-Ghathami was one of the pioneers of a form of modernity that does not advocate a break in knowledge but rather stems from a belief in rereading heritage works with a critical methodology that enriches them and sheds light on their creativity.
Born in the city of Unaizah, Saudi Arabia in 1947, Dr Al-Ghathami worked as a Professor of Criticism and Theory at the Faculty of Arts Department of the Arabic Language at King Saud University. His academic and research efforts shed light on women’s studies in what is 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. Dr Al-Ghathami has also cemented scientific and cultural credentials in the fields of criticism, philosophy and reason, where he 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) and Al-Qabeela wal-Qaba’iliyya aw Hawiyyaat ma baad al-Hadatha (Tribe and Tribalism or Post-Modern Identities).
Over his long career spanning more than five decades, Dr Abdullah Al-Ghathami established a pioneering knowledge movement, drawing attention to the importance of cultural criticism. He 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 Dr Al-Ghathami as the Cultural Focus Personality for the 16th Sheikh Zayed Book Award sheds renewed light on his work and his writings, which highlighted an array of pivotal issues in the cultural and intellectual movement.
HE Dr Ali Bin Tamim, SZBA Secretary-General and Chairman of the ALC, said: “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.”