American University of Beirut

The Lotus Project

“Who then will speak for the dumb, the oppressed, and the feeble, if those invested with the power of speech remain silent”. Leon Bloy (Quoted in Vol. 1. Issue 1, Afro-Asian Writings: African Literature of French Expression, by Mouloud Mammeri)

THE LOTUS PROJECT aims at documenting and examining the legacy, impact and current relevance of the works of the anti-colonial writers of the Afro-Asian Writer's Association (AAWA) and their journal Lotus, which was published in Arabic, English and French from Cairo and Beirut between the 1960s and the late 1980s.

In 1958 a group of African and Asian writers who spoke a multitude of languages met in Tashkent and formed the Afro-Asian Writer's Association (AAWA) to explore the ways in which literature, and culture more broadly, could be used to unify the former colonized peoples of Africa and Asia. Ten years later the organisation launched its journal Lotus, which was published from Beirut and Cairo in English, French and Arabic (between the 1960s and the late 1980s), with an emphasis on translating material from Lotus into the different languages of the Afro-Asian regions. In addition to advancing the emerging field of Afro-Asian literature, their aims were from the start political. The journal explicitly aimed to provide a discursive cultural platform for an anti-colonial politics by publishing a vast collection of poetry, short stories, art works, folklore, studies and positional papers. Its authors represented the broadest swath of the global South and included some of the most celebrated cultural, literary and political giants in their own countries as well as internationally. As a product of one of the most instrumental and transformative periods in the history of the global South, the legacy of Lotus, and its promise of liberation and unity through the fields of literature, art and culture remains very much alive and all the more so in our global present.

THE LOTUS PROJECT aims to engage this legacy by seeking to document and examine the journal’s role in the various fields it impacted, whether scholarly, cultural and/or political, and to explore its discursive salience and resonances (as a literary and cultural movement, a stylistic consciousness, and a prospectus for change and unity) in our contemporary context.

THE LOTUS PROJECT seeks the following phases of development: 
  1. ​The production of a consolidated archive (both hardcopy and digital) of extant Lotus journal issues.
  2. Hosting a series of lectures, workshops, seminars and conferences on Lotus and its legacy, by drawing interested scholars, artists, writers and activists.
  3. The AUB Press has approved the publication of a selection of Lotus anthologies, which will consist of poems, short stories, regionally focused studies and positional papers published in Lotus, and guest edited by experts in different fields. These will be produced in English, French and Arabic.

THE LOTUS PROJECT Team (In alphabetical order): 

  • Jenine Abboushi (Lebanese American University)
  • Ghassan Abu Sitta, (American University Hospital)
  • Osama Abusitta, (Curator of Art Exhibitions, Jordan).
  • Kadija Sesay (Editor, Sablelit)
  • Kaoukab Chebaro (Jafet Library, AUB)
  • Nader El-Bizri (Civilization Studies Program & Anis Makdisi Program in Literature, AUB)
  • Dahlia Gubara (Civilization Studies Program, AUB)
  • Munira Khayyat (Department of Anthropology, American University in Cairo)
  • Karim Makdisi (Department of Political Studies and Public Administration, AUB)
  • Firoze Manji (Pan-African Baraza, Forum for Inventing the Future, ThoughtWorks)
  • Tariq Mehmood (Department of English, AUB), 
  • Vijay Prashad (Center for American Studies and Research, AUB)
  • Hakem Rustom (Department of Anthropology, American University in Cairo)
  • Tariq Tell (Department of Political Studies and Public Administration, AUB)
  • Alexis Wick (Department of History, AUB)
  • Rami Zurayk (Department of Landscape and Ecosystem Management, AUB)

Contact: Tariq Mehmood:


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