The swift rise of a new guard of cultural thinkers from the margins of the Arab world during the 1970s amounts to one of the most striking yet forgotten episodes in postcolonial Arab thought. Coming primarily from Morocco, these intellectuals and activists rejected a long-seated assumption prevalent among the ranks of Arab nationalists according to which one must disown their past traditions in order to become modern. The advent of cultural thinkers posed a grave challenge to this cherished evaluation, calling into question the agenda of political decolonization that Arab nationalists had propounded. How did the new intellectual guard of cultural thinkers come to assume such intellectual power? And what change did they make in the intellectual field and Arab conversation in general? Exploring these questions, this article establishes a definitive distinction between categories of postcolonial actors that were originally clumped together. It demonstrates that the voices shaping the new world of the Arab peoples are increasingly skeptical of political decolonization of the Arab nationalists and more in sync with Moroccan cultural thinkers who take pride in their cultural repertoire and traditions.

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