Kurpershoek, Marcel

Senior Humanities Research Fellow Affiliation: NYU Abu Dhabi

Research Areas: Nabati poetry, a traditional art in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, and Bedouin culture

Marcel Kupershoek joined NYUAD in January 2015, as a Senior Research Fellow in the Humanities Research Fellowship Program.

His research subject is Nabati poetry, a traditional art in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, and Bedouin culture. Its roots go back to the pre-Islamic classical Arabic poetry of famous bards like Imru ‘l Qays. His fieldwork started in 1989 in central-Arabia, at the edge of the Empty Quarter, where he found illiterate poets who were great masters of this poetry’s more recent Nabati version, with vernacular elements. These poems he recorded and published with a translation, introductions, and glossaries in five volumes, Oral Poetry & Narratives from Central Arabia (Brill). He wrote about his fieldwork in Dutch books that were translated into English (Arabia of the Bedouins) and Arabic (al-Badawī al-Akhīr, The Last Bedouin, both Saqi Books).

At NYUAD he has published two further editions and translations, based on manuscripts and oral tradition, and fully explained and introduced, with the Library of Arabic Literature (LAL) of NYU Press: Arabian Satire (18th century) and Arabian Romantic (19th century). His forthcoming work with LAL is the first edition and translation of the 17th century poet who is considered the father of Emirati poetry and culture, al-Māyidī ibn Ẓāhir, and the stories of his saga that continue in Emirati oral circulation until today. His next book will be on poets from the Nafūd Desert in northern Arabia.

Also at NYUAD, he has designed and hosted two TV documentary series on Bedouin culture and poetry in Arabia with Al Arabiya TV (Dubai): “The Last Traveler” (ar-Raḥḥālat al-Akhīr), based on his book The Last Bedouin; and “Monuments of Poetry” (Qāmāt al-Qaṣīd), both in Arabic. In 2019 he produced two documentaries on Emirati poetry with Abu Dhabi TV.

He has participated in workshops at NYUAD and contributed articles on the subject in The National. He has worked as a Dutch diplomat in Egypt (where he did his PhD on modern Egyptian literature), Syria, Saudi Arabia, and as Netherlands ambassador in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Turkey, Poland, and as Dutch special representative for Syria based in Istanbul.

Further information about Marcel Kurpershoek's archive