Special Issue "Arab Diaspora Literature Then and Now"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 December 2018).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Hanadi Al-Samman
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400781, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4781, USA
Interests: Contemporary Arabic Literature; Arab Feminism(s); Literary and Trauma Theory; Gender Studies; Queer Arab Studies; Autobiography;Travel;Fantasy; War Narratives; Postcolonial and Diasporic Literature, and Comparative Literature

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues

Arab Diaspora literature underwent numerous transformations since its initial articulation as Mahjar literature of North and South American émigrés in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The prolific literature currently produced in Europe, the Americas, and other parts of the world has expanded its longing for the homeland scope to articulate different modes of identity belonging and multifarious literary genres. We seek contributions that interrogate the ways in which contemporary Arab diaspora literature has stretched the concepts of utopia/dystopia, humanities/urban and geography studies, and gender and LGBTQ studies. Of particular interest are articles that examine the impact of war and the refugee crises on developing innovative literary, visual, digital, and cinematic texts that articulate personal and national traumas, question and redefine the positionality of Arab Diaspora literature within the context of ongoing geopolitical upheavals of the Arab world, the academia, and comparative and global studies at large.

Dr. Hanadi Al-Samman
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Mahjar literature
  • Geography and Diaspora studies
  • Palestinian, Iraqi, Syrian, Maghribi, and Gulf diaspora literature
  • Refugee studies, dialogue across the disciplines.

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
In Search of the Iraqi Other: Iraqi Fiction in Diaspora and the Discursive Reenactment of Ethno-Religious Identities
Humanities 2019, 8(4), 157; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8040157 - 06 Oct 2019
Abstract
In Iraqi fiction, the prerogative to narrate the experience of marginal identities, particularly ethno-religious ones, appeared only in the post-occupation era. Traditionally, secular Iraqi discourse struggled to openly address “sectarianism” due to the prevalent notion that sectarian identities are mutually exclusive and oppositional [...] Read more.
In Iraqi fiction, the prerogative to narrate the experience of marginal identities, particularly ethno-religious ones, appeared only in the post-occupation era. Traditionally, secular Iraqi discourse struggled to openly address “sectarianism” due to the prevalent notion that sectarian identities are mutually exclusive and oppositional to national identity. It is distinctly in post-2003 Iraq—more precisely, since the sectarian violence of 2006–2007 began to cut across class, civil society, and urban identities—that works which consciously refuse to depict normative Iraqi identities with their mainstream formulations became noticeable. We witness this development first in the Western diaspora, where Iraqi novels exhibit a fascination with the ethno-religious culture of the Iraqi margins or subalterns and impart a message of pluralistic secularism. This paper investigates the origins of the taboo that proscribed articulations of ethno-religious subjectivities in 20th-century Iraqi fiction, and then culls examples of recent diasporic Iraqi novels in which these subjectivities are encoded and amplified in distinct ways. In the diasporic novel, I argue, modern Iraqi intellectuals attain the conceptual and political distance necessary for contending retrospectively with their formative socialization experiences in Iraq. Through a new medium of marginalization—the diasporic experience of the authors themselves—they are equipped with a newfound desire to unmask subcultures in Iraq and to write more effectively about marginal aspects of Iraqi identity inside and outside the country. These new diasporic writings showcase processes of ethnic and religious socialization in the Iraqi public sphere. The result is the deconstruction of mainstream Iraqi identity narratives and the instrumentalization of marginal identities in a nonviolent struggle against sectarian violence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arab Diaspora Literature Then and Now)
Open AccessArticle
‘Mobile Phones and the Internet, Mate’: (Social) Media, Art, and Revolution in Omar Robert Hamilton’s The City Always Wins
Humanities 2019, 8(2), 86; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020086 - 28 Apr 2019
Abstract
In his novel about the Egyptian Revolution, The City Always Wins (2017), Omar Robert Hamilton shows that the alternative media possess mass engagement and global reach, while threatening power. However, over the course of his novel Hamilton traces the crushing of the ‘Twitter [...] Read more.
In his novel about the Egyptian Revolution, The City Always Wins (2017), Omar Robert Hamilton shows that the alternative media possess mass engagement and global reach, while threatening power. However, over the course of his novel Hamilton traces the crushing of the ‘Twitter revolution’ and the rise of a disillusionment and despair among the revolutionaries. This downward trajectory is typified both in the appellative journey from Hamilton’s non-profit media collective Mosireen—‘those who insist’—to the novel’s similar group, portentously named Chaos; and in the text’s reverse-chronological structure of ‘Tomorrow’, ‘Today’, and ‘Yesterday’. The author uses Twitter as an archive of an alternative, resistant history of revolutionary struggle; he embeds Tweets in the fabric of this experimental novel; and social media posts interrupt and punctuate the narrative as in the real life of his millennial characters. In this article I explore the novel’s representations of (social) media and the impact these have both on everyday lives and modes of protest. Despite promising beginnings, the internet ultimately turns ‘toxic’ and is depicted as a Pandora’s box of dis- and misinformation, conspiracy theories, fake news, and the manipulations of state media lackeys. A more lasting alternative to media may be ‘creative insurgency’. As such, I conclude this article by discussing what art can achieve that (citizen) journalism cannot, and how this applies to the novel’s portrayals of art, particularly music. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arab Diaspora Literature Then and Now)
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Open AccessArticle
Home as Love: Transcending Positionality in Leila Aboulela’s The Translator
Humanities 2019, 8(2), 72; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020072 - 09 Apr 2019
Abstract
Contrary to hegemonic Western representations of Muslim women as victims of Islam and Muslim men, Sudanese-Scottish Leila Aboulela’s The Translator depicts a Muslim woman, Sammar, whose sense of home and belonging is predicated on her romantic love for her late cousin and husband, [...] Read more.
Contrary to hegemonic Western representations of Muslim women as victims of Islam and Muslim men, Sudanese-Scottish Leila Aboulela’s The Translator depicts a Muslim woman, Sammar, whose sense of home and belonging is predicated on her romantic love for her late cousin and husband, Tarig. Therefore, after his death, she feels alienated from her home in Sudan and leaves for Aberdeen, Scotland, where she is ostracized because she is Muslim. While this Muslim identity proves indispensable for her survival and gradual healing, ultimate normalcy and belonging are restored when she reclaims the world of love and acceptance she has lost with Tarig’s death through a new relationship. The romantic love and the language she uses in this relationship allow Sammar to restore the sense of being and the belonging she had at home within the spaces she occupies in Aberdeen, ending her alienation and reclaiming her subjectivity. Using feminist theory and postcolonial theories of place and identity, as well as Lila Abu-Lughod’s notion of emotional discourse as a pragmatic act, this study investigates the novel’s depiction of place and identity as constructed entities embedded in emotion. This depiction, this study proposes, undermine various positionalities and binaries, such as self/other and east/west, allowing Aboulela to approach them more critically. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arab Diaspora Literature Then and Now)
Open AccessArticle
Mourid Barghouti’s I Saw Ramallah: The Impossible Return of the Displaced Autobiographer
Humanities 2019, 8(2), 69; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020069 - 30 Mar 2019
Abstract
This article examines and problematizes the idea of return in the autobiography of Mourid Barghouti’s Ra’aytu Ram Allah (I Saw Ramallah). After thirty years of living in Egypt and Budapest, Barghouti returned to his hometown Ramallah in 1996 for a short [...] Read more.
This article examines and problematizes the idea of return in the autobiography of Mourid Barghouti’s Ra’aytu Ram Allah (I Saw Ramallah). After thirty years of living in Egypt and Budapest, Barghouti returned to his hometown Ramallah in 1996 for a short visit that composes the core of his text. I investigate how Barghouti’s text unveils the Palestinian exile as a permanent state, but also as a challenged, resisted, or accepted the process of shifting people and places over time. By re-examining this autobiography within the frame of reading it as a displaced text, (or “displaced autobiography”) I show how I Saw Ramallah seeks to move beyond the state of exile and expose its aftermath, especially when the displaced person is back in his or her homeland. I also explore how the author’s return to his original place invokes the memory of a remote past, inviting a buried or forgotten selfhood. I argue that by recalling this past, which occurred before displacement, a displaced autobiographer like Barghouti attempts to “fix” Palestine as a land for the people who have memories and history in it. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arab Diaspora Literature Then and Now)
Open AccessArticle
A Dark, Inner Life and a Society in Crisis: Nina Bouraoui’s Standard
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 41; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010041 - 28 Feb 2019
Abstract
Situating close readings of Nina Bouraoui’s latest novel Standard (2014) within the context of a critique of neoliberalism and of the ongoing geopolitical uprisings in the Arab world, this essay presents the novel as a fine literary and affective exploration of personal concerns [...] Read more.
Situating close readings of Nina Bouraoui’s latest novel Standard (2014) within the context of a critique of neoliberalism and of the ongoing geopolitical uprisings in the Arab world, this essay presents the novel as a fine literary and affective exploration of personal concerns relating to sex, gender, and desire as well as a sociohistorical chronicle detailing how representations of personal and intimate relations may illuminate wider social ills together with the mechanism of contemporary political life. Drawing on critical work on affect by Sara Ahmed, Lauren Berlant, Judith Butler, and Judith/Jack Halberstam, this article argues that through its focus on affect, the text contributes to the unveiling and critical questioning of the biopolitical maneuvers that dispose life to precarity and of the ensuing desire for freedom, dignity, and rebellion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arab Diaspora Literature Then and Now)
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