World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies
Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010< Back to SUMMARY OF PANELS
· Date: THU, 22 / 9 -11 am
· Language: English
Paper presenter: Diya Abdo (Assistant Professor of English, Guilford College Guilford College), “Narrating Exiled Women: Reinscribing National, Colonial, and Religious Discourses in Arab Women's Literature”
Literary texts by Arab women writers are often acts of remembering and re-membering, antidotes to normative discourses which have relegated the participation of women to the margins, severed their voices altogether, or mutilated their representation. Such literary texts rewrite amnestic dominant narratives and attempt to re-imagine or unearth women's excluded voices. This paper explores the ways in which the fiction by Jordanian-British author Fadia Faqir utilizes narrative strategies to expose, refute and revise distorting and often interlacing patriarchal narratives which have inscribed and circumscribed the lives of women. These narratives include, among others: the religious, which, whether inherently or through appropriation and interpretation, has frequently vilified women and banished their version of the story to silence and anonymity; the colonial, which has fetishized them and represented them as passive victims, typically primitive and inferior; and the national, which has ignored their economic and physical participation in their nations' formation and liberation struggles and cast them, conversely, as potential traitors, the contested site of struggle between the colonizer and the colonized. In combating these narratives, Fadia Faqir's fiction recasts the sinners as heroines or even prophets, the passive bystanders as active participants, and the silent as storytellers of their mythologies, weavers of their own ethical and religious understanding. However, though such fiction narrates the story from a female and feminist perspective, the newness of such a narrative is reflected in its tenuousness, challenging the reader to believe in a voice which seems at best ambiguous and at worst unreliable. Still tottering on its newly formed legs, this narrative seeks to convey these exiled women back to their homes, to reinscribe their existences into the forgetful discursive landscape, and to bear the subsumed subaltern into the light of day. My analysis is grounded in and informed by postcolonial and feminist theory, particularly the work of Amal Amireh and Leila Ahmed as it pertains to the packaging and representation of Arab and Muslim women in "western" orientalist, and national/local discourses, Gayatri Spivak's work in subaltern studies, Leila Ahmed's conceptualization of "ethical Islam" Fatima Mernissi and Margot Badran's theories of Islamic feminism, Miriam Cooke's theory of "multiple critique" and Adrienne Rich and Rachel Blau DuPlessis' work on feminist revisionist mythmaking.
Paper presenter: Yafa Shanneik (Post-doctoral Researcher, University College Cork), “Patriarchal and Anti-Patriarchal Narrative Strategies in Contemporary Anglophone Literature by Arab Authors: The Construction of Female Images in Pillars of Salt and In the Eye of the Sun”
This paper will discuss the literary constructions of female and male narrators in the novels Pillars of Salt by Fadia Faqir and In the Eye of the Sun by Ahdaf Soueif. Rather than concentrating on the authors’ gender, the analysis is concerned with the gender of the narrators and their competing patriarchal and anti-patriarchal narrative strategies. The narrator plays a central role in the novels in having the authority of manipulating and influencing the reader by plotting and shaping the story in specific directions. The appearance of different narrative perspectives in the novels provides the reader with different standpoints and shows the multifaceted and complex nature of events unfolding and of the novel’s characters. The two novels Pillars of Salt and In the Eye of the Sun combine different narrative voices. The story of the protagonist in Faqir’s novel Maha is told by two narrators ‘ by Maha herself and by a male narrator, called Sami al-Adjnabi, who in the tradition of Arab story-tellers (hakawaty) addresses an audience.
Soueif’s novel contains three narrators delivering three divergent perspectives and voices. Due to the appearance of different narrators in these two novels that enter a narrative competition and involuntary dialogue they can be regarded as contemporary representations of Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the polyphonic novel. The polyphonic novel is for Bakhtin the literary expression of social heteroglossia ‘the coexistence of and the conflict between different socio-ideological groups and their own particular languages. The different narrators in the discussed novels represent specific socio-ideological groups that use their own languages, expressions and terminologies and are woven together in the novels. The polyphonic character of these novels is expressed in the clash of patriarchal and anti-patriarchal narrative strategies. In both novels one encounters male narrators who provide patriarchal views of the story which conflict with the versions told by the female narrators. By comparing and contrasting the rent versions, the literary constructions of female images produced in these two novels are analyzed as well.
Paper presenter: Wesam Fawzi Al-Assadi (Instructor, American University of Sharjah), “The Discourse of Representation in Arab Women’s Literature in English (AWLE)”
Until fairly recently, the number of Arab women writers and the attention given to their works were miniscule. The writings themselves were mere imitations of norms established by a patriarchal literary tradition. By the 1950s and 1960s, Arab women's novels started to gain some momentum and began to emerge in greater numbers. These writings were characterized by the key theme of protest against male domination promoted a personal and distinctive female identity and the demand for liberation from a male-dominated social and political system. Late in the twentieth century, a number of Arab women writers decided to use English the language of the Western colonizer and the language of contemporary globalization as their medium of expression. These writers engage with the West primarily England and configure their discrete identities, Arabness, Englishness and even hybrid identities. The great majority of these women writers hail from upper-middle classes. They received Western education and continue to divide their lives between Arab homelands and Britain. They transcend geographical boundaries and confront special cultural self-configurations, such as images of themselves as women, the search for a home and a language that will allow them to locate themselves. In their search for identity across borders, and within a postcolonial context, the writings of these Arab women raise questions related to issues of home and exile, power, representation, and ideological expectations through an intricate interweaving of the personal, the social, the political and the sexual. These issues have been largely ignored in literary examinations of such writings. This paper addresses these very issues. It explores features of this evolving literature produced by Arab women writers, who straddle two worlds and write in the language of the foreign world (English). Their writings are usually considered in the context of postcolonial/Third World literatures. Within this context and drawing on Leila Ahmed's A Border Passage: From Cairo to America--A Woman's Journey and Leila Aboulela’s the Minaret, the paper considers self-representation to/for Western audiences. The hybrid and in-between location gives such authors the means to legitimize their representations of other women by differentiating themselves from the subjects of their representations. Wesam Al-Assadi
Paper presenter: Dorit Gottesfeld (PhD, Tel-Aviv University), “'Women Painting': Use of Color by Young Palestinian Women Writers”
My lecture examines the uniqueness of style in young Palestinian women's fiction during the last two decades. This period sees a breakthrough, for the women writers began to adopt modern and postmodern writing techniques and employ original and unique stylistic and linguistic elements. To a great extent their writing embodies an attempt to break the shackles of existing literary norms. The lecture focuses on the use of color by them and tries to show how they employ color in a unique and rebellious way and thus emphasize the female’s presence and domination in the texts. It examines this phenomenon in the writings of Galilee-born author Rajaa Bakriyya (b.1972), in which the use of color is varied and unique. Bakriyya has published two anthologies of short stories and two novels. She is considered as one of the prominent writers of this period, not only because of the number of books she has published, but mainly due to her attempts to break away from conventions and accepted norms.
Paper presenter: Dr. Walid Ghabbour and Dr. Adli Odeh (King Saud University), “Masculine Oppression in the Arab Women Novels”
This paper investigates the perspective of Eastern Arab Women Novelists towards male gender in general, and Eastern Arab in particular, which formed a recurrent outstanding pattern whom the Arab women novelists tried to prove either as a reality or as an assumption such as persecuted, inferiority, dominated, violence, oppressed, etc. It often represents the western obsessive vision towards Eastern Arab women as if there are oppressed by Eastern Arab men. But the style of Arab female novelists in representing this perspective were far away from objectivity which seems in many cases representing what the western think of Arab women and sometimes what they only want to know about Arab women. Hence, the Arab women novelists and their fictional writing helped greatly in drawing a distorted picture toward male gender starting from the novelist and passing through the female character depicted in their narratives mother, wife, daughter, friend, lover, bitch, etc. Therefore, this perspective, as a matter of fact, represents a masculine oppression either intended consciously or unconsciously towards eastern Arab male taken up from eastern Arab point of view, which is far away from reality and supportive of western point of view in the mean time.