World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Beyond Diasporic and Hegemonic Identity (369) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: THU, 22 / 2.30 - 4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English / Français

· NOT_DEFINED description:

Chair: Ozlem Galip (Centre For Kurdish Studies)

Paper presenter: Saeed A. Khan (Wayne State University, USA), “The Phenomenon of Dual Nihilism among the British Muslim Youth of Bradford, England: Beyond Diasporic and Hegemonic Identity”
The identity crisis facing British Muslim youth is often framed as a proverbial tug-of-war between Muslim society and the dominant British culture. For a generation that has only known one religion, one nationality and one country of domicile, such a compelled “choice” leads to identity schizophrenia. Unable to choose between religion and dominant culture, there appears to be a growing trend among British Muslim youth rejects both Muslim faith tradition and British culture: a dual nihilism. Such an analysis refutes the commonly held trope of British Muslim alienation being an entirely “Islamist” narrative. A key factor in determining alienation and mapping reactions to such alienation is the existence “safe spaces” for the conflicted individual, i.e. an area of enfranchisement and a sense of belonging. Such spaces generally reside in the individual’s faith tradition and community, broader society and the home/family life. The absence of one or more of such spaces leads to the individual’s rejection of authority these spaces may possess in his/her life, manifesting itself through a sense of nihilism. This paper analyzes multiple forms of nihilism among British Muslim youth in Bradford. The emergence of a multi-layered sense of alienation, explored through a series of interviews with the South Asian Muslim youth in the city, investigates its causes, ideological and intellectual influences and the opinions of the youth themselves as to possible solutions to this sense of alienation. This paper also examines the challenges facing both British society and the Muslim community to reintegrate and re-enfranchise the youth. Finally, this paper shall explore the self-perception of these youth vis-à-vis an identity located at the intersection of diasporic and hegemonic discourse, creating a new, hybridized identity that resides outside existing and conventional lines of demarcation.

Paper presenter: Ozlem Galip (Centre For Kurdish Studies), "The Kurdish Novel from Kurdistan to Diaspora: Identity, Belonging, and the Idea of Home(land)"
Through this topic, I basically aim at analysing how differently the idea of home (land), Kurdish identity, and the sense of belonging are dealt with in each selected Kurdish novel in order to explore thematic differences and approaches between novels published in Kurdistan and Diaspora. Not only have the linguistic diversity and the lack of political and national unity shaped the fragmented character of Kurdish novelistic discourse, yet forced displacement and voluntary migration of many Kurds westward in search of freedom has led to the creation of a different literary narrative discourse in terms of the way in which the idea of home, identity, and nation are regarded. Due to limitation of this research and opportunities, Kurdish novels in Kurmanji dialect and its Diaspora will be my main concern throughout this study. Because their mother tongue was banned, Kurdish writers in Turkey and Syria have differences from other writers in certain aspects including the idea of home, identity and the sense of belonging. Their current situation and specific problems can be better understood in the context of the events in the past, the long-lasting ban on their language and the oppression. Therefore, this paper will also focus on the historical background and the situation of the Kurdish language mainly in Turkey and Syria. When and why did the ban on Kurdish publications start? How was this put into practice? Within the literary genre, my main concern will be the novel form. The reason for this lies behind the accepted notion affirming the close relationship between novel and nation-building. Accordingly, the Kurdish novel, as a comprehensive literary form within Kurdish literature, provides a wide base for observing and understanding the suffering of the Kurds at the hands of oppressive powers, and analysing the struggle of the Kurds to liberate their homeland and create their identity. In this regard, due to the lack of a nation-state, Kurdish novel has been regarded as a tool towards the creation of Kurdish identity and imagining the ‘home (land)’. In other words, the Kurdish novel exists mainly in the context to pursue national identity and the aspiration for a homeland. However, can we talk about the same aspiration or struggle for novels written/published in Kurdistan and those written in its Diaspora? What happens to the idea of ‘home’ for Kurdish migrant authors who live far from the lands of their birth? How might their travels impact upon the ways home and identity are considered? Thus, approaching questions above, with this paper, I will mainly attempt to examine the differences in the perception of home (land), nationalism, belonging and identity in novels both in Diaspora and Kurdistan.

Paper presenter: Mona Radwan (Cairo University), "Nubian Diaspora: An Ecofeminist Reading of Idris Ali's Novel Dongola"
Dongola (1993) is the first Nubian novel to be translated from Arabic into English. In this controversial novel Idris Ali, the contemporary Nubian novelist (1940- ), paints the plight of the Nubian people subsequent to the construction of the Aswan High Dam. According to David Tresilian, Ali is one of the very few writers to put "Nubian identity onto the literary map" (152). The paper will focus on the oppression of Nubian women by their patriarchal Nubian society, the environment as well as the socio-political conditions in the country. This study will trace the traumatic lives of Nubians especially women as a result of losing their land and homes in the 1960s. All their villages were submerged in order to build the Aswan Dam, which was constructed to save the whole of Egypt from floods and droughts. Nubian women were also abandoned for years by their husbands to either work in other governorates or abroad. The study aims to analyze Ali's novel from an ecofeminist approach. The works of ecofeminist critics such as Karren Warren, Val Plumwood and Gretchen Legler among others will be the perspective used in the analysis of Dongola. Warren defines ecological feminism as an umbrella term which captures a variety of multicultural perspectives on the nature of the connections within social systems of domination between those humans in subdominant or subordinate positions, particularly women, and the domination of nonhuman nature[ecofeminism] has come to refer to a variety of so-called "women-nature connections": historical, empirical, conceptual, religious, literary, political, ethical, epistemological, methodological, and theoretical connections on how one treats women and the earth. (1) The Nubian women characters in the novel, Halima and Hushia, represent most of the oppressive issues in their community: forced evacuation, abandonment of husbands (to their wives), polygamy, and circumcision and living in a patriarchal society. Growing up in a country where "Nature" itself has been suppressed then naturally the women were suppressed too. Thus Nubian women were doubly marginalized as they were suppressed by the "North" (Egypt) and their own Nubian traditions. This paper aspires to contribute to the study of Nubian Literature.

Paper Presenter: Sabah Firoz Uddin (PhD Candidate, University of California, Los Angeles, USA), "Fashioning the Muslim Woman: Exploring 'Islamic Fashion' in the British Diasporic Space" (read by Ozlem Galip)
As part of my dissertation research, I relocated to Birmingham, UK, from July 2007 to June 2008, to investigate the ways in which mainly South Asian Muslim women in Britain navigate between competing discourses of the religious and the secular and how this relates to concepts of citizenship and nation. The broader aim is to develop theoretical responses to the following larger questions: How is Islamic identity asserted away from the ‘homeland,’ and moreover, what are the larger consequences of this to women? What are the mechanisms whereby Muslim women construct, challenge, contest, collaborate in, and negotiate religio- cultural readings of Islam? Emerging from my research are the ways in which religio-cultural dress is a fundamental focus in the self (re)presentation of my target group. Arguing that dress is part of minority discourse, in this paper, I will show how dress has been crucial to the construction of the British South Asian Muslim woman identity. Assigned the wearers of religio-cultural tradition, I will engage with the gendering of the politics of dress and discuss how these women are utilizing dress as a means to religio-cultural subversion. First, using first-hand accounts, I will explore how dress signifies definitive cultural ideas of masculinity/femininity and tradition/modernity, i.e. wearing jeans/pants is masculine/modern and how these ideas are inextricably linked to what it means to be a good Pakistani/Muslim woman in the British South Asian imagination. Second, I will argue that the ‘putting on’ of hijab is an unacknowledged, but nevertheless a device of cultural resistance and for my collaborators, an embodied practice of empowerment and agency in the public sphere. Lastly, to further challenge notions of tradition and modernity, I will profile the cases of emerging ‘Islamic’ fashion designers, who reject imposed inferences that ‘Islamic’ dress is oppressive. Their work attempts to traverse conventional visions of beauty and fashion so as to include their ‘Islamic’ designs as part of ‘modern’ fashion projects and to further reconcile the tension between Islam and fashion.