World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Migration Memories through Literature (430) - Panel

· Date: FRI 23, 9.00-11.00 am

· Language: English

· Description: Paper presenter: Ariane Portegies (Senior lecturer destination development studies-NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences), "Lifeworlds of migrants in the Netherlands".
The value of storytelling as an approach to extracting new meanings and new learning is well established (McDrury & Alterio, 2003, Moon, 2004). As a method, it can lead to increased insights and knowledge for both the listener and the teller. Telling stories is an interpersonal process; it connects the listener to the teller (Mello, 2009). It is deeply grounded within the cultural context in which the stories are told, e.g. the plot, the voice, performance action, personality of the teller, perspective of the audience, etc. Therefore, says Mello (2007), it allows humans to create negotiated transactions of knowledge and perception. It builds a knowledge base of conceptual narrative frameworks that “informs the social condition” (Mullo, p.82). Migration has been a major topic of debate over the past decade. Of the flow of immigrants to the EU from 2002 to 2007, 56% is of non-European origin. (Fargues, 2010). The apparent unease to varying degrees in different European societies of current changes in global and local environments is associated to issues of culture and identity. As part of 2nd year course in international tourism management, students from a variety but primarily European backgrounds were asked to meet a migrant in their place of study, Breda, The Netherlands. Their meeting with this migrant was to be done by way of an in-depth semi-structured interview and should result in a story: a story of migration. This assignment contributes to sensitizing students to ‘other’ contexts and prepares them for an international professional career. With applied use of storytelling and additional components students were able to discover their own counter/unconscious narratives and those of the people they encountered in the migrant interviews. They learned about how Europe is seen in the eyes of residents of Moroccan, Egyptian and Turkish origin. This paper explores the way the students discover their fellow world citizens and their broader condition. Their stories and experiences writing and telling them reveal aspects of what is happening at Europe’s borders. Furthermore, they inform us on the confrontations with and self-evident assumptions of ‘the other’ which otherwise remain implicit or unknown.

Paper presenter: Susan MacDougall (Graduate Student-University of Arizona), “Solidarity and Critique: Memoir Literature by Iraqis in Diaspora”
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, American publishing houses have released numerous memoirs and fictionalized personal accounts written by Iraqi women (Al-Windawi 2004, Salbi 2005, Al-Qazwini 2008, Al-Qesi 2008, Zangana 2009). Though the texts vary, as do the identifying characteristics of their authors, the stories follow a specific chronotope (Bakhtin 1982) with surprising consistency. As the narrators enter adolescence and become young women, their awareness of Iraq’s delicate political situation increases, and the dramas of young womanhood are exacerbated by the grip of terror on their society. Eventually, they leave, and create new lives for themselves as exiles in Europe or the United States. When the 2003 invasion takes place, they are flooded with emotions about Iraq that they had learned to repress during their lives in diaspora, and as their hearts go out to their countrymen and women still in the country, it is as if they had never left. The representation of political violence that these memoirs offer serves a dual function. First, it creates a discursive space wherein Iraqi women living in diaspora can frame their life stories in a manner that announces and affirms their membership in this national group. Second, it lets the authors of these memoirs make a politicized didactic statement to an American audience about the impact of the war in Iraq on them personally. The chronotopic format they employ, wherein childhood takes place in Iraq and adulthood outside of it, allows them to present themselves as authentically Iraqi despite their exile status. In this paper, I will explore the characteristics of the identity they construct in their writing and the insight it can offer on alternative conceptions of membership in a national group (Malkki 1997). I also assert that the impact of this memoir literature is reflexive, and that the act of writing is in fact an example of performative speech (Austin 1975) wherein the authors seek to redress their physical distance from the military conflict in Iraq.

Paper presenter: Ewa Machut-Mendecka (professor), “The Motive of Emigration in Arabic literature as Exemplified by the Works of At-Tayyib Salih”
The motive of emigration is an important issue which is mainly exemplified by the works of the Palestinian authors such as Ghassan Kanfani or Liana Badr, and many other writers, including Djamal al-Ghitani (Egypt), Abd ar-Rahman-Rubay’i (Iraq), Abd ar-Rahman Munif (Jordan), Salim Barakat, Haydar Haydar (Syria) etc. All of the mentioned authors are prose writers and I am going to concentrate on prose works only. Emigration is a key motive also in the works of a well-known Sudanese writer At-Tayyib Salih who is worthwhile presenting one year after his death. The paper aims at analyzing the phenomenon of emigration as shown by the work of this author, considering its causes, areas and effects. The main reasons for emigration according to At-Tayyib Salih are: isolation of Sudan, including an isolation of the Sudanese villages from the world and the interest of the Sudanese people in modern culture, achieving knowledge, searching for life chances and opportunities as well as the access to material goods. Sudanese emigrants strive to obtain some education and work in the first place. Another factor stimulating migration is also post-colonialism. Emigration of the Sudanese people means both moving within the borders of Sudan itself as well as of departures for Europe, which is well illustrated by the novel Mawsim al-hijra ila ash-shamal (The season of emigration toward the North) and by Salih’s short stories. My paper presents an interdisciplinary approach, combining methods used in literature and psychology. The analysis of the works of At-Tayyib Salih shows that phenomenon of emigration results in the phenomenon of acculturation. Focusing on that I am going to use the methodology initiated under cross-cultural psychology by John Berry with special reference to his concept of acculturation strategies, such as assimilation (Mawsim al-hijra ila ash-shamal), integration (Susan wa Ali – Susan and Ali), separation (Al-Ihtiyar – The Choice), marginalization (Hakadha, ya sadati – This is the way, my gentlemen) and the ensuing attitudes of social change and exclusion. The examples of works of the above-mentioned authors will confirm the popularity and importance of strategies distinguished in literary portraits of Arab culture. The analysis of these issues allows us to conclude that exploring the motive of emigration in the Arabic makes a contribution to the world discussion on globalization processes and their effects on national and ethnic cultures.

Paper presenter: Kynsilehto Anitta (Researcher-Institute for Social Research, University of Tampere), “I would never have imagined travelling like this". Corporeal choreographies across and around the Mediterranean Sea”
Undocumented migrants taking the boats in order to cross the Mediterranean Sea are often portrayed so as to embody anonymous corporeality (Malkki 1997, 235). Recent times have however seen attempts to listen and give voice to these anonymous bodies exemplifying much of the contemporary media imagery concerning migration. Inspired by migrants’ travel stories recollected by Behzad Yaghmaian in his ethnographic book Embracing the Infidel (2006) spiced up with my own entries to the field, this paper engages with (re)thinking embodiment and political agency in the context of undocumented migration towards European Union member-states. Methodologically the paper takes cue from cultural studies approaches and multi-sited ethnography (Marcus 1995; 1998) in order to consider critically the possibilities available for non-EU citizens to access EU member-states and to cross internal borders therein in the light of EU documents, lobby organizations working for enhancing migrants’ and refugees’ rights, and individual itineraries. Not all these narratives easily enter into dialogue with one another; as Iain Chambers (2008, 59) writes, “Encountering voices, bodies and lives that exist beyond the official accounts supplied by both colonial and postcolonial power, we are drawn into dissonant narratives”. Furthermore, the paper considers the possibilities currently available for those that have reached a point within their wandering to build a life in Europe.

Paper presenter: Dr. Sana Al Umari (Visiting Profesor at MEUGS University, Amman, Jordan), “The Graves of Tareem Spreads all the way to Istambul”
Getting into economic and social history through the live stories of people is widely used and excepted because it provides a realistic view to formal line history; it adds true life effect to it. Yet when we look back a century or more, later a more realistic story is evident even though much of the details are missing. At the beginning of the 19th century, internal warfare and lake of security impoverished the Hadramy region were agriculture and trade was declining, and thus more of its youth emigrated, either to Aden and the red sea or to India and further east or to the East African coast. Before that Hadramy migrants have already been settled in various parts of the region, they have established a network of trade and business and gained power, they were also cooperative and supporting to compatriots from homeland (The Graves of Tareem).The Ba Alawies (a well known family, descendants of the prophet Mohammed from Hadramawt), were scholars, teachers, religious and also merchants and entrepreneurs. This combination provided them with important means and enabled them to take an effective role in that region as they migrated. I happen to have some documents and insight to the life story of Syed Fadhil bin Alawi bin Muhammad bin Sahal Mawlalduaila, it is a story of a man combining all characteristics of Ba Alawi, he was an entrepreneur a politician and also a rebellion and a man of state at the highest level, above all he was driven by a dream that he could not fulfill. I will be tracing his father’s life (Habib Alawi) and his childhood, his life in India as a scholar and a rebellion, his role as Amir of Dhofar, his role in Istanbul as a consultant and Wazir to the Authmani Sultan Abdulhamid. 1. Dr Ulrike Freitag, Hadhrami migration in the 19th and 20th centuries The British-Yemeni Society, Dec 1999.