Detailed Table of Contents
Author’s Bio: Christian David Zeitz is a graduate student in English Studies and Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Cologne and works in the English Department as a general assistant for the e-journal gender forum: An Internet Journal for Gender Studies. He has published peer-reviewed articles on film, TV series and gender in Watcher Junior and gender forum. His research interests include postcolonial, critical ethnic and gender studies, literary and cultural productions of and on the Muslim diaspora as well as meeting points between theories of multiculturalism and affect.
Abstract: Mohja Kahf’s novel the girl in the tangerine scarf highlights a broad spectrum of Muslim feminist agencies. In this essay I look at how her literary representations negotiate religious and feminist discourses in doing so. I further argue that her focus on empowerment through self-defined spirituality and religion sets her novel apart within the canon of contemporary Arab American literature, as most other Arab American feminist narratives focus rather on re-appropriations of orientalist Scheherazade figures to reclaim the transnational histories of Muslim women’s agency. The genre of the Arab American novel has experienced a veritable boom in the post 9/11 era. However, this rise is located within contemporary neo-Orientalisms and remains in an uneasy relationship to stereotypical audience expectations and to the marketing demands on ‘Muslim women’ to represent not themselves, but the supposed blanket oppression of women in Islam. Steven Salaita points to the inherent tensions between orientalist audience expectations and artistic self-representation in Arab American cultural production. Mohja Kahf picks up on this tension in her own theoretical work, but shifts our attention to the intersectional specificity encountered by Muslim feminist writers who have to work within both Western Orientalisms and the disapproval of Muslim conservatives who denounce feminism as a Western import and refuse any critique of their own patriarchy. Kahf suggests a constant double critique and careful contextualization to counter this double bind, and in this essay I not only analyze how she translates this approach into her own creative writing, but I also explore how her novel connects literary activism to Muslim feminist religious scholarship by developing a more expansive, non-binary way of conceiving Muslim women’s agencies.
Author’s Bio: Martina Koegeler-Abdi is a PhD Fellow at the Center for Transnational American Studies at the University of Copenhagen. Her research interests include US multi-ethnic literatures, gender studies and feminist theory as well as cultural history and ethnic studies within the field of transnational American Studies. Currently she is working on her dissertation which researches the history of Arab migration to the US at the beginning of the 20th century and focuses on how Arab American women represented themselves to the US public negotiating US orientalist stereotypes as well as racial and gendered imaginations at the time. Koegeler-Abdi holds a Magister Degree in English, American and Spanish Studies from the University of Graz and an MA in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies as well as a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from SUNY Stony Brook. She has published and co-edited various works within the fields of her research interests, including two peer-reviewed articles in major international journals: one on the legacy of Gloria Anzaldua in the MELUS journal and another on the public agency of Miss Lebanon America 1954 in the JTAS journal.
Abstract: In her collection of spoken word poetry entitled Emails from Scheherazad, Syrian American poet, Mohja Kahf, invokes the orality of Scheherazad’s storytelling to voice her agency and dispel perceived silences about Muslim women. Kahf uses the role of storyteller to strengthen discussion of misunderstood subjects like violence, desire, passion, and sex, perceived as “off limits” to Muslim women. Conducting an autobiographical reading of Kahf’s poetry, I assert that her writing comes from a personal place, infused with anecdotes from her own life experiences. In surveying Mohja Kahf’s inclusion of the autobiographical voice in her poetry, it becomes clear the author pushes the boundary of the autobiographical ‘I’ to include additional voices and vantage points, such as the third person perspective, in the sphere of life writing. Whether cast in a classroom, a PTA meeting, or in the bathroom of Sears, Kahf’s poetic subjects illuminate their simultaneous maneuvering of Muslim and Syrian traditions against an American backdrop. To read her poetry in a political light, Mohja Kahf’s Emails from Scheherazad becomes a creative, autobiographical work that uses hybridity – both in genre and identity- to humanize American Muslims. This article, therefore, traces the motif of storytelling in Emails from Scheherazad to determine how in autobiographical poetics, the author rejects Islamophobic critics through reclaiming one’s own story. Drawing on Arab American studies scholars like Steven Salaita, Leila Ahmed, Waïl Hassan, and Nouri Gana and fusing their criticisms with research conducted by autobiographical studies scholars like Sidonie Smith, Julia Watson, and Nawar al-Hassan Golley, this article bridges gaps between Middle Eastern literary studies and autobiographical studies. In doing so, it illustrates the way in which Kahf challenges discriminatory attitudes against Muslims as she stitches American Muslims into the fabric of ethnic American literature.
Author’s Bio: Leila Moayeri Pazargadi is an Assistant Professor of English at Nevada State College and she currently teaches composition, postcolonial literature, life writing, ethnic American literature and Middle Eastern literature courses. Her research focuses on Middle Eastern women writers producing autobiographical material in fiction and nonfiction after 9/11. Recently, she has begun working on Persian photography from the Qajar era. She received her Doctorate of Philosophy in Comparative Literature with certification in Gender Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2012. At NSC, she is most proud of her work of co-founding the Nepantla Program and serving as the Director of its Summer Bridge Program.
Abstract: This article approaches Algerian author Assia Djebar’s novels Fantasia and So Vast the Prison in translation and from a Muslim feminist perspective. More specifically, this article examines how Assia Djebar narrativizes the processes of empowerment and disempowerment amongst Muslim women in Algeria under the oppression of two authorities: the French empire and everyday patriarchal structures. Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade is a multi-layered novel that charts the colonial violence between France and Algeria simultaneously with the struggles of the Algerian Muslim women. It explores not only the personal histories of those who fought against France during the occupation, but also the private lives of the women who contributed to the nationalist effort. I ask how Djebar approaches the challenge of trying to provide silenced women with a voice after experiencing war-time sexual violence, whilst being aware of the linguistic restrictions which are upon her. In the second half of this article, I discuss So Vast the Prison, exploring how Assia Djebar represents the complex politics of ‘the Gaze’ between men and women in Algeria. I focus on how her female characters are able to appropriate the male gaze and critique sexual politics not only through language but through the movements of the body and visual media. In these two texts Djebar frames women as crucial to the development of the nation but resistant to homogenizing assumptions about the ‘postcolonial Muslim woman’ as voiceless, representative of national interests, and excluded from historical discourse. Ultimately, I argue that Djebar’s work encourages the recognition of women’s agency in national and historical discourse, and challenges limited understandings of the role of Muslim women in Algeria. By doing this, I argue, Djebar becomes an important voice in the broader project of dehomogenizing Muslim women in the Western imagination.
Author’s Bio: Hannah Kershaw recently completed her PhD in Politics and English Literature at the University of York, receiving her MA in Postcolonial Literature from the same institution and her BA in English from the University of Southampton. Her doctoral thesis examines the significance of cultural memory and anti-colonial approaches to Western historiography within a number of contemporary British novels that explore the Muslim experience of present-day multiculturalism, and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Hannah is also a Research Assistant on the multi-disciplinary project “Europe, Migration and the New Politics of (In)security” based at the Department of Politics at York, and an Editorial Assistant at International Political Sociology. She is also the Interdisciplinarity Officer for the Postcolonial Studies Association.
Abstract: I offer the first critical reading in English of Parsua Bashi’s graphic memoir Nylon Road, which traces a narrative of place and belonging by a diasporan Iranian woman after the cataclysmic changes of previous decades. The narrative is a dialogical autobiographical process in which Parsua, the narrating I, conducts a self-interrogation with eleven of her former selves. Together they weigh the competing belief systems of Iranian fundamentalism; Western secular humanism in Switzerland, where Bashi was a migrant (her preferred term) from 2004-09; and Soviet-style socialism, influential for many middle-class intellectuals in 1970s Iran. This visually charged clash of political and cultural positions serves as a lens for thinking about social relations and the role of women in public life. Bashi organizes Nylon Road dialogically as a site for airing visual and voiced evidence about conflicting representations of what it meant to live in, leave, and return to, Iran over a quarter century. Nylon Road’s story of coming of age in revolution-era Iran presents Bashi as a daughter who, unlike Marjane Satrapi, participated in the new regime’s program for decades and critiqued those escaping into exile. When she finally does so, in her thirties, she is an uncomfortable migrant in Zürich, where her multiple past selves, drawn at different ages, confront her with versions of her childhood and adolescent experience that the present-time narrating I recalls quite differently in both visual and verbal terms. The differing political positions traced in these encounters with her multiple I’s, distinct in her representations, form a complex set of perspectives for both reflecting on and critiquing the Islamic Revolution within feminist, global, and postcolonial contexts.
Author’s Bio: Julia Watson is Professor Emerita of Comparative Studies and former Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at The Ohio State University. She and Sidonie Smith have co-written Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives (expanded edition, 2010) and co-edited five collections of essays: Before They Could Vote: American Women’s Autobiographical Writing, 1819-1919. (University of Wisconsin Press, 2006); Interfaces: Women, Autobiography, Image, Performance (University of Michigan Press, 2002); Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader (University of Wisconsin Press, 1998); Getting a Life: Everyday Uses of Autobiography (University of Minnesota Press, 1996); De/Colonizing the Subject: The Politics of Gender in Women’s Autobiography (University of Minnesota Press, 1992). Their most recent essays are “Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation” (2014) and “Witnessing or False Witnessing? Metrics of Authenticity, Collective ‘I’-Formations, and the Ethics of Verification in First-person Testimony” (2012). Watson’s recent solo essays are on graphic memoirs (three on Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home; Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings; autoethnography in American ethnic narrative; and Patti Smith’s celebrity memoir Just Kids). A two-volume collection of Smith and Watson’s essays, Life Writing in the Long Run, has just been published by Michigan Publishing (2017).
Author’s Bio: Anja Wieden is Assistant Professor of German in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She received her PhD in 2011 from the University of North Carolina with a dissertation titled “Female Experiences of Rape and Hunger in Postwar German Literature, 1945-1960.” She recently published an article, “Writing Resistance: Anonyma’s Narration of Rape in A Woman in Berlin,” in the Women in German Yearbook. For gender forum, she has reviewed Miriam Gebhardt’s Als die Soldaten kamen and Michaele Schäuble’s Narrating Victimhood. Gender, Religion and the Making of Place in Post-War Croatia. Her current research focuses on domestic violence in GDR film.