Date of Award

1-29-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Susan M. Comfort, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David B. Downing, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Tanya Heflin, Ph.D.

Abstract

This dissertation presents a critical study of the role that contemporary Arab-American women writers play in creating an insurgent female identity and resisting different modalities of identity construction for the Arab and Arab-American women in their writings. Stepping beyond a binary discourse of "us" and "them," these writers disclose several dehistoricized formulations which perpetually locate and dislocate Arab women living in the U.S. within multiple forms of hegemonies. Confirming the heterogeneous experiences of Arab-American women who are constantly constructed through the limited lens of homogeneity and monolithism, these authors present a thorough examination of diverse female hybrid subjects amid multiple imbrications of power structures. In an attempt to defy all forms of essentialism, generalization, and categorization, I examine how Diana Abu-Jaber's Crescent, Leila Ahmed's A Border Passage, and Laila Halaby's West of the Jordan are transgressing a normative paradigm already conceptualized in the mainstream western culture for the Arab-American woman hybrid. These authors not only are deconstructing several modalities of female identity for Arab women in the West, but they also are rejecting their homelands' patriarchal, nationalist, and anti-colonial emancipatory discourses. Throughout this dissertation, I present a critique of different modalities of cultural identity and hybridity as conceptualized by U.S. multiculturalism, cultural nationalism, imperialist colonialism, and western cultural essentialism. My study is situated within a postcolonial-transnational feminist context that examines the life of "U.S. Third World women" and the challenges they face socially, culturally, politically, sexually, and psychologically as integrated within a postcolonial theoretical paradigm. The study offers a historically contextualized approach that analyzes Arab-American women as postcolonial subjects situated within "scattered hegemonies," a term coined by theorists Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan. This approach is consistent with a transnational feminist practice which transcends a restricted focus on women's relationship to patriarchal structures, and articulates women's lives within larger historicized hegemonies. In addition to the critical discourse of postcolonial and transnational feminists like Chandra Mohanty, Gayatri Spivak, Trinh Minh-ha, and Gloria Anzaldúa, this study integrates the new voices of Arab and Arab-American feminists, such as Nawar Al-Hassan Goley, Joanna Kadi, Susan Darraj, Carol Fadda-Conrey, Nadine Naber, Lisa Majaj, and others.

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