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Cultural Identity and the dilemma of "in-betweenness" in selected Arab-American and Jewish-American novels.

Al-Abas, Maysaa Jihad Alwan (2019) Cultural Identity and the dilemma of "in-betweenness" in selected Arab-American and Jewish-American novels. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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The In-Between status is a position that a diasporic/migrant subject occupies while s/he is attached to two worlds. One of them is the home of origin and the other is the host home. This attachment is of two types. The first type is that which involves a severe confusion concerning both places and how to identify with each one of them. This confused attitude might result in either assimilation with the host country and a formation of a sense of inferiority about anything connected to the home of origin, or it can result in an exclusive style of life in which diasporic/migrant subjects detach themselves from the host society and practice their own religion and culture while nurturing a sense of superiority over the mainstream culture in the host country. The second type is the hybrid one through which the diasporic subject comes to maintain a good relationship with his/her home of origin and simultaneously live and communicate with the host society with a sense of responsibility towards it. That is, they maintain a sense of belonging to both cultures and the two halves of their hyphenated identity are reconciled. This hybrid position is what Homi K. Bhabha calls the third space which encourages creativity and civil communication. It is a manufactured space that one makes effort to attain. It is a new home in the imagination that heals the rift of the identity. The study focuses on the formation of the image of home as it is very crucial when it comes to the problematic phase of the ‘in-between’ status. Some of the reasons behind migration is related to matters connected to the confinement of the body within rigid cultural patterns the defiance of which can lead in some cases to violence against the body, whether in the domestic private space or the public political one. It is also connected to constraint of liberalisms and inhibition of freedoms that renders home to be conceived as an exile for citizens. The Jewish-American and Arab-American narratives under study demonstrate this aspect of ‘home as exile’ and reflect the amount of culminating suffering and anxiety that direct the native’s gaze towards the West. The liminal situation between home as ‘exile’ and the West as ‘haven’ is tackled in the Arab-American texts of Rabih Alameddine’s I, the Divine (2001), and Mohja Kahf’s The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf (2006); and is manifested also in the Jewish-American texts of Philip Roth’s The Counterlife (1986), and Rebecca Goldstein’s Mazel (1995). The In-Between status that contributes to the crisis of identity for many diasporic/migrant subjects does not confine itself to specific territories particularly a territory known as the home of origin. The home can be an ideal image in the minds of the diasporic/migrant subjects but still they are attached to it in terms of the home culture that they keep and maintain while living in the host country. In this case, the concept of the nation plays a significant role in the making of kind of exclusion the migrant or diasporic community is prescribing upon itself. The aim of the study is to investigate how the selected narratives handle the issue of diasporic/Migrant people who succumb to an identity crisis that in many occasions remain enduringly incurable. It illustrates the various images of home (whether ‘ideal’ or ‘exilic’) and its impact on the dilemma of identity. It also highlights the way according to which the narratives suggest solutions to that identity crisis. My approach to this topic is done through the lenses of diaspora and migration theory as I am analysing issues of identity connected to the East vs West within the migration/diaspora spaces; I also rely on gender theory when it comes to female migrant/diasporc figures who experience inferiority/superiority complex connected with the home of origin. Homi Bhabha’s theory of hybridity, mimicry and ambivalence are utilized to explain identity dilemmas within Eastern spaces influenced by the Western colonial and cultural hegemony. Stuart Hall’s notion of cultural identity is also used to show the flexibility of the subject’s identity, though it is still connected with the concepts of a nation, collective memory and common history. The notion of ‘exile’ is also used to explain the migrant/diasporic subject’s tendency to leave the home of origin after experiencing a cultural identity crisis within an imagined liminal space.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Arab-American novels, Jewish-American novels, cultural identity, in-betweenness', migration, diaspora, home, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Israel, assimilation, the American mainstream.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Maysaa Al-Abas
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2019 10:24
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2022 12:23

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