Panel 6F

Migration in Fiction and Cultural Narratives

15.00 – 17.00
Chair: Syrine Hout, American University of Beirut

Discussant: Thomas Richard, Université d’Auvergne

Rafik Schami’s Novels: A Journey through Syrian Civilization Introducing a Multifaceted Identity into German Culture

Shilan Fuad Hussain, Independent Researcher, Ph.D University of Urbino.

Introduction: Rafik Schami’s novel Damaskus. Der Geschmack einer Stadt (2002) it focuses on his place of origin through a cultural filter made of: history, culture in a broad sense, and folk traditions. Schami belongs to a highly politicized generation, but in Germany he is no longer subordinated to the Syrian hegemony power. He thus employs literature as a form of social criticism, and lets his political disapproval surface: on the one hand he counteracts the Western conflicting representation of the Middle-East, particularly of the Arabs, and displays the difference between the ruling class and the citizenry. On the other hand he finely criticizes the flaws of the Syrian society: patriarchism, lack of gender equality, the weakness of the instruction system and so forth, disclosing essential issues ascribable to modern day society.  Methods: the research was based on a close text analysis, and through an understanding of the historical and cultural background of the work.  Results: The author’s main purpose was to make the Western reader get to know different Middle-Eastern (Syrian) social groups, cultural backgrounds, to get acquainted with the complexity of the Arabic society. Schami’s works principally concerned the theme of migration, the life conditions of migrants in Germany, their process of settlement and integration. The aim was to support dialogue, tolerance and equal rights between majority and minority cultures, in order to achieve as far as possible a “gesellschaftliche Utopie” in a multicultural atmosphere.  Conclusion: the aim of the novelist is to give Germans an insight in Arab culture, calling for multicultural dialogue and understanding; at the same time underlining German cultural heterogeneity and its hybrid identities.

Comparing Novel(istic) Movements of Arab Migrants in the Twenty-First Century

Syrine Hout, American University of Beirut

At a time when the global Syrian refugee crisis has become a time-sensitive and critical research item in the social and health sciences, as well as from humanitarian and legal perspectives, presenting it in a fictional format offers a new and insightful perspective, one that was made available to the public in August 2016, when Nada Awar Jarrar, a Lebanese Australian author and former journalist, launched her fourth novel titled An Unsafe Haven (HarperCollins) at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  This novel is the first in post-civil war Anglophone Lebanese fiction to incorporate, i.e., to memorialize, this crisis – by furnishing a wealth of socio-historical, economic, and political information about the situation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon – and to juxtapose it to ‘older’ patterns of movement of Iraqi nationals. My research question is comparative and interdisciplinary: what can and does a literary text contribute to humanistic and social scientific knowledge about Arab ‘movements’ featured daily in print and electronic journalism?  Resulting from an author’s imaginative engagement, literature is a free intellectual enterprise wherein multiple disciplines (can) intersect, thus yielding more than statistics or predictions. A social-realist novel projects a fictional(ized) universe wherein characters, representative as they may be of actual  groups, interact in such a manner as to spotlight more nuanced psychological truths as well as methodological blind spots in other disciplines that study similar phenomena. I focus on age, gender, education, and ‘cosmopolitanism’ to compare routes of migration both within and across different groups of Arab nationals in the twenty-first century.