Panel 8F

The Politics of Drama, Culture and Tradition

11.30 – 13.30
Chair: Hilla Peled-Shapira, Bar-Ilan University

A Symbolic Dramatisation: Estrangement as a Condition and a Strategy in Contemporary Poems by Women of the Iranian Diaspora

Giulia Valsecchi, University of Bergamo

Before and after the Iranian Revolution, the experience of restrictions and gender confinement drove many Iranian women writers to fight for their forbidden role. What many of them now call their first exile at home went on until the chance of migration changed the perils of writing under Iranian censorship into a free, but unbalanced condition aware of cultural dissociations. Those dissociations are not simply due to diasporic estrangement, but to a more confused doubling, which is rooted in a quest for the self that passes through hyphenation and in-betweenness. Moreover, if the veil often emerges as a narrative and poetical symbol of women’s oppression, it sometimes acquires the valency of a dramatic “fourth wall”. This paper aims to overthrow this “invisible wall”, in order to show a relationship between dramatization and Iranian women diasporic poetry. In line with Brechtian epic drama based on the concept of estrangement, it will explore estrangement both as an existential conditionand as the distance required to rewrite the self through symbols. More in detail, if the poet lives between two worlds and tries to depict their dualisms, she also becomes the playwright of her past and present selves. The symbols and dualisms will be examined through a comparison of some poems by Iranian women expatriates coming from different generations, careers and cultural heritages. Each poem will be analysed as a dramatic scene of memories and linguistic splits, which dramatize recurring symbols of estrangement and turn them into a more “visible wall” of identities in transit.

Download Paper (Valsecchi)

Betrayed by Beloveds: The Politics of Fiction in Fascist Italy and Kemalist Turkey

Kara Peruccio, The University of Chicago

In 1928, Italian author Maria Messina and Turkish writer Suat Dervi? published novels featuring the complicated love stories of their respective protagonists, Severa and Su?heyla. L’amore negato and gibi provide lenses into the highly politicized gender rhetoric in the first years of the patriarchal authoritarian regimes in Italy and Turkey. The 1920s in both nations was a time of considerable flexibility and possibility before the regimes’ programs firmly crystallized after 1930. Consequently, scholarship on Fascist Italy and republican Turkey typically feature gaping lacunae when considering women and literature of the 1920s. This paper uses the novels by Messina and Dervi? to argue that fiction written by female authors critiqued the state and registered women’s responses to authoritarian politics. The protagonists Severa and Su?heyla embodied the changing ideas of womanhood in Italy and Turkey in the 1920s. Both assert their independence, smoke cigarettes, and do not define their womanhood based around motherhood. They are young and seek to forge their own paths in society. Severa and Su?heyla’s stories significantly feature betrayals by their beloveds. Their reactions to their lovers demonstrate a way to criticize these two patriarchal societies that view women as interchangeable and generic. To borrow Deniz Kandiyoti’s expression, both Italian and Turkish women were “emancipated but unliberated” in the interwar. By focusing on novels published in 1928, I will assess how Messina and Dervi? critiqued the first half decades of these Mediterranean authoritarian regimes.

Between Exile and Homeland: The Complex Hybrid Identity of a Kurdish Poet

Hilla Peled-Shapira, Bar-Ilan University

This presentation examines the writings of the emigré Iraqi-Kurdish poet Buland al-Haydari (1926-1996) and explores components of his identity as reflected in themes and motifs of his poetry, in light of the fact that Iraq is home to a variety of ethnicities, religions and sects. The presentation will also address the question of whether the poet’s self-perception was transformed from a complex hybrid identity with Muslim, Christian, and other influences but excluding Kurdish elements, to a “new” Kurdish identity, as an outcome of the Iraqi chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988. The thematic and aesthetic effects of the tragedy in Halabja on al-Haydari’s poetry in Arabic will be addressed as well, focusing on different forms of identity as reflected in the poetry of this political activist.

Watching Arbud Cook: Learning Bedouin Knowledge as We Walk

Olivia Mason, Durham University

Arbud is a dense, unleavened Bedouin bread baked under-ground by burying it in ash and covering with hot embers. It is one of the traditional practices of doing that has seen a recent re-valourization through a new walking trail in Jordan, the Jordan Trail. I first saw the bread being made walking on the trail, a group of Bedouins guiding me, along old Nabatean trade routes they have taken their camels and donkeys for centuries. It is interrogating the way movement, particularly walking, on the Jordan Trail, offers a more proximate engagement with place that this paper questions. Walking as a movement that is slow, enabling contact and interaction with rural spaces and indeed knowledge. Knowledge of knowing the best way to walk, cooking in the ground, finding water.  Across the Middle East, the politics of situated, practiced, and indigenous knowledge have tended to be overlooked in much contemporary scholarship. This paper will use ethnographic research from 9 months in Jordan, hiking on the Jordan Trail and living with and interviewing Bedouin communities to challenge some of the essentialist terminology and categories by which knowledge of this region is structured. To suggest that more careful understandings of the way we move through the Middle East and indeed Bedouin groups move, relate to, and understand the land could lead to a more nuanced understanding of the region’s politics about territory, and knowledge.

Mashreq/Maghreb Interactions in Two Contemporary Jordanian Novels: A Case Study on How Literature Reflects Generational Differences within Inter-Arab Solidarity

Fernanda Fischione, Università di Roma ‘La Sapienza’

The aim of this paper is to give an example of how the relations between the Mashreq and the Maghreb are treated in Levantine contemporary Arabic literature. In order to attain this goal, the paper focuses in particular on two recent novels, both written by Jordanian authors: B?b al-?ayra (Confusion Gate, 2006) by Ya?yà al-Qays? and ?ulm al-mas?f?t al-ba??da (Dream of the Great Distances, 2007) by Sulaym?n al-Qaw?ba?a. Although they have been published almost at the same time, these partially autobiographical novels recall two completely different seasons of Arab history: the first is set in Tunisia in the Nineties and tells the story of a university student, while the second plunges into the Algerian war of independence. These novels tell us much about how inter-Arab solidarity changed in shape and meaning through time: while in the Fifties and Sixties Panarabism was at its peak as a political ideology, as shown by al-Qaw?ba?a’s novel, later on it became more a matter of belonging to the same cultural heritage, as al-Qays? suggests us. Relying on the writings of scholars who explored inter-Arab relations, such as Mu?ammad ??bid al-J?bir? and others, the paper will provide a small but meaningful insight on the controversial issue of neo-Panarabism, with a particular focus on the complex Mashreq/Maghreb interactions, which seem to fall out of the traditional narratives of Arab nationalism.