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Negotiating Identity and Transnationalism

Middle Eastern and North African Communication and Critical Cultural Studies

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Edited By Haneen Ghabra, Fatima Zahrae Chrifi Alaoui, Shadee Abdi and Bernadette Marie Calafell

At the heart of Communication and Critical Cultural Studies is a discipline that has been slowly expanding its borders around the issues of racism, sexism, ability, privilege, and oppression. As Latinx, African American, Asian Pacific American, Disability and LGBTQ Studies widen and shift the scope of Communication Studies, what often gets underplayed is the role of transnational Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Studies. It is imperative that the experiences of transnational individuals who live and move between the region and the U.S. are centered. For this reason, the goal of this book is to begin to bring Middle Eastern and North African Communication and Critical Cultural Studies in conversation with Global and Transnational Studies. We ask, how can scholars make a space for transnational MENA Studies within Communication and Cultural Studies? What are the pressing issues? Thus, at a time where Arabs, Arab Americans, Iranians, and Iranian Americans are under attack by Western media and governments, it is crucial to center their voices from a transnational perspective that privileges their positionalities and experiences rather than continue to study them from a reductive Eurocentric lens. We seek to build on existing scholarship by including essays that theorize from a Communication and Critical Cultural Studies lens. This book aims to bring together work by established and new or emerging scholars.

 

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Bamboo and Bougainvillea: Literary Perspectives on Identity and Belonging in Contemporary Kuwait (Emanuela Buscemi)

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Emanuela Buscemi

Literary works usually offer valuable insights into closed or authoritarian societies. Literature allows the reader to glimpse into the quotidian and the exceptional alike, dismantling prejudices and confronting taboos while providing visions and imageries. The present chapter adopts a critique of two literary works, namely The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi, and The Hidden Light of Objects, written by Mai Al-Nakib, a novel and a collection of short stories respectively, to explore the construction of transcultural identities and belonging in contemporary Kuwait. By analysing social constructs as privilege and oppression, I intend to examine how the national community marginalises and pushes to the borders alternative constructions of identity and belonging for political purposes. In particular, the concepts of decolonial writing and border thinking, in-betweenness, and nepantla will be employed to shed light on the role of hybridity both as a process and as a cultural mediator.

The main characters in the books by Alsanousi and Al-Nakib experience forms of social and cultural in-betweenness due to their origins, inclinations and choices. Feelings of loneliness, estrangement and displacement contribute to a critical elaboration of belonging and participation to the national community, resulting in a double consciousness. Kuwait was an important port, a crossroads of cultures and civilizations, and therefore of exchanges. However, political reasons of power consolidation and the contingent normative discourse have come to discourage alternative forms and venues of identity formation. However, quotidian practices of transcultural hybridity (Buscemi, “A Language Held Captive...

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