In Remembrance of Ruins Or Reinventing Home

By Manar Shabouk
Submitted to Session P4808 (Gender and Mobility in Arab Women's Writings, 2017 Annual Meeting
All Middle East;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
This paper examines the writing of three Syrian women poets who had to leave Syria due to the ongoing war, and have become refugees in Europe. In Wedad Nabi’s Death as if it is a Scrap (2016), Rasha Habbal’s Some of you, Lots of Salt (2016), and Rasha Omran’s Panorama of Death and Alienation (2015), writing about their homeland and the land that hosts them is integral to their experiences of displacement and diaspora in Germany, where these three poets are refugees at the moment. These writers illustrate a deep nostalgia and a need to reconcile with being displaced by discovering and creating a definition for a new meaning of “home”. Much of their writing connects to Syria: its cities, history, places, scents, food, sounds, their personal memories, and many other elements that gave them a sense of belonging before their displacement. Though there is a sense of something missing and an incompleteness in their writings, there is not an urgent call for returning home. What is evident instead is their thirst for life: the one they miss or that they lost when they left their homeland, and the one they are now trying to be part of as women, as refugees, and as humans, above all.

This paper argues that Syria, for these three writers, is not merely an image to portray and recall in their nostalgic writing; rather, it is part of their diasporic identity as women searching for a new home, and a geographic reality rooted in the trajectories of war and biopolitics. Though identity is constantly being formed and constructed in texts by migrant Arab authors, for writers like Nabi, Habbal, and Omran who had to face brutal, if not life-threatening, challenges as women who crossed borders to reach safety, the question of identity, in their case, is directly related to forced mobility and displacement. Their post-departure writings are not only about displacement and exile; there are also recurring questions that are being asked about the meaning and vitality of the other place that now hosts them, the hope of creating a second home, even if it is only in words, and anxiety about belonging to a foreign place or becoming a new citizen of it.