Rethinking Post-colonialism Through the Lenses of Modern Middle Eastern Migratory Formations

By Ammar Naji
Submitted to Session P4983 (Diaspora and Political Participation, 2017 Annual Meeting
Diaspora/Refugee Studies;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
Diasporic and immigrant writing from the Middle East and North Africa poses a challenge to the theoretical framework used today in diaspora and postcolonial studies. The field’s schematic emphasis on the nation-state and geographic movement from East to West -as an essential aspect of the experience of postcolonial migration- has fallen short to highlight the stateless forms of dwelling and travelling one finds in contemporary Anglophone-Arabic literature. Today Arab authors residing in the U.S. and Britain foster a migratory understanding of the postcolonial condition in which the homeland is no longer a fixed entity, but a “diasporic structure of feeling" that evolves with travel and stateless dwelling across regional and transnational borders. Throughout this paper I argue that the work of the British-Sudanese writer, Jamal Mahjoub, critiques the boundaries of postcolonial subjectivity and rather presents belonging as a “diasporic sentiment” that traverses the strictures of nation-states and the focus on geographic displacement to the West. In Travelling with Jinns, Mahjoub dismantles the binary relationship between home and homelessness and introduces “diaspora” as an empowering form of stateless belonging in the twenty first century. Mahjoub’s work proposes a new notion of migratory belonging that expands the conceptual and contextual boundaries of postcolonial studies, and further illustrates how the borderless articulations of diaspora are imagined in the work of Arab immigrant writers in Europe.