Identity, Gender and American Politics in Transnational Arab Women’s Literature.

By Rima Sadek
Submitted to Session P4808 (Gender and Mobility in Arab Women's Writings, 2017 Annual Meeting
All Middle East;
This paper discusses the intersections of identity, gender and Arab-American politics in the works of Inaam Kachachi’s The American Granddaughter (2009) and Miral el-Tahawi’s Brooklyn Heights (2011); two Arab female writers who moved from their countries of origin (Iraq and Egypt) and resettled in The US. From the point of view of the novels’ two female protagonists, America and the Middle East are two worlds that have little in common on the surface, but deep down share similar structures of hierarchy and oppression. As females, they offer a peculiar insider/outsider position on both places commenting on the structures of racism, misogyny and class inequality entrenched in the socio-economic and political apparatus of America and the Middle East. The novels offer a challenging, alternative perception on the relations between the US and the Arab world from the standpoint of two female writers who have experienced patterns of marginalization and exclusion in both worlds and in both cultures. As females they grapple with issues of belonging, visibility, misogyny and mobility in East and West. The paper analyses the techniques of deconstruction of prevalent discourses of division in an attempt to transcend geographical boundaries and critique the self and the other from a simultaneous insider/outsider position. Transnational feminist literature produced by Arab women writers who lived in the Arab world and the West, highlights patterns of similarity between the two worlds that can be unifying and can bring people together to address structures of marginalization and hierarchy in both worlds and cultures. This kind of discourse can mend the fractured relationship between the two worlds following 9/11 and the subsequent wars and political crisis.