Women’s Cartoonists and Palestinian/Arab Nationalism: An Exploratory Study of Omayya Juḥa’s Cartoons

By Sadam Issa
Submitted to Session P3967 (Aesthetic Politics in Elite and Mass Culture, 2014 Annual Meeting
Media Arts
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
Although women have been subordinated by male domination, national resistance grants them a primary opportunity to contribute to their nation building. In her seminal article (you need to give ref. to article)“Masculinity and Nationalism,” Joane Nagel observes that in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries masculinity is tied to nationalism, colonialism, militarism, and imperialism; the masculine institution defines the national state. In this study, I will show how women affiliate in the Palestinian national resistance as revolutionary artists, in their role as political cartoonists. I will explore the impact of gendered discourse on the cultivation of the Palestinian national consciousness. My analysis is based on the political cartoons featured by the first Palestinian and Arab woman political cartoonist—Omayya Juḥa. Juḥa challenges traditional women’s role in the Arab world by drawing political cartoons in several Arab and Palestinian newspapers. This study addresses the question of authorship: In articulating Palestinian nationalism, do Juḥa’s cartoons differ stylistically from those of Palestinian male cartoonists (i.e. Nājī al-‘Alī and Mohammed Sabā‘nih)? This paper also addresses the question of representation: How do Juha’s cartoons present women in relation to the Palestinian national identity? The study is concerned with the role of female figures in forging the Palestinian communal identity. Beyond Joane Nagel, I argue that women’s role in enacting nationalism is governed by their traditional roles as symbol of national honor, raising their children, and supporting their husbands.
The analysis reveals that in contrast to Nājī al-‘Alī’s and Mohammed Sabā‘nih’s cartoons, which visibly feature motherhood by depicting women educating their children and mobilizing them in opposition to the Israeli occupation, Juḥa's cartoons feature “the failure of motherhood” (Nadia Yaqub 205) by depicting children alone and/or suffering from occupation. Further, her cartoons show that women’s full participation in the national liberation is still missing. The cartoons of male and female cartoonists depict women in constructing nationalism as auxiliary. This marginalized role of women in constructing Palestinian nationalism emphasizes the central stereotype, the primacy of male. For future research, it is conceivable to see how women’s participation in the national liberation deployed in cartoons by female and male cartoonist change over time.

Works Cited

Nagel, Joane. “Masculinity and nationalism: gender and sexuality in the making of nations.” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 21.2 (1989) : 242-269. Print.
Yaqub, Nadia. Gendering the Palestinian political cartoon. Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, 2.2 (2009) : 187-213. Print.