Spring 2012: Women's Narratives in the Arab Middle East
This course will examine narratives written by women in the Arab Middle East from the early 20th century to the present.
ANTHH226B01 Women's Narratives in the Arab Middle East
This course will examine narratives written by women in the Arab Middle East from the early 20th century to the present. The underlying assumption of the course is that literary works can be read ethnographically. As such, this course will provide an alternative approach to understanding the region. Rather than dealing with scholarly works, we will read narratives, particularly memoirs and novels. While it is taken for granted that memoirs document the social and political life under which an author lived, novels can also be deeply rooted in historical contexts. In addition to their literary values, memoirs and novels provide a rich source to understand social questions, political struggles, and historical events. The first part of the course will address the representation of the Arab world in Western thought, namely Orientalism, and its impact on self-understanding and internal Orientalization. We will be particularly attuned to the role women play in these Orientalist and Orientalizing depictions. We will also discuss the historical and political contexts of the region. The major part of the course will focus on novels and memoirs written by Arab women. Some of the questions that we will discuss are: modernity vs. tradition, social and political changes following the rise of the modern nation-states and colonial rule, representation of the self and the other, the relation between "the West" and "the East," gender and sexuality, and questions of (undermining) national histories.