Multilingualism, the Politics of Cinema and Art and the Middle East

The Volume 43, Number 1, of Arab Studies Quarterly delves into trauma and liminality in diasporic literature, Hollywood in the context of American politics, Syria’s industrial conglomerates and women’s bodily expressions, among other contributions.
Multilingualism, the Politics of Cinema and Art and the Middle East

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Arab Studies Quarterly
Volume 43, Number 1

Multilingualism, Trauma, And Liminality In The Bullet Collection: Contact Zones, Checkpoints, And Liminal Points

Syrine Hout

Abstract: Informed by theories of code-switching, memory, and trauma, my reading of Lebanese American Patricia Sarrafian Ward’s diasporic novel The Bullet Collection (2003) centers on its multilingual usages to demonstrate how language play makes visible states of liminality or in-betweenness: between Lebanon and the US, the past and the present, the present and the future, childhood and adulthood, and trauma and recovery. I argue that this liminality, laid bare by a creative interpretation of the (mis)- and (dis)uses of multilingualism, is a concept that ties trauma, nostalgia, and homeness together and is fleshed out in three psychodynamic spaces: social contact zones, checkpoints, and liminal points. I zero in on code-switched materials, both overt and covert, to reveal how they are deeply, if often inconspicuously, connected to expressing traumas and (re)negotiating identities. By adopting this approach, I contribute, first, to the field of literary linguistics, relatively under-explored in connection with Arab American and Anglophone Arab fiction, and, second, chart a new pathway towards decolonizing trauma studies by examining its relationships with multilingualism, war, and nostalgia.

Keywords: code-switching, multilingualism, Lebanese civil war, trauma, nostalgia, Patricia Sarrafian Ward

Hollywood, American Politics, And Terrorism: When Art Turns Into A Political Tool

Ali Serdouk

Abstract: Since Sirocco, a 1951 film, the United States’ cinema, Hollywood, has produced many terrorism films that have portrayed Arabs and Muslims unjustly as “terrorists.” After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hollywood’s projection of prejudice and negative stereotypes of the Arabs and Muslims have been fostered. The post-9/11 period was an era in which the White House, the Pentagon, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contributed directly and indirectly to the production of several terrorism films. In Zero Dark Thirty, gifts were offered to some CIA agents in order to obtain classified information and various accesses. In Iron Man, funding and resources were provided, a green light was given, and strict regulations were imposed by the Pentagon to portray the military in a positive light. In Syriana, a CIA agent had a friendly relationship with the film screenwriter, and much of the film events were inspired by the agent’s personal experiences. The post-9/11 films have been used to spread stereotyped demeaning images of the Arabs and Muslims and perpetuated a constant distortion of Muslim communities. They have therefore severely targeted Muslims and depicted them as murderers and criminals, who express the feeling of hatred towards Western civilization.

Keywords: Hollywood, U.S. government, American politics, terrorism, films, Arabs, Muslims, stereotypes

 Al-Khumasiya: Syria’s Industrial Conglomerate Of The 1950s

Sami Moubayed

Abstract: Al-Khumasiya was a highly influential industrial complex that operated in Syria from 1946 until its nationalization in 1961. During the 1950s, it was the pride and joy of Syrian government officials, who took dignitaries on tours of its premises, boasting of the quality of its products. President Nasser of Egypt praised its achievements, before seizing the company in 1961 and transferring its ownership to the state, where it remains as of 2020. Many consider the nationalization of al-Khumasiya as the beginning of the end of the Syrian economy. And yet, nothing has been written about it, either in English or Arabic. Its records were destroyed, and its five founders died without leaving behind a written account of their experience. This article looks at the company, how it was founded, and what was so important for Syria throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

Keywords: Syria, Egypt, Damascus, socialism, industry, Gamal  ͑Abdul Nasser

“The Fourth Language For All Females”: Women’s Subversive Bodies In Assia Djebar’s Fantasia, An Algerian Calcavade

Abdel Karim Daragmeh and Bilal Hamamra

Abstract: This article aims to illustrate the dialogic significance of the trance dance, a discursive scene of women’s bodily expressions, in the Algerian feminist postcolonial novelist and film director, Assia Djebar’s Fantasia (1985). While Djebar’s literary oeuvre has been subject to enormous critical readings, this essay focuses on Djebar’s representation of the female body as a medium of subversive expression in the ritualistic trance dance. Following the critical lines of psychoanalysis, deconstruction, and postmodern and postcolonial feminism, we contend that the trance scene is an uncanny, subjective space of women’s collective voices that undermine patriarchal authority. Women’s movement into the domestic sphere of the Harem is a retreat into the semiotic, imaginary order and an escape from the symbolic order that deprives women from their bodies and their expressions. Thus, we propose that the trance privileges the matriarch’s body/signs over the phallocentric system of Arab, benign patriarchy, her unconscious over social consciousness, irrationality over rationality, the ritual over the real, and ultimately the feminine over the masculine. The dissident practice of periodic dancing gives a space for dancers to claim dramatic authority and agency over their bodies, that is, to empower themselves socially and psychologically despite the patriarchal constraints lurking over them.

Keywords: Assia Djebar’s Fantasia, women’s subversive bodies, the trance dance, Arab patriarchy, uncanny, jouissance, semiotic order


Kapadia, Ronak. Insurgent Aesthetics: Security and the Queer Life of the Forever War.

Durham: Duke University Press, 2019. 352 pages. Paperback $28.95

Reviewed by Saʻed Atshan

Khalidi, Rashid. The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonial Conquest and Resistance.

New York: Metropolitan Books, 2020. 336 pages. Hardcover $27.99

Reviewed by Peter Bartu


Sanagan, Mark. Lightening through the Clouds: ʿIzz Al-Din Al-Qassam and the Making of the Modern Middle East.

Austin: University of Texas Press, 2020. 272 pages. Hardcover $50.00

Sachs, Jeffrey D. The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions.

New York: Columbia University Press, 2020. 280 pages. Hardcover $24.95

Fischbach, Michael R. Black Power and Palestine: Transnational Countries of Color.

Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019. 296 pages. Paperback $26.00


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