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The Arab-American Polyphonic Novel’s Indictment of the Post-9/11 Right-Wing Political Narrative
Abstract by Reem Tasyakan On Session I-26  (Racializing Arab Cultures)

On Thursday, November 2 at 3:00 pm

2023 Annual Meeting

In response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the George W. Bush administration infamously formulated and disseminated a political narrative intended to justify destabilizing changes to America’s domestic and foreign policy. At its core were falsehoods, manipulation tactics, and the rigid binaries of good v. evil, east v. west, and Christian v. Muslim—all of which were based on existing orientalist stereotypes. Arab-American multi-narrator novels, such as Laila Halaby’s Once in a Promised Land and Laila Lalami’s The Other Americans, respond to the dominant narrative by painting complex portraits of the post-9/11 American landscape. Through close readings that analyze the merging of content and form, this paper reveals that Halaby’s and Lalami’s novels offer harsh indictments of the narrative by demonstrating the harmfulness of its lies and manipulation tactics through metaphor and invalidating the narrative's rigid binaries through nuanced depictions of human interaction. Using those narrative techniques, these texts implicate the dominant post-9/11 in the destructive political polarization in the 2000s and the 2010s while subverting persistent modes of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment. By foregrounding the Arab-American experience, Halaby’s and Lalami’s novels place Arab-American literature at the center of discourse about post-9/11 America. Mikhail Bakhtin’s notions of polyphony and dialogism as well as Jody Byrd’s concept of cacophony are used to frame the analysis because it’s access to a cross-section of diverse American voices exhibiting varied reactions to post-9/11 events that facilitates the indictment the post-9/11 in these novels.
Geographic Area
All Middle East
Sub Area