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Culture and Nationalism

Panel I-28, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Thursday, November 2 at 3:00 pm

Panel Description
  • This paper explores the rationale of translation and constraints faced by translators in a South-North context of circulation. Common theories assume that translation, especially of literature coming from peripheral spaces of the literary world, are political acts of building bridges between cultures. Interviews with two dozen American translators of North African literature (Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, from French and Arabic) lead to qualify this assumption. If not absent, politics appears to be a secondary reason for action. Their motivation for translating is constrained by their main profession, language from which they translate, and reputation in the field. Three types are distinguished: the Male Arabic Scholar, the Francophile Writer, and the Woman Professional Translator. Translators are also constrained by the publishing houses. Anecdotes of refusals by the latter are indeed telling, and show that politics reside sometimes more in rejections than in choices. Despite the political good will the translators might have in favor of a more diverse literary market in the USA, the outcome is limited, as revealed by an original bibliographical database of 350 North African books translated into English since 1970. It shows that literature translated in the USA reinforces the weight of male writers, French language, and of linguistic areas capitals (Paris and Beirut), when compared to the structure of the local literary field (as described by another database on 2000 books published by Algerian writers in the 1990s).
  • Ilana Webster-Kogen
    As a key early theorist of decolonization, Albert Memmi was an important thinker in the twentieth century, writing noted additional works on the state of Otherness for the Jew in exile, and eventually about Jewish-Arab relations. Memmi immigrated to France when his native Tunisia became independent, and he adopted the French concept of laïcité, self-identifying as secular and therefore confounding his left-wing readers with his support of Jewish self-determination. When Memmi died in 2020, every obituary mentioned his commitment to secularism with approval, and his support of Zionism with bafflement. Yet the scholarly literature about Mizrahi Jewry is quite clear that the religious-secular binary that characterizes Ashkenazic observance is not quite apt in the case of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, many of whom self-identify as “traditional.” This paper decenters the religious labelling that characterizes writings by and about Albert Memmi, and considers the aspects of synagogue life that had a clear impact on his writings. I present ethnographic material from synagogue services in France (and some material from Morocco, Tunisia and Israel) to demonstrate that even if Memmi’s personal observance was resolutely secular, he was strongly influenced by religious categories of thinking. Offering an ethnographic analysis of synagogue rituals involving the Torah scroll and their relationship to Albert Memmi’s core texts and ideas, this paper re-evaluates one of the central assertions about a foundational postcolonial theorist, reimagining Memmi not only as a postcolonial thinker who was Jewish, but as a Jewish thinker.
  • The status of the Kurdish language during the medieval and Ottoman periods lacks an accessible rich body of scholarly literature and continues to be ambiguous without the aid of classical Kurdish poetry. Prose being rare, written Kurdish only appeared in literary works. A renowned Kurdish poet, Ahmede Xani (1650-1706), for instance, defies the claim of the deficiency of Kurdish. As he puts, “if this fruit is not juicy, it is Kurdish that has a value. If this child is not charming, it’s the first-born, dearest to me.” In the similar vein, Nali (1797-1877), appeals to literary community not to stigmatize his Kurdish poetry, “Do not question my words: are they Kurdish? Are they local?” It appears that the Kurdish language was a subject to sever oppression during the poets time. The picture of this oppression becomes even more clear when we framed it in historical records. The Kurdish scholar, Ibn Adam Balaki (1750-1844), once, was ashamed of writing a prolegomenon for his book in Kurdish (Mohmammad 2:187). Having translated Quran into Kurdish, the Kurdish poet, Xanay Qubadi (1668-1754) was expelled from his town (Al Mudarris 338). Despite many Kurdish dynasties and ruling houses, Persian and Turkish became official languages and Kurdish chiefs communicated with one another in Persian ( Wahbi 2022: 1.318). The Kurdish language did not become a central point, particularly for the majority of the Kurdish scholars, who produced voluminous manuscripts in various fields of knowledge in non Kurdish during those periods (al-Mudarris 1983). There must have had to be a very strong reason for Kurds to show a lack of interest in cultivating their mother tongue, in favor of writing in “other” languages. This paper argues that the immediate appeal of classical Kurdish poetry in particular, made by poets to write in Kurdish, shall not be limited only to the presence of early Kurdish nationalism (Hassanpour 2003, Shakely 1992, Chyet, 1991), nor be examined in the sense of emergence of vernacularization (Leezenberg 2019), but also, should be scrutinized through the lens of extant discourses and myths surrounding the Kurdish in the form of disparaging remarks and stereotypes. By textualizing the classical Kurdish poems with several historical accounts, I will substantiate this argument by presenting the classical Kurdish poetry as a defining moment, capturing a linguistic smear campaign exercised by local and regional elites against the use of Kurdish as a medium for knowledge construction.
  • Egyptian film classics engaged with modernity in often contradictory – or at best vague – ways, projecting a new social ethos of modern gender equality while, in their resolutions, favoring male subjects as active nation builders. Thus, the worlds that they created charted divergent paths that, despite attempts to include women as equal partners, ultimately sent them back to the home via a detour. This paper looks at two Egyptian classics released eleven years apart: Ana hurra (I am Free, 1959) and Ghurub wa shuruq (Sunset, Sunrise, 1970). I argue that these two movies utilize the bildungsroman, or coming of age, narrative to outline a gendered matrix for nation-building. Under this pattern irresponsible, deviant males are rehabilitated and re-integrated in the nation, while women, whether deviant or not, are either disposed of or integrated through domesticity. Ana hurra is a forward-looking picture depicting the journey of growth of a defiant young woman, whose rebelliousness reflects the Nasser era state feminism. Insisting on freedom, autonomy as a full-fledged individual, and participation in the nation as an active subject Amina, the protagonist, undergoes a journey of exploration. With her father’s support, she breaks many barriers as she turns down marriage, goes to college, graduates, and works in a petrol company. Her search for freedom continues as she reconnects with ‘Abbas, a former male neighbor, who serves as her guide. Amina joins a political group fighting for Egypt’s independence, an affiliation which lands them both in prison where she finally recognizes that her true freedom lies in the domestic sphere. The last scenes see her getting married to ‘Abbas exactly three days before the revolution, implying that Amina will now recede to the background and contribute to the fight through rearing the nation’s children. Ghurub wa shuruq revisits the pre-revolution era in order to celebrate its contemporary moment. The film follows the growth and rehabilitation of two playboys who, after losing their friend, perform important political services to the nation and eventually mature into responsible men. Both films depict the redemptive powers of the nation. However, this redemptive path is only available to men whose past life is forgiven once they channel their efforts towards nation building. Women figure either as temporary aids for whom the political struggle is only a detour, or as threats to the wellbeing of the nation such as Madiha the idle rich woman in the second film.
  • This study examines how Arabic political cartoons depict former US President Donald Trump in relation to his decision to move the US Embassy from Israel to Jerusalem in 2018 as well as to his peace plan in the Middle East known as “The Deal of the Century.” In particular, the study investigates the visually stigmatizing portrayals of Trump used to depict him with regard to these decisions. The study uses the Framing Theory (Entman, 1993) and theoretical concept of “hostile imagination” (Keen, 1986: 13) to examine how the negative stereotypes of overweight provoke the antagonistic categorization of Trump as the “Other.” I argue that the Arabic political cartoons use fat body and other body distortions of Trump as visualization to delegitimize his political decisions. These fat and bodily distortion of Trump result from the deep stigmatizations of fatness and these bodily distortion in the Arabic culture. The political cartoons selected for this study were retrieved from Facebook and represent the work of different Arab cartoonists who featured Trump's political decision. A content analysis was conducted to examine images pertaining to obesity, and other physiological characteristics used in depicting Trump as a malefactor. For this purpose, I implemented a coding tool (Heuer et al., 2011) to identify and determine obese and corpulent characteristics using the following criteria: “. . . 6. Body weight. 7. How the body was portrayed in the image. 8. Whether the head was cut out of the image . . . 10. Clothing style (professional, casual, or exercise) 11. Fit of clothes (appropriate or inappropriate; coded as inappropriate only if an obese individual’s clothing was distinctly too tight)” (979). Findings indicate that the surveyed cartoons used different satirical depictions including depicting Trump as an obese, non-human, murderous and savage aggressor to stigmatize and ridicule him and hence serve as an archetype, an “archetype of the enemy” (Hyde & McGuinness, 1994, p. 86), that grants Trump the status of a hostile “other.” References: Entman R M (1993) Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication (43): 51–58. Heuer CA, McClure KJ, & Puhl RM (2011) Obesity Stigma in Online News: A Visual Content Analysis. Journal of Health Communication 16(9): 976–987. Hyde M, & McGuinness M (1994) Introducing Jung. New York: Totem Books. Keen, S. (1986) Faces of the Enemy: Reflections of the Hostile Imagination. First edition. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
  • The use of heritage discourse to produce, legitimize and reinforce nationalist historical narratives, has been a commonplace strategy in statehood projects. However, this often-exclusionary and resolutely top-down political utility of heritage has been increasingly undermined by its relatively recent articulations as a global value regime that promotes equity, inclusivity and diversity at the intersection of environmentalism and human rights. Attesting to this conceptual expansion of heritage has been the use of heritage in diplomacy, resulting in international projects, exchanges and other forms of interactions that strategically co-mingle nationalist agendas with socially constructive concerns. Turkey has been widely studied as an illustration of these various ideological uses of heritage, their manifestations in both its national politics and diplomatic affairs reflecting the historically shifting dominant nationalist narratives in the country. In keeping with the shifting languages and concerns around heritage, however, an increasing scholarly attention has been directed towards the country’s involvement in global heritage regimes under the lead of UNESCO, and its support for international heritage projects as a supplement for its diplomatic relations. However, from the 1980s to the present, there has also been an increasing number of contestations over heritage in the country's international relations. In this regard, most of the academic focus has been directed towards issues of repatriation and archaeological research permit grants in particular. To contribute to the scholarship on heritage contestations within the context of Turkey, this study will identify and analyse the concept of “de-heritagization” as a distinct practice of coercive power in heritage diplomacy. Through the lens of critical heritage studies, it will discuss several recent examples, predominantly contestations over heritage sites of religious importance such as Hagia Sophia, to illustrate this phenomenon, and make a historical comparison with similar controversies from earlier periods.