COLT 53.03/AMES 41.19 Offered Spring 2018 @ 2A/Ariss

Identity and Representation in the Middle East: Narratives of Loss 
Spring 2018 @ 2A Inst. Tarek El-Ariss                                                                     
This interdisciplinary course lays the theoretical foundations for reflecting on the question of identity in Middle Eastern culture. Focusing on experiences of loss and dispossession, we will examine the discourse on identity and memory, identity and trauma, and national identity. We will analyze narratives of lamentations and humiliation following military and ideological defeats from the second half of the 20th century to the present.
From the aṭlāl (ruins) of ancient Arabia to the destroyed urban centers of the contemporary Middle East, destruction, defeat, and exile are some of the key frameworks for literary and cultural articulation of identity and representation, affecting how the region is perceived and how people from the region have come to perceive themselves. To understand and critique this representation, it is important to trace it historically and culturally, examining it in poetry, literature, film, political ideology, and music. This interdisciplinary course lays the theoretical foundations for reflecting on the question of identity in Middle Eastern culture. Starting with an overview of representations of loss in classical Arabic poetry, the students and I will investigate the discourse on identity and memory, identity and trauma, and national identity. We will also extend the concept of loss to the cultural and political realms in order to examine lamentations of dispossession and humiliation following military and ideological defeats in the second half of the 20th century and till this day. Finally, we will situate this investigation in relation the experience of estrangement and exile, displacement and the impossibility of return.