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Representations of ‘Home’ from the Setting of ‘Exile’: Novels by Arab Migrant Writers
Naguib, Assmaa Mohamed
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The attempt to come to terms with the meaning of home, both literally and metaphorically, has become a major concern in literary studies. This dissertation explores the various novelistic representations of home from the point of view of Arab migrant novelists. Home, which contains various references to architectural structures, nations, states, or belonging, can no longer be thought of as a generalized or unified experience. For the migrant writer, the concept of home takes shape as a result of interaction between the past and the present, with memory playing a powerful role. It is created as a result of various forces in tension that include personal and national experiences, the context within which migration from the traditional home place occurred, ideological allegiances and identity politics. I argue through my exploration of a number of novels written by Arab writers who migrated from their home countries that the concept of home can no longer be referred to as a generalized, definite or a fixed notion. Given the different circumstances of the movement from one country to another, even among nationals of the same country, what are the themes that will be stressed in an Arab writer’s imagination and portrayal of home? Will writers stress the exclusions of exile, and define their presence away from the original country clearly as ‘exile’, fixating on painful nostalgia? How does memory influence the perception of home? Will those writers who have lived a long time in a new ‘foreign’ country emphasize the adaptations in the diaspora and the privileges of migration? Will they offer critiques of the national project, making a clear distinction between the personal home and the national project? Will such boundaries be as clearly defined for all the writers? Those questions guide my investigation into the representation of home in the novels of Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi writers living away from their three countries of origin. This investigation takes place within the postcolonial theoretical framework of the implications of the site of migration about the revision of the centrality of the nation as a referent of identity. The analysis uncovers a variety of illustrations in the imagination of home and the portrayal of the national experience in the novels. The analysis also highlights the inextricable link between the personal experience and the political experience, whereby the ideological stance on issues of nation and nationalism cannot be easily isolated in an assessment of the cultural product at the site of migration.
Doctor of Philosophy in Arab and Islamic Studies