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Assa, ​Shirin

BIGSAS Junior Fellow Shirin Assa

Research Interests:

English and Anglophone Literatures

Geographical Area:

Middle East and North Africa

Current Project:

MENA Women in Diaspora: Poetics of Intersectional Resistance Versus Geometry of Appropriation

The recent phase of migration of MENA people to the global North (since 2015) has challenged Western awareness of MENA diasporas. The reliance on mere categories of gender*sexuality, "race," religion, etc., has proved insufficient for an encompassing formulation of diasporic identity. In turn, resistance is appointed as an inevitable constituent of diasporic identity. Therefore, any formulation of diasporic subjectivity along these lines which overlook the pertinence of resistance remains imprecise. Historically, the resistance of MENA people is at best represented through the colonial and oriental gaze, and at worst, completely eluded the Western eyes or appropriated by the nationalist discourses. Against this backdrop, the condition of diasporic MENA women, particularly, emphasizes the multitude of cultural positionalities that form not only along the lines of categories above but instead in view of their concurrency. In effect, the precarious condition of MENA women can serve as an example to emphasize the imperative of intersectional perspective in the analysis of MENA diasporas. Building upon the intersectionality of diasporic MENA women, the leading question in this study is how to map the complexity and the extent of the resistances that MENA women in diaspora manifest. The inquiry is contextualized in "Ostrich" (2018) by Leila Aboulela and Home Fire (2017) by Kamila Shamsie.

Within the scope of my project as a cumulative thesis, the bulk of the research is divided into three segments: 1) a critical review of the theories of intersectionality studies and Transnational feminism. I compare intersectionality and transnational feminism through a literature review only to bring to attention the possibilities for complementing these two theories in my research. This research review is to be published by Ethnicities (SAGE journal). In my second paper, I primarily argue how these fictional representations of MENA women have an intersectional twist by analyzing my corpus. In a further step, I discuss how the positionality of these intersectional subjects renders an intrinsic aporia to their resistance. For the publication of this paper, I will approach Research in African Literature by Indiana University Press. In my third paper, I advocate for employing an intersectional paradigm in readings of the resistance of MENA women while engaging with and expanding on the notion of intersectional resistance, which Dean Spade initially frames in "Intersectional Resistance and Law Reform" (2013). This paper thus aims to outline the poetics of intersectional resistance brought afore by diasporic women of MENA. Here, I would like to argue for the necessity of employing intersectionality in literary studies and the advancement of the methodological toolbox for literary analysis.


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