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  • March 21, 2019
  • Norman, Rachel
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • ABSTRACT Rachel Anne Norman: Multilingual Arabesques in the Novel in North America (Under the direction of María DeGuzmán) “Multilingual Arabesques” examines the literary and linguistic constructions of identity in the Arab diaspora in North America. Novels, and the languages used to write them, are cardinal spaces of cultural belonging. Arab North Americans’ inclusion (or not) of Arabic in their fiction establishes a linguistic identity that situates characters, texts, and authors within and beyond national spaces. By comparing representations of Arabic as a “foreign” language in novels from Canada, Mexico, and the United States, this dissertation argues that Arab diasporic writers invoke language to perform identity in contextually contingent ways. Within the United States and Canada, Arabs are socially constructed as “enemy,” “other,” and “fanatical terrorist,” and authors claim ethnic and national belonging through representations of code-switching and translingualism that powerfully contest and transform the spatial hegemony of the nation-state. Absent the same historical constructions of race, Mexico figures Arab immigrants as corrupt businessmen out to cheat “real” Mexicans. Arab Mexican authors variously utilize Arabic not as a tool to modify the nation but rather to create a linguistic space that stands outside geography. Chapter 1 explores the form and function of the intersections between language and identity categories like ethnicity, race, nation, class, gender, and sexuality. Continuing the discussion of gender, Chapter 2 argues that an Arab diasporic identity is inscribed within the female body through the cultural resources of food and language, while Chapter 3 suggests that queer Arab American characters inhabiting non-normative narrative structures challenge homonational global politics. Finally, Chapter 4 elucidates how authors manipulate language to normalize the presence of Arabic and Arab bodies by inserting Arabic into the linguistic landscape of North America. Although the Arab linguistic production of identity differs between Canada, Mexico, and the United States, all three Arab immigrant communities enlist language in the rhetorical and material pursuit of belonging. The first study in the field to compare nationally and linguistically diverse Arab diasporic texts, “Multilingual Arabesques” helps us to understand critical points of continuity and rupture within the Arab diaspora in North America.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • DeGuzmán, María
  • Eble, Connie
  • Wolfram, Walt
  • Ho, Jennifer
  • Fadda-Conrey, Carol
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2018

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