Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Listen to this podcast from the 21 January 2015 seminar, part of the Hilary term 2015 IMI Seminar Series

Duration 27:04

> Listen online @ Oxford Podcasts

About this event

The relationship between the nation-state and diaspora has been well explored in sociology and anthropology, where the two terms are often seen as opposites that both inform and constitute one another. Scholars of politics and international relations are also interested in diaspora and see it as a useful model to examine how transnational communities operate across and between the boundaries of the state. While this paper draws on these social science-based approaches to diaspora and nationalism, it does so by focusing on how literature composed by diasporic writers engages with and complicates the notion of the nation-state. This is important because of the dominant approach in literary studies that classifies literary texts in nationalist terms. Such an approach does not disregard the writings of migrant, transnational or diasporic authors, but it does impose a national frame on a body of work that is produced outside of a single national tradition.

Assessments of Arab-American fiction illuminate this clearly. Critics have identified three ways to classify this work. Some have argued that Arab-American writing is Arab fiction written in English, others suggest that it is part of an American literary history, while more recent critics elect to celebrate Arab-American fiction’s hybrid status. In all these assessments, however, what is overlooked is the migrant and diasporic features that permeate the texts. Such features, if discovered, not only prompt readers to rethink the nation-state model but also call for new ways to analyse literary texts that do not fit existing, nation-biased critical models.

About the speaker

Jumana Bayeh is an Early Career Research Fellow in the Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations at Macquarie University.