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Panel Discussion

Negotiating an Arab-American Identity: Voices of Arab Immigrants in the Past & Present

  • Layla al-Maleh
  • Hassnae Bouazza
  • Peter Webb
Wednesday 3 May 2017
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

On 3 May 2017, LUCIS will organize a panel on the subject of cultural exchange between the Western and Arab world. In light of the recent refugee crisis, this panel focuses on the topic of integration. How do migrants from the Arab world adapt themselves to their new environment?

About the panel discussion

The question of integration is commonly discussed in the current refugee crisis. What role will these new refugees play in Western society? Dutch popular opinion tends towards two extremes – the refugees are either idealized as highly educated super citizens, who will enrich society on economic, social and cultural levels, or they are demonized as outsider threats. This lecture will shift from theoretical generalizations to more concrete examples from past experience. To do so, this panel will turn to the Arab-American literature that emerged from the Arab diaspora in the United States. Several generations of writers offer a reflection on how these new American citizens became a part of the wider American society. What do these reflections teach us about integration processes?  These reflections will be compared to the experiences of the current refugees coming to Europe and elsewhere. By making this comparison, this panel attempts to add new insights to the current discussion.

Participating experts

The panel will be joined by Professor Layla al-Maleh (Professor of literature, Kuwait University) and Hassnae Bouazza (columnist, author of Arabieren kijken: de alledaagse revolutie). Dr. Peter Webb (Leiden University) will moderate the panel.

Layla al-Maleh

Layla al-Maleh is Associate Professor of English Literature at Kuwait University, director of the Comparative Literature Graduate program, and former chair of the English Department at Kuwait University. She has extensive experience teaching translation courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels including courses in literary and audio-visual translation. She has worked for many years as a simultaneous interpreter for several world organizations, and is co-translator of Narrating Kuwait : A collection of Short Stories in English Translation (2004). Layla Almaleh was the first scholar to draw attention to Arab Anglophone literature and is editor of Arab Voices in Diaspora: Critical Perspectives on Anglophone Arab Literature (New York & Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009). Her research and teaching interests include cultural studies, Post-colonial literature, and translation studies. She taught at Damascus University, Syria, the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, and was a visiting scholar at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, USA.

Hassnae Bouazza

Hassnae Bouazza is a journalist, columnist, translator and producer. She studied English language and French literature at Utrecht University. Hassnae Bouazza is known for her strong opinions and publishes in various media. She writes on the Arabic World for Vrij Nederland and writes opinions for NRC, Volkskrant, the website Frontaal Naakt and the Arabic language website of the Wereldomroep.  Besides these activities she writes for fashion magazine Elle, gives bookreviews  for Fonds van de letteren and is a producer on the Writers Unlimited Winternachten festival. She often appears in various media to comment on current affairs. She has also directed and edited the renowned Dutch documentary Seks en de Zonde. She runs her own online glossy called Aicha Qandisha. In 2015 she was awarded the Arouwad Award in Beirut for her work on the Arab world.

Peter Webb:

Peter Webb specializes in the literature and culture of pre-modern Islam. His research examines community, ethnicity and social identities in the early Islamic world, with particular focus on the origins and development of Arab identity and the stories of pre-Islam recorded in Arabic poetry and prose.

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