Current and recent projects

Shima Shahbizi

Shima

Literary Studies program and the department of Arabic Language and Cultures. She has done her BA and MA in English language and literature at the University of Isfahan, Iran. Currently, she is writing her thesis on Middle Eastern transnational literature titled: “Politics of Representation: A Comparative Study of the Historiographical Memoir Writings of Iranian, Egyptian and Iraqi Transnational and Diaspora Women Writers.”

Shima has worked as a lecturer of English language and literature at Azad University of Tehran, Sheikhbahayi University and SOSA Institute of Higher Education in Iran. She has also been a guest lecturer at Australian Catholic University in Sydney. She has a number of publications in American Literature, comparative literature, translation studies and critical theory.
Her research interests include transnational and diaspora literature, historiography, decolonial feminism, critical race theory, cultural studies, women studies, area studies.

Thesis Abstract:
This research focuses on the memoirs, autobiographical and travel writings of a selection of transnational women writers from Iran, Iraq and Egypt. Applying postmodern historiography and its emphasis on the gaps of history being filled by the voices of the minorities, it highlights the capacity of transnational women writers to express a critical, reviewing and revisiting perspective of the past. In this research, the relation between history and memory is problematized, history as grand narrative is questioned, and micro-narratives become central. I focus on women transnational writers because they experience a double marginality, as women and as minorities living away from home, but, at the same time, they tend to be at the center of the Orientalist representations, This paradoxical position can be grasped only through the lenses of the Intersectionality Theory, which explains that power balance is a combination of multiple intersectional factors, namely: gender, race, and class.

This research also debates how, in the three bodies of literature under study, the so-called pre-defined borders of self/other, home/non-home merge at the practice and rivalry of such discourses (namely, the Orientalist/neo-Orientalist discourse in the West, the exile discourse, the post-revolutionary and soft war discourse, the discourses of ‘Occidentophobia’ (fear of the West) and ‘Occidentophilia’ (love of the West)) and that makes a new literature, which is transnational, multicultural and historiographical. These works, written by women writers, involve the practice of representing female identity within the homeland and the new land which can be questioned and problematized, as some of them are criticized to have highlighted many misrepresentations and “fragmented”, “fetishized” and sometimes “distorted” images of the Oriental woman. It seems that historiographical and biographical representations in their writings is a tool to challenge the masculine hegemony of patriarchal societies they come from and their publications are their “resistance” to and critiquing of the gender/class biases to which they have been subject.

The question is, if these writers have been able to challenge the masculinist, patriarchal discourse of otherness in their homelands, have they also managed to question, revise and review the patriarchal, Orientalist and racial discourse of otherness within diaspora? In the current era when memory and history have been colonized by the western hegemony and there exists a dominant collective amnesia and a kind of willful ignorance of different epistemic bodies which exist within the minority groups, how are these micro-narratives acting in the clash of dominant discourses? In an atmosphere where ‘globalization’ is the term being used for ‘colonization’ and colonization not being concerned about expansionism anymore but obsessed with ‘exclusion’, how do transnational memoir writings position themselves? This is the core theoretical question of this research, which aims to study the politics behind these representations and their relations to the discourses of power defining “history”.

List of publications:

  • Shahbazi, Pirnajmuddin. (2013) “Rocking” or “Slouching”? Sam Shepard’s Cowboy Mouth and W. B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming”. The Explicator. Taylor & Francis, Sept. 2013.
  • Shahbazi, Pirnajmuddin. (2013). Doomed Mythic Artist: Sam Shepard’s Angel City. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Finland. Vol. 4, Issue 1.
  • Shahbazi, Pirnajmuddin, Ouliaei Nia. (2012). Geography of a Lost Artist: Myth of the Artist in Sam Shepard’s Geography of a Horse Dreamer. International Journal of Art & Design.USA. Vol. 1, Issue 1.
  • Pirnajmudin, Golahmar, Shahbazi. (Fall and Winter 2011-2012). Surate makani-fazayi be masabehe este'are: motaleyi bar asase zabanshenasiye shenakhti (A Cognitive Study of Spacial Form as Conceptual Metaphor). Journal of Critical Language and Literary Studies. Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran. Vol. 4, Issue 7.
  • Pirnajmuddin, Shahbazi (2011). David Mamet’s Oleanna: A Bourdieusian Reading. The Journal of International Social Research, Turkey. Vol.R 4, Issue 18.
  • Shahbazi, Pirnajmuddin (2011). Postmodern Historiography in Suicide in B-Flat: Sam Shepard’s Myth of the Artist. Studies in Literature and Language, Canada. Vol. 2, Issue 2.
  • Pirnajmuddin, Shahbazi (2010). Philosophy in John Gardner’s Grendel. Journal of Applied language and Linguistics, Ahvaz. Vol.1, Issue1, (Fall 2010).

Ahlam Mustafa

Ahlam

MA in Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language, The American University in Cairo (2012); MA in Arabic Language and Literature, University of Sharjah (2010); BA, University of Sharjah(2007).

I am a PhD candidate working on cultural memory and trauma narratives in the postcolonial context. I have conducted research on the Islamic discourse in the modern Arabic novel; as part of my MA in Arabic Language and Literature (2010), and on codeswitching in classrooms of second language learners, and codeswitching in Franco-Arab online communication between Arabic native speakers; as part of my second MA in TAFL (2012). My current research interests include literary studies, memory studies, postcolonial theory, and trauma theory.

I have worked as a Teaching Assistant at the University of Sharjah (2007-2010), and as a Project Manager at the Nadhmi Auchi fellowship project on workers’ empowerment and educational campaign, in the American University in Cairo (2011). I have also worked as a sessional staff member at the University of Sydney in the department of Arabic Language and Cultures (Fall 2015).

I was a cofounder of the public educational group Ma’arefa (Knowledge) in Egypt (2010-2012), aiming towards spreading and facilitating basic knowledge of a range of disciplines, for youth and teenagers in 10 cities across the country. I have also cofounded Mofakeroon (Thinkers) (2010-present), a network with over 2 million followers from all over the world, working on publishing the works of intellectuals and academics in an attempt to provide an alternative source of knowledge, beyond mainstream media and politicized discourse.

Thesis Title and Abstract:
“Representations of Memory and Trauma in Radwa Ashour Works, a Postcolonial Literary Analysis”
Over the past decade research in the area of “cultural memory” shifted towards seeking an understanding of the processes by which memories become shared experiences, studies looking into mediums through which cultural memory is created and shared flourished. Literature as a product of the public act of remembering takes part in creating the accumulative repertoire that winds up formulating these shared memories, which are eventually objectivized and externalized streaming into the pool of “cultural memory”.

Trauma experiences can also be transformed to become part of cultural memory through processes of recollection, repetition, and circulation. This relationship between trauma and cultural memory is what I am most interested in as I examine the works of the acclaimed Egyptian writer Radwa Ashour (1946-2014). Ashour’s stated authorial determination to “record” history and preserve collective memory, creates a web of modes of remembering and literary genres in which memory and trauma are inseparable, and their effect on constructing and/or distorting identities is undeniable.

Humanity is living through times where the media culture and facilitated communications changed the way information is documented and circulated, new stories wipe preceding ones almost instantly. This is combined with what is being described as a “catastrophic age”, in which trauma is becoming part of our everyday lives, pictures of victims and news of destruction overflow to people’s homes. Terms such as “prosthetic trauma”, “distant suffering”, “insidious trauma” and “collective trauma” are brought into discussion, our former understanding of trauma as an event-based model relying on individual experiences of firsthand encounters is negotiated and questioned. In the postcolonial context there needs to be a deeper analysis of how these factors influence the ways in which postcolonial subjects reconcile with their past in a troubled present, and how history is employed whether as an escape from a deformed reality, or as a source of inspiration and motivation. The “Unspeakability” of traumatic experiences is a luxury victims cannot afford in a context where trauma is implemented in people’s everyday life through means of Neocolonialism, where the Colonial and the Postcolonial co-exist.
My discussion of the relationship between cultural memory and trauma theory in these works aims towards investigating the applicability of predefined models in this specific postcolonial context. The variety of modes of remembering, trauma experiences, and cultural memory components invested in creating Ashour’s works; provide rich and divers encounters of memory and trauma narratives, contributing to widening the scope of these concepts beyond their Eurocentric bias. Literature here, functions as a long-term medium of remembering, used by the author, as a counter technique to overcome the lack of resources individuals possess in their attempt to take part in creating, preserving, and circulating collective memories, and challenging the dominant paradigm.



Conferences:

  • “He can’t say it in English!” : Code-switching in Classrooms, the Nile TESOL conference, The American University in Cairo - Presenter (Jan 2012).
  • The Concept of a True Human, First Virtual Conference on the Contributions of Prof. Abdel Wahab El-Messiri – Presenter (June 2011).
  • The First International Conference on Arabs and Muslims in the History of Sciences, Univeristy of Sharjah – Organizer (2008).
  • Arabic Language in a Changing world Conference, The University of Sharjah – Organizer (2005).

Katherine Jacka

Katherine

I have a first class Honours degree in Arabic and Italian studies from the University of Sydney. I have presented my work at a range of medieval history conferences in the UK, USA and Australia. I am interested in cross-cultural contact between Muslims and Christians in the Mediterranean region with particular emphasis on the Middle Ages.

Thesis Title and Abstract:
Al-Idrīsi’s Ṣiqillya: Nuzhah as a Source for Historical Geography

This thesis tests the proposition that Muḥammad Al-Idrīsi’s geographical treatise Nuzhat Al-Mushtāq fi Ikhtirāq Al-Afāq (lit. The Pleasure Guide for Crossing Distant Lands) presents the most detailed and original description of Sicily up to that point produced in any language and signified a substantial advancement in knowledge of the island in the field of geography. This was particularly in the areas of toponymy, distances and the categorisation of settlements, but also included new information on fortification, agriculture, commerce, water sources and ports. Despite this, Idrīsi’s text is rarely referred to by English-speaking scholars, mainly due to the paucity of translations available.

Drawing on my own English translation, this thesis will analyse and elucidate the rich data contained in Idrīsi’s text; through this, I hope to provide a more vivid picture of twelfth-century Sicily and to assess the value of Idrīsi’s work as a historical source.

Despite the presence of a large amount of original data on the island, there are also significant gaps in the information Idrīsi provides; Idrīsi’s geography is ‘people-less’ and there is scant information on history, culture and society. The possible reasons behind these omissions will be explored and the extent to which contemporaneous historical conditions in Sicily affected Idrīsi’s account will be discussed.

Finally, it is the contention of this thesis that Roger II instituted a unique paradigm in twelfth-century Europe. At a time when Europe was highly charged with the crusading spirit and fear of the ‘Muslim threat’, Roger appeared genuinely curious about the world around him, including the non-Christian world, and to contextualising the place of his kingdom within this wider world. While not over-simplifying the complexities of Siculo-Norman society, the Norman court under Roger provides a significant historical example of inter-cultural co-operation and collaboration; it is my belief that Nuzhah was a vital expression of this policy and deserves greater recognition as such.