Literature student presents award-winning paper at global conference.
15 Aug 2013
Literature BA(Hons) student, Anjuli Borgonha who won the annual University of Brighton Walker May prize for the best dissertation entitled ‘The Orientalist Reception of Arab Women’s Writing in the West’, presented her paper 'The ‘Orientalist’ reception of Arab women’ writing in the West: The Western reception of Jean Said Makdisi’s Teta, Mother and Me and Nawal El Saadawi’s The Hidden Face of Eve' at the 'Narratives of Difference' in the Global Marketplace conference, which took place at the University of Northampton, 25-26 October 2012.
The international and interdisciplinary event was organised in partnership with the University of Vigo, Spain and explored the study of globalisation, migration and multiculturalism. The research presented addressed how narratives of cultural difference are produced, articulated, received and challenged in a global context. Speakers from all over the globe offered a spectrum of perspectives and viewpoints.
Anjuli, who is one of the first graduates from the university’s Literature BA(Hons) course, is continuing her research in the field, which she will expand upon in her MA studies with a view to pursuing them at PhD level.
The following is the abstract of Anjuli's paper:
This paper explores the commodification of difference and the influence of Orientalist fascination on the reception and marketing of Arab women’s writing in the West.
In recent years there has been a revived interest in Arab female experience with Arab women writers becoming increasingly visible on the Western literary scene. However, the reception of Arab women’s writing is a politicized affair and it is frequently only texts that engage with Orientalist ideas of cultural difference and reinforce a view of the Arab world beneficial to Western interests that are received well in the West. Arab women’s writing serves a political function in the West of reaffirming preconceived notions of Arab female oppression, maintaining Western imperial ideology, and justifying military intervention in the marketing of conflict. Narratives of Arab female oppression have become a commodity of Western power relations used to control public perception of the Middle East and maintain the First and Third world gap. Stereotyped narratives of Arab women as victims in need of Western intervention are continuously reproduced and articulated in society through the reception, marketing, and reviewing of Arab women’s writing. Writers such as Makdisi who challenge this stereotype frequently remain excluded from Western literary canons for their text’s wider implications of confusing public opinion on the Western presence in the Middle East. Thus narratives of cultural difference which are beneficial to the West and conditioned by an Orientalist gaze are maintained through the silencing of ‘true’ narratives of Arab culture.
Orientalist fascination is reflected in how Arab women’s writing is marketed in the West as texts are often marketed and reviewed to accentuate narratives of cultural difference and meet Western reader’s preconceived expectation of Arab culture. Texts are often released around particular events to restate a specific image of Arab culture and maintain Orientalist binaries as seen in the English edition of The Hidden Face of Eve (1980). The book was released in the aftermath of Khomeini’s 1979 Iranian revolution and became become a tool at the hand of Western imperialists to demonize Islam and associate clitoridectomy as a Brutal Islamic tradition. In the marketing process the text was manipulated aesthetically with the alteration of blurbs, covers, chapter titles and content to present a certain image of Islam at the expense of the core social and political messages of the text. The text was received well in the West as it became a vehicle for Western criticisms of Islam and emphasises cultural difference. This paper will explore how The Western reception of Arab women’s writing is dictated by an Orientalist desire to maintain a self-serving image of the Arab and Islamic world, and how this is reflected in the marketing of texts. I argue that the reception of Arab women’s writing is a politically charged affair, and the texts are often marketed and released at specific times to justify a Western presence in the Arab world and reiterate stereotyped narratives of Arab female experience in the marketing of conflict.