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Panel IV: Culture, Politics, and Identity

11:05 am – 12:30 pm
Room: Smith Memorial Student Union, room 238

Faculty Discussant: Bishupal Limbu, Portland State University, Assistant Professor of English

Student Presenters:

  • Ghayde Ghraowi, University of Texas at Austin, As Tenses Implode: Encountering Post-Traumatic Urbanism in Ghassan Kanafani’s ‘Returning to Haifa’
    + view abstract
    In my paper I confront the present humanitarian impasse facing Palestinian rights advocacy in the Occupied Territories – resting between the politics of trauma testimony and the growing critical practice of forensic architecture – through renewed readings of literature based on or set around the conflict, focusing specifically on the novella Returning to Haifa by celebrated Palestinian author, journalist, literary critic and polemicist Ghassan Kanafani. I argue that both humanitarian psychiatry (which focuses on victim testimony, but also imposes the trauma subject unto these victims) and forensic architecture (which abandons testimony in favor of examining built environments in the aftermath of violence in order to detect empirical evidence of rights violations) are inherently problematic by virtue of their elimination of the Palestinian entirely: the first, by denying individual political agency, and the second, by removing the physical body completely. My approach to Kanafani’s text constitutes a comparative engagement with trauma studies, spatial theory, and para-literary and history texts in order to emphasize the physicality of traumatic neuroses present in the language of the novella. Reading the representation of the symptomatic aftermath of trauma in tandem with its spatial contingencies may begin to open a space for working through trauma that answers to both sides of this impasse. By performing this kind of analysis we can begin thinking about the site of the body and its relationship to spaces as essential to discussing processes of trauma, whether acting out or working through, that are relevant to both sides of this impasse.
  • Hannah Johnson, Portland State University, Ohad Naharin: Critique of Israeli Identity through Concert Dance
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    Dance has been a major medium for expressing Jewish identity in Israel long before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Beginning with the National Dance Competition in 1927 and the Dalia Folk Festivals that followed, much debate and investment has surrounded concert and folk dance in establishing movement forms that truly are authentic embodiments of the Jewish people in style, musicality, and costume. Contrary to these efforts is the work of contemporary choreographer Ohad Naharin, the artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv. In works that Naharin expresses Israeliness, he does not seek to define Israeli identity, but rather to critique it as a part of Jewish culture. To show this, Naharin’s early life, dance influences, growth as an artist over time, and the progression of his career are examined alongside five of his dance works. Israel’s military draft and early forms of kibbutz life are examined as well to further shed light on Naharin’s experience as a Jewish choreographer which has led him to critique Israeli identity.
  • Madeline Waddell, University of Puget Sound, Teaching Citizenship in Egypt
    + view abstract
    The Arab Spring brought hope of a democratic Middle East to many in the international community. While the literature on democratic transitions includes an array of components, scholars on the region have concentrated on institutional developments such as elections and constitutions. While these structural components are essential, this paper advocates for citizenship education as another crucial element of democratic transitions. Although not typically part of this literature, citizenship education entails building an informed and active populace able to contribute to a total culture of democracy. This paper analyzes these pedagogic efforts in transitional Egypt by contrasting the State’s role in citizenship education with that of the third sector. This contrast leads to the conclusion that an emphasis on civil society is necessary for carrying out the goals of citizenship education apolitically. Egypt’s school system is not only the most robust in the Arab world, but has historically been utilized by different authoritarian regimes to advance specific political goals. When juxtaposed with the emergence an abundance of NGOs after the 2011 Revolution, the country becomes an ideal case study. The research was conducted in Egypt during the summer of 2013. It is based on analysis of the Egyptian education system, theories of citizenship education, and third sector organizations focused on enhancing civic values. In addition, the presentation will include informal interviews conducted with civil society organizations and Egyptian citizens before and after the coup.

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