Eco-Alterity: Writing the Environment in the Literature of North Africa and the Middle East
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McQuady Blecker Al-Masri, Allison
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CitationMcQuady Blecker Al-Masri, Allison. 2019. Eco-Alterity: Writing the Environment in the Literature of North Africa and the Middle East. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe subject of this dissertation is the representation of the environment in the modern and contemporary literature of North Africa and the Middle East. I focus on texts that consciously engage with their landscapes, most commonly through descriptions of the natural world, personal and communal readings of space, and evaluations of ecological crises, which often take the form of what Rob Nixon has called “slow violence.” Critique of environmental disasters and challenges is formulated through the lens of eco-alterity, enabling a vision of the ecological indigenous “self” that is articulated against an occupying, imperialist, or colonial “other” that exploits or degrades the shared landscape. That “other” is variously identified as American, European, or, in the case of Palestinian literature, Jewish Israeli. Through this framing, a right to the land is asserted that encompasses an effort to undermine counterclaims, which may also be based on narratives of stewardship. The environments discussed in the texts in this dissertation are primarily local. However, the invocation of the rhetoric of alterity creates spaces that contain both the self and the other, offering new imaginative possibilities for translocal, transnational, and even universal ecological responsibility.
The slow violence of environmental crisis often defies effective representation in literature. The literary works analyzed in this dissertation propose solutions to this challenge through their employment of one or a combination of three motifs: 1) ecological ḥanīn (feelings of nostalgia and yearning) accessed at the aṭlāl (ruins); 2) the figure of the ecological native and the “ecoambiguity,” to use Karen Thornber’s term, that complicates it; and 3) the creation of al-makān–al-matāh (the wandering place), Adūnīs’s coinage that I adopt here to refer to a literary space created through the movement of texts and their authors. This space provides access to otherwise inaccessible geographies by framing them as translocal or universal.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029648
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