“IN PLACE OUT OF PLACE”: THE CONSTRUCTION AND NEGOTIATION OF IDENTITY AND PLACE IN MUSLIM WOMEN’S FICTIONAL NARRATIVE
This dissertation examines the negotiations between narrative, identity, and place in the fictional works of three major contemporary Muslim women descendants of Arab immigrants: Leila Houari, Faiza Guène, and Mohja Kahf. The study focuses on four novels: Zeida de nulle part, Kiffe kiffe demain, Du rêve pour les oufs, and The Girl with The Tangerine Scarf.
Two key questions structure my examination of the four novels: 1) How do Muslim women living in a non-Muslim society construct and negotiate their individual and collective identities?; 2) To what extent does their experience of space (domestic, public, national) shape their perceptions of self? These questions form a foundation for better understanding the experience of Muslim women living in predominantly non-Muslim societies. I must emphasize, however, that this is in no way a representation of all Muslim women living in majoritarian non-Muslim societies and in no way can summarize each and every experience. If anything, the dissertation provides an account of diverse sets of experiences of what some may encounter, rather than a collective static representation.
By doing so, this study aims to decrease the dissonance between the different viewpoints of the women characters in these novels by highlighting their experiences and subjecting certain misconceptions to critical scrutiny. The dissertation relies on an interdisciplinary approach, as it integrates different theories and concepts ranging from cognitive science, postcolonial studies, literary studies, psychology, and religious studies.