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      The Question of Foreignness in Mohja Kahf's E-mails from Scheherazad

      Arab Studies Quarterly
      Pluto Journals
      Kahf, Anglophone, Arab, poetry, Kristeva, foreignness


            This paper examines foreignness in Mohja Kahf's poetry volume, E-mails from Scheherazad (2003), as a celebratory commodity rather than a literary trope to resist Arab women representations or to accentuate exilic voices. Drawing on Julie Kristeva's conceptualization of foreignness as internal personae and not a projection of an external locus of identity, this paper explores how the speakers in some of Kahf's poems view foreignness as festive rather than negative. In sharp contrast to the traditional conception of difference as publicly alienating, foreignness to the Arab-American speakers becomes a distinctive mark that they uphold and celebrate. Examining foreignness in Kahf's poems through Kristeva's lens provides a sense of uniqueness to the immigrant's experience. The notion of recognizing the foreigner in ourselves, that Kristeva provides, subverts the general perception of foreignness as external and intruding. Kahf's poetry can be perceived as a negotiation of foreignness, which is not an estranging element that incurs resistance but rather as a celebratory part of the human consciousness that should be jubilantly defined rather than politically defended.


            Author and article information

            Arab Studies Quarterly
            Pluto Journals
            Summer 2014
            : 36
            : 3
            : 242-259
            © 2014 The Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

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            Social & Behavioral Sciences


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