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Arab America

Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism

Nadine Naber
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Arab America
    Book Description:

    Arab Americans are one of the most misunderstood segments of the U.S. population, especially after the events of 9/11. In Arab America, Nadine Naber tells the stories of second generation Arab American young adults living in the San Francisco Bay Area, most of whom are political activists engaged in two culturalist movements that draw on the conditions of diaspora, a Muslim global justice and a Leftist Arab movement. Writing from a transnational feminist perspective, Naber reveals the complex and at times contradictory cultural and political processes through which Arabness is forged in the contemporary United States, and explores the apparently intra-communal cultural concepts of religion, family, gender, and sexuality as the battleground on which Arab American young adults and the looming world of America all wrangle. As this struggle continues, these young adults reject Orientalist thought, producing counter-narratives that open up new possibilities for transcending the limitations of Orientalist, imperialist, and conventional nationalist articulations of self, possibilities that ground concepts of religion, family, gender, and sexuality in some of the most urgent issues of our times: immigration politics, racial justice struggles, and U.S. militarism and war.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-5920-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION Articulating Arabness
    (pp. 1-24)

    I was born in San Francisco, three years after my parents arrived to the United States from Jordan.¹ Over the next twenty years, my family moved several times across the Bay Area, creating for me a childhood and a sense of community that was both rigidly structured and ever changing. Throughout my childhood, “culture” felt like a tool, an abstract, ephemeral notion of what we do and what we believe, of who belongs and who does not. Culture seemed to be the way that my parents exercised their control over me and my siblings. The same fight, I knew from...

  5. 1 From Model Minority to Problem Minority
    (pp. 25-62)

    In the 1990s, Arab immigrants who had come to the Bay Area between the ’50s and the ’70s spoke about their early years in America with a sense of nostalgia reminiscent of conventional immigrant stories. They dwelled on positive experiences about their homelands and idealized their first years in their new country. Yet these immigrants had a distinct story about the past and the present—one that sheds light upon changing geopolitical relations between the United States and Arab-and Muslim-majority countries throughout the Cold War era and on the way these relations crept into the daily lives of Arab Americans...

  6. 2 The Politics of Cultural Authenticity
    (pp. 63-110)

    Arab culture is about being a certain way; knowing what isabe(shameful); knowing how to givemujamalat(flattery); knowing what you’re supposed to do when someone greets you; knowing how to act atazayim(gatherings) and weddings; drinkingshai(tea) or coffee; talking about politicssomuch; getting up for an older person; respecting your elders; looking after your parents and taking care of them; judging people according to what family they are from; marrying through connections; gossiping and having a good reputation; going anywhere with Arabs, with your own kind, with brothers, uncles, family, cousins, but not with the...

  7. 3 Muslim First, Arab Second
    (pp. 111-156)

    In the late 1990s, Rima and the Arab sisters of whom she spoke, Mohammed, and Khaled were actively engaged in Muslim student organizations. They prayed regularly, attended the mosque, and participated in Islamic religious and educational institutions. For them, being Muslim entailed carrying out basic religious practices such as prayer and being part of the Muslim community and U.S. civil society. In the late 1990s they were among Muslims from many countries of origin, and race and class positions, who were dis aggregating religion (Islam) from culture (e.g., Arab) and articulating who they are as distinctly Muslim. Rima is a...

  8. 4 Dirty Laundry
    (pp. 157-202)

    Aisha: When I graduated from college, I worked for Global Exchange, a soft-left human rights organization in San Francisco, but constantly bumped into limitations with the American liberal line on Palestine. They wanted to focus only on oversimplified human rights abuses but not about the colonial devastation in the Middle East and the larger political forces at hand. I didn’t feel as if we were building the organization together. Someone was always discrediting my legitimacy. I felt a desperate desire to find people who felt the same way as me and wanted to create an alternative space where we didn’t...

  9. 5 Diasporic Feminist Anti-Imperialism
    (pp. 203-246)

    In 2000, Raya, Dahlia, Yara, Aisha, and I were involved in the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association, San Francisco chapter (AWSA SF), which was working closely with LAM. During this time, AWSA SF activists made a postcard to distribute at various political events. One side included information about the U.S. sanctions on Iraq. The other side had an artistic image with the words “the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association,” in Arabic and English. The artistic image included a background colored with the black and white print of thekuffiyascarf, the long-time symbol of Palestinian resistance. Over the background print was a...

  10. CONCLUSION: Toward a Diasporic Feminist Critique
    (pp. 247-254)

    Throughout this book we have witnessed what young adults are saying about the predicaments of Arab diasporas in the United States at the turn of the twenty-first century. We have seen the continuities and discontinuities between what takes place within themselves, their families, and their communities and the ways they engage with the United States at large. Like so many diasporic communities, Arab Americans live life on these multiple tracks, and our days are built upon the divide between the internal and the external, the communal and the wider world, the cultural and the political.

    Sometimes these tracks exist side...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 255-272)
    (pp. 273-292)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 293-309)
    (pp. 310-310)