Représentations De L'identité Palestinienne Chez Élias Sanbar Et Racha Salah
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractMost frequently enunciated as a questioning the notion of identity appears only when an interrogation such as "Who am I?" becomes even conceivable. Thus any reflection on the issue of identity involves an inquiry into the conditions of emergence of this questioning. Considered in the multi-faceted Palestinian context, this concept is particularly complex because of its political ramifications and its national and collective dimensions. Facing the Zionist project that claimed Palestine (supposedly a land without people) as the land of return for the Jews (a people without a land), the Palestinians had to face a denial of their existence that is rare in modern history. The creation of the state of Israel in 1948 (the Nakba for the Palestinians), expelled more than 700.000 Palestinians in the neighboring Arab countries of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, transforming them into refugees who also had to face the societies of their host countries. This situation sharpened the Palestinians' conception of national identity and their awareness as a people even in the absence of an official state. The books by Elias Sanbar and Racha Salah that this dissertation examines share not only a historical background but a vision of a distinct Palestinian identity in which, I contend, collective memory and lieux de mémoire (Pierre Nora) play a crucial role. Yet in many ways these works are also strikingly different. The main objective of this dissertation is to study their respective representation of the Palestinian struggle to preserve and consolidate a particular identity as well as demonstrate how the particular literary forms they use are integral to the struggle they depict. Chapter I sets the historical and socio-political framework: Going back to the period when the fall of the Ottoman Empire was followed by the British mandate on Palestine, it analyzes the ways in which Palestinian nationalism developed in contending with both the British colonization and the Zionist ambition of establishing a Jewish national homeland. Chapter II considers several 20th-century theories on nationalism (by Ernest Gellner, Eric Hobsbawm, Benedict Anderson and Anthony Smith, among others) to assess the light that they help shed on the "Palestinian question" and its specificity. Chapter III first investigates the three historical periods whereby Elias Sanbar (a celebrated, second-generation Palestinian who lived mostly in exile in Europe) constructs the Palestinian identity in his socio-political essay entitled Figures du Palestinien. Identité des origines, identité de devenir; the second part of this chapter shows how Le bien des absents, in resorting to the different mode of biography (unusual in Sanbar's production) and a nonlinear narrative mode, builds upon various "sites of memory" and cultural artifacts to shape its representations of Palestinian identity. Chapter IV is devoted to Racha Salah's L'an prochain à Tibériade. Lettres d'une jeune palestinienne du Liban. It examines the situation of refugee camps and more specifically Salah’s representation of the camp within a host country in which she was brought up as a third-generation Palestinian refugee. This chapter shows how, paradoxically, this situation of near-detention enabled her persona to distance herself from the official discourse, not only to develop her own hopeful, yet sometimes disenchanted, vision of a reunified Palestinian nation but also to question, through the specific genre of epistolary fiction, the role and responsibility of the Western world in the "Palestinian question." Overall, this dissertation also seeks to draw attention to the important contribution made to the Palestinian cause by Francophone Palestinian writers (and Francophone studies scholars in general).
Degree ProgramGraduate College