Saudi Arabia in the German-Speaking Imagination: Identity, Space and Representation
KeywordsConversion to Islam
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis research aims to explore how representations of Saudi Arabia in German travel literature, pilgrimage accounts and online media have transformed the Saudi Arabian space and its place in the European imagination. German travelers, pilgrims, and expatriates enter the foreign Saudi Arabian space, and decipher it in their narratives. The diachronic analysis of several representative texts by German authors from the 18th and 19th centuries narrating their journey to what is today known as Saudi Arabia, shows that the images conveyed in their writings should be conceived in a multidimensional way beyond the lens of historical analysis, taking into account notions of gender, personal motivations, nationality and religion. Analysis of pilgrimage accounts by German converts from the 20th and 21st century reveals an unreflected representation of Western societies and German people in the Middle East. These narratives play a fundamental role in building a bridge connecting Muslim immigrants living in the diaspora with German converts. However, to quote Marcia Hermansen (1999) "even though Western Muslim narrators avoid the excesses of their Christian precursors, they are not completely free from a colonial gaze and "Orientalist" attitudes": in their narratives both the desert and the Bedouins become an imagined and fictionalized trope. In the last part of my dissertation I explore the blogosphere produced by German expatriates living in Saudi Arabia, arguing that expatriate blogs have become a space for cultural representation and othering, that share similarities with the genre of travel writing.
Degree ProgramGraduate College