Dancing on the Hyphen: Performing Diasporic Subjectivity
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Modern Drama: world drama from 1850 to the present 48.2 (2005) 316-345



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Dancing on the Hyphen:

Performing Diasporic Subjectivity

[T]he relocation of transnational migrants, especially those from the underprivileged south, to the centre of the privileged north, leads to the reformation of the migrant from the abject figure of the petitioning immigrant required to submit to full assimilation as the full price of nationalization or, in the loaded legal term, naturalization, to the mobile actor able to access multiple loyalties if not always dual citizenship.
—Kruger 260 (emphasis in original)
These are my war tales.
I wear earrings made of shrapnel.
I am bullet proofwith a nuclear tongue.
Come closer.
This is your last concentration camp.
—Haas Mroue, Beirut Seizures 31

The dispersal of peoples and their intimate journeys across increasingly transnational and fluid borders requires new dialogic spaces across and through which we must become familiarized in order to make clear the conditions emerging for diasporic communities. "[T]he term 'diaspora' means a scattering in a literal sense [… and] a realignment and resettlement is an impossibility" (Singleton 228). These conditions can be fraught with the traumatic events and experiences that are often the result of the excessive pressure of capital flows, although not all movement is a response to such motivations. As Evelyn Hu-DeHart asserts, "Modern transnational migration is inextricably linked to the forces of global capitalism, as capital and labor move, and are moved, constantly across borders" (9).

It is precisely at this juncture that I enter this definitional discussion of diasporic subjectivity, through my lived experience – in part, to avoid the normative [End Page 316] polemical representation and conflation of the oppressed Middle Eastern (read Islamic) woman, with the backward, subjugated woman, with the victimized, exoticized harem girl, and with the ignorant and illiterate wailing woman. In order to do so, I begin by chronicling being raised in the Middle East and then my journey back to my place of birth, to the United States, and back to Lebanon again, with multiple ports of call in between. In this way, I document the element most absent in the depiction of Arab women's lives – their multiple identities and the complexities located therein; I show the cultural and ethnic aspects of daily life from an interior perspective; I portray and challenge the racial constructions that are ascribed to Arabs in western media; I offer a political view of Lebanese and Palestinian concepts of nationalism; I problematize the negative colonial sexual constructions of the exoticized and eroticized Arab woman and contrast them with a complex and delicate emerging sexual identity for women in the region. I map the routes many women, as described in their localities, choose or are forced to take in a global context. My vehicle for these chronicles of a bicultural, biracial, bilingual woman is auto-ethnographic diasporic performance. In this way, I "plot the shifting of that ground in the localized investigation of boundaries […] as well as specific rather than abstract transnational traffic routes that complicate this enactment" (Kruger 261).

I recognize that it is not just my status as an academic, however, but my status as an insider–outsider that allows a bridging unique to those of similar bi-ethnic/racial/cultural identities. Further, I recognize that these two privileges are not at the heart of what others have embraced as my legitimacy in telling this narrative. While the content of this paper and the performances described within may seem Amero-centric to the non-U.S.-based reader, it is precisely in the local (U.S.) where these performances of resistance and contestation must take place. The dominant imperialist narrative is being generated in the United States, and thus, the roots of such mechanisms must be laid bare by dissenters within a U.S. context in order to have the most efficacy. The United States is also where I am currently teaching, writing, performing, and resisting, and thus offering the reflexive, auto-ethnographic perspective presented here...


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