Arabic Narratives of Migration and Journey

journeys   |   migration   |   literature   |   Arab culture
Years of Activity: 2015 - 2017

Research Status:


Nora Parr, Kobi Amir, Hiba Yazbek, Shaykha Hlewa, Rana Mousa, Hilla Peled-Shapira, Raji Bathish, Arie Gus, Hillel Cohen, Claire Oren, Zahava Ganor, Henya Zubaida

“The journey” has been a crucial topic in modern Arabic literature since its inception, appearing first in descriptions of actual travels in the nineteenth century (such as Rifa’a al-Tahtawi’s Rihla), later in novels from the first half of the twentieth century predicated on an Arab man’s fictional journey to the West (such as Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Bird of the East and Yahya Haqqi’s Qindil Umm Hashim), and in works of fiction of more recent decades that describe travel and migration from many points of view and in multiple directions.

A research group was initiated in 2015-2016 at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on the topic of “Arabic Narratives of Migration and Journey.” Its objectives are to read, research, present, and discuss modern literature written in Arabic (nineteenth century through the present day) that deals with topics and themes of migration and journey and secondary themes that include exile, displacement, diaspora, estrangement, and transnationalism. Genres for discussion include the short story, the novel, poetry, and autobiography. Such texts tend to raise issues of identity and belonging by shaping the self or selves in light of diverse “others”—whether places, nationalities, languages, or other aspects that affect identity when a person is en route from one place to another or crossing boundaries of various types. As this topic has a broad range, the group consists of researchers who focus on diverse aspects of Arabic literature that are connected by themes of travel and identity and reseachers who focus on related themes. We invite participants to engage with theoretical writings on travel, identity, and borders/boundaries.

Topics of discussion include but are not limited to:

Arab identities in flux: How do texts address identity and belonging?

Journeys crossing geographical, political, and cultural boundaries

“Local” journeys, and/or journeys of a metaphorical or spiritual nature