Adaptive Agency and Arab American Womanhood, 1893-1967

Forskningsoutput: AvhandlingDoktorsavhandling (monografi)


My dissertation develops a new perspective on Arab American cultural histories during the early to mid-20th century in the US. I focus mostly on Syrian and Lebanese American women in the Northeast and their strategies of self-representation. Archival traces of these women’s public visibility are scarce and distributed across a wide range of media: photography, reader comments, correspondence, club minutes or unpublished memoirs. Through adaptive agency women select and incorporate widely legible elements of hegemonic, racialized tropes of womanhood in their cultural, narrative or embodied forms of self-representation. These adaptive choices can be traced across different kinds of archival material and thus reveal how Arab American women positioned themselves in the US cultural sphere. The four case studies analyze how adaptive agency shaped and changed visions of Arab American womanhood over time, looking at a juxtaposition of belly dancers’ embodiments of harem fantasies to early 1900 Syrian American family photography, the archive of The Syrian World newspaper in the 1920s, the legacies of club women in the Syrian Ladies Aid Society in Boston in the interwar years and the unpublished memoir of the Lebanese American beauty queen Rosemary Hakim in 1955. My research shows that Arab American women used adaptive agency, often via repertoires of respectability, to mitigate their racial ambivalence in the US context. In doing so, they engaged in trans/national and local conversations about race, gender and belonging. This dissertation seeks to highlight the role of gender and women’s agency in early Arab American community formation, and that Arab American women’s self-representations did not only address orientalist frames, but also racial legacies of slavery, immigration exclusions and ethno-nationalisms.
Tilldelande institution
  • University of Copenhagen
  • Bone, Martyn, handledare, Extern person
Tilldelningsdatum2018 nov. 14
StatusPublished - 2018 nov. 14
Externt publiceradJa

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Historia
  • Socialantropologi


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