115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Narrative of Identity and Place in Mohja Kahf’s The Girl with the Tangerine Scarf

Riham Ismail, Purdue University

This paper aims to study closely the question of identity and its connection to narrative and spatiality in Mohja Kahf’s The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf. Through the lens of cognitive theory and in dialogue with the postcolonial approach, I attempt to examine the fundamental role of place in creating, or in some cases erasing, narrative identity. Furthermore, I investigate the extent to which Muslim women experience space and its relationship to narrative identity and the perception of the self.

Proposal: 

In Narratives of Identity and Place, psychologist Stephanie Taylor observes that places where life occurs are places which have distinct characters. Accordingly, human beings may be said to dwell in space if they can orient themselves within it and thus experience it as meaningful for themselves (Taylor 73). Tim Cresswell explains further that space is “not simply an outcome of social processes. . . it was, once established, a tool in the creation, maintenance and transformation of relations of domination, oppression and exploitation” (Cresswell 29). Consequently, such dynamics influence the very nature of the social and political human experience. Morevover, psychologist Barbra Tversky argues that narrative construction helps us understand and interact with the space around us (Tversky 390). Thereupon, narrative and space are substantial for understanding, and subsequently, identifying ourselves in connection with the physical environment which surrounds us. 

Undoubtedly, place has a significant importance for Muslim Arab-American women writers and the formation of their identities.Collectively stereotyped as powerless, submissive, and after 9/11, a representation of the terrorist other (Aziz, 2012), their visible religious identity (eg. Headscarf) renders them victims to different forms of discrimination and harassment. Therefore, this paper aims to study closely the question of identity and its connection to narrative and spatiality in Mohja Kahf’s The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf. Through the lens of cognitive theory and in dialogue with the postcolonial approach, I attempt to examine the fundamental role of place in creating, or in some cases erasing, narrative identity. Furthermore, I investigate the extent to which Muslim women experience space and its relationship to narrative identity and the perception of the self.

References:

Taylor, Stephanie. Narratives of Identity and Place. London ; New York: Routledge,

            2010. Print.

Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. Print.

Tversky, Barbara. "Narratives of Space, Time, and Life." Mind & Language 19.4 (2004):

            380-92. Web.

Kathryne Beebe , Angela Davis & Kathryn Gleadle (2012) Introduction: Space,

Place and Gendered Identities: feminist history and the spatial turn, Women's History Review, 21:4, 523-532,

Aziz, Sahar. "The Muslim." Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. Institute for Social

            Policy and Understanding, 02 Sept. 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

Aziz, Sahar. "The Muslim." Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. Institute for Social

            Policy and Understanding, 02 Sept. 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

Kahf, Mohja. The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf : A Novel. First Carroll & Graf ed. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2006. Print