This course explores narratives of undocumented migration from the Arab world in Africa and the Middle East, as well as the literary themes that emerge from them: criminality, legality, clandestinity, mobility, diaspora, otherness. The course will provide some historical context surrounding each text and explore the meanings of historical narratives as they apply to the texts.
We will consider how borders and border towns have been associated with visceral experience and social vices in literature, often through a travel culture attracted by “different” and dangerous mores. Portrayed as diverse (encompassing many cultures and languages) and exciting (filled with vices, pleasures, and adventures), border zones are also seen as central sites of dangerous, illicit, clandestine migration. We will analyze this paradox of the border alongside the identity of the undocumented who cross it in literature and other cultural texts (like graphic novels, music, and film) from the Arab world in Africa and the Middle East. We will discuss the meaning of identity as it relates to documents and authority, with a brief foray into the social movements of the undocumented, like the sans-papiers in France.
(Books include Laila Lalami’s Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, Tahar Ben Jelloun’s Partir, Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun, Abu Bakr Khaal’s African Titanics. Films include Merzak Allaouche’s Harraga. Course also includes comics and rap videos.)