Motherhood, war and exile in Modern Arabic Literature

20 October 2022 | | English


slideshow image Homs, Syria – September 22, 2013: A woman walks near a house in the city of Homs destroyed in the fighting between the rebels of the Syrian National Army


This research analyses the representation of motherhood in contexts of war, displacement and exile in the following contemporary novels: Hanan Al-Shaykh’s The Story of Zahra (1980); Hassan Blasim’s The Madman of Freedom Square (2009); Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (2006); Ghassan Kanafani’s Um saad (1969). Despite the main geographical focus of this research being on the Arab countries, an African novel has been included in order to show how universal the experience of motherhood can be, while maintaining a highly intimate and personal value. The goal of this study is to problematise the patriarchal notion of motherhood and to highlight the need for a move towards the recognition of alternative concepts of motherhood that do not imply the subordination of women. Moreover, in order to discuss the binary logic that confines mothers to “good” or “bad”, fuelled by traditional and generalising narratives about motherhood, this research begins with an introductory part that aims at providing a broad analysis of the discourse of motherhood in politics, society and religions. Since migration is a central theme to this research, common to all the aforementioned novels, this work also draws attention to the postcolonial concept of self-representation of the “subaltern” when narrating the stories of migrants. This research is also enriched by the point of view of two of the authors whose books are analysed, who have been interviewed during the research.

This is the 1st Best Final Master’s Dissertation Award of the Program Aula Mediterrània 2019-2020.

Download the publication (in Arabic)