Be(com)ing Arab in London: performativity between structures of subjection

Aly, Ramy Mounir Kamal (2011) Be(com)ing Arab in London: performativity between structures of subjection. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis is based upon eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in London
undertaken between January 2006 and July 2007. It explores the discourses and
practices which (re)produce notions of gender, race, ethnicity and class among young
people born or raised in London to migrants from Arab states. Instead of taking the
existence of an Arab community’ in London as self-evident, this thesis looks critically
at the idea of Arab-ness in London and the ways in which it is signified, reiterated and
recited. Taking the theorising of performative gender as a starting point I explore the
possibilities of a sequential reading of ‘gender’ and ‘race’ and the practices and
discourses which produce that which they name ‘Arab woman,’ Arab man,’ ‘British-
Arab’. By looking at discourses, practices and political context, ‘ethnicity’ and ‘race’
appear to be less about an inner fixity or even multiple identities, instead they can be
significantly attributed to a discursive and corporeal project of survival and social
intelligibility between structures of subjection which create imperatives to enact and
reproduce notions of ‘race’ and ‘gender’. In this sense it is no longer satisfactory to see
ethnicity as something that one possesses – but something that one does and embodies
imperfectly, constantly adding, reinforcing and disrupting its presumed structure.

Looking at what it means “to do” Arab-ness in London provides opportunities to
look at the underlying normative and psychical structures that inform the doing of
ethnicity in a particular setting. The shift from foundationalist and “epistemological
account[s] of identity to [those] which locate[s] the problematic within practices of
signification permits an analysis that takes the epistemological mode itself as one
possible and contingent signifying practice” (Butler 1990: 184). Through the Shisha
cafe, ‘Arabic nights’, images and narratives I explore the discursive and corporeal acts
that signify Arab-ness in London at a particular historical moment.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain > DA020 England > DA670 Local history and description > DA675 London
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races > HT0051 Human settlements. Communities
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV0640 Refugee problems
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 02 Aug 2011 10:06
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2015 13:57
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/7093

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