English Ph.D. Dissertations

Title

Multimodal Expressions of Young Arab Muslim American Women

Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

English (Rhetoric and Writing) PhD

First Advisor

Kristine Blair (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Sue Carter Wood (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Ellen Berry (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Madeline Duntley (Committee Member)

Abstract

Arab American Muslim women often struggle to maintain conflicting identities. They feel pressure to perform the traditional roles of being a mild-mannered daughter, obedient wife, and strict mother (in that order); however, they are also often trying to remain true to their newer, less traditional, American(ized) identities as individuals, as sexually liberated, and as women of the workforce.

In my dissertation, entitled, Multimodal Expressions of Young Arab Muslim American Women, and advised by Kristine Blair, I explore, through ethnographic and feminist methods, the personal struggles of Arab Muslim American women. Although they have many differences in age, academic interests, family backgrounds, and life experiences, they all struggle with barriers caused by binary oppositions that are imposed upon them by family members who uphold traditional, conservative Arab and/or Islamic cultural and religious values. Many use the Internet as a space to express these struggles.

This study discusses identity, discrimination, sexuality, and gender, while it seeks to answer these questions: how do Arab American Muslim women perform femininity? How do they disrupt the patriarchal expectations of Arab Muslim womanhood in order to express personal and political desire and dissent in America? How does technology provide Arab Muslim American women with sites for resistance and exploration, and what modes of delivery ultimately contribute to their expressions?

Drawing on my personal and academic experiences as an Arab American, a student, a teacher, a researcher, and a feminist, I give concrete examples that describe some of the specific cultural influences that hinder Arab American women in their development into/as responsible sexual beings, and I argue that Arab American women, especially those who have needs and desires beyond those expected of them in Arab and Islamic culture, are forced to choose between satisfying their individual desires and satisfying the expectations of their family and community. My dissertation explores the rhetorical choices Arab Muslim American women make to navigate this difficult space.

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