Arab and Muslim American Female Playwrights: Resistance and Revision Through Solo Performance
Abstract: Within the dominant narrative constructed about the events of
September 11 and the subsequent War on Terror, the United States government and Western
media ostensibly defined and categorized the disparate peoples of the Middle East and South
Asia into fixed generalities for mass consumption. In particular, the representation of
Arab and Muslim women as oppressed and voiceless became ... read morea prominent trope used to justify
American military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan. In response to the conventionally
passive and limiting portrayals of Arab and Muslim women, playwrights such as Heather
Raffo, Rohina Malik, Laila Farah, and Bina Sharif created through their solo performances a
multitude of female characters who question and contradict such generalizations. Considered
collectively, the dramas produced by these artists together create a theatrical form of
resistance and revision as a means of bearing witness to the contemporary realities of Arab
and Muslim American women. Through an analysis of the theatrical self-representation of
contemporary Arab and Muslim American female playwrights and solo performers, this
dissertation examines the ways in which these one-woman shows are challenging the
stereotypical racial discourses perpetuated about Arabs and Muslims after September 11. The
playwrights in this study use solo performance as a means of negotiating current tensions
surrounding the representation of their race, culture, and gender, simultaneously
demonstrating and critiquing the construction of collective identities. It is the purpose
of this project to illuminate and explore commonalities that have emerged as part of this
theatrical resistance, and to consider the cultural and political identities that have been
presented to contemporary audiences as a result of such practices. Within the chapters of
this study, I investigate these artists' use of narrative structure, costumes and props,
language, and politics in their efforts to redefine the contemporary representation of Arab
and Muslim American women on stage.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2016.
Submitted to the Dept. of Drama.
Advisor: Barbara Grossman.
Committee: Monica Ndounou, Noe Montez, and James Al-Shamma.
Keywords: Theater, Women's studies, and American studies.read less