Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rabid American writing today

"A few months after 9/11 I was invited to a conference at Tufts University on "Arab-American Writing Post 9/11." I submitted an abstract for a paper entitled "A Rabid American Writing Today." The organizers corrected the title thinking "Rabid" was a typo! To write and try to publish (let alone work, and live) in the U.S. while Arab or Muslim after 9/11, means choosing one of two paths. The first entails self-orientalization and on it one proceeds to perform one's circumscribed role as the entertaining, but always safe and grateful Arab in the grand political and cultural circus. There are always openings and many Arab-Americans are more than willing to play the role (you know the names). There might be an improvised moment here or there and some indignation, but the narrative is, more or less, fixed for the Uncle Toms. The other path is that of standing outside the coliseum and distracting and disturbing the citizens-spectators on their way in or out. Screaming at times, if necessary, to point to other directions. Whispering, at others, into their ears stories about barbarians both in Rome itself and abroad. It's not easy being a barbarian in Rome. The Romans rarely listen, but the barbarian has to keep it real." (thanks Sinan)