Al-Mousawi, Nahrain

The Two-Edged Sea: Heterotopias of Contemporary Mediterranean Migrant Literature

The boat journey is central to the narrative of Mediterranean migration of the undocumented. The boat itself is flimsy, fragile, unstable, and easily breakable. It is trifling and insubstantial. But it has captured the attention of the world – after all, the boat and its aftermath have produced recurring images of migrants washing up along southern Europe’s picturesque beaches in the visual archive of undocumented migration. But the boat has also sharply put into relief the divides of the Mediterranean. After all, the few miles of the Mediterranean separating Africa’s northern shore and Europe’s southern shore is a common observation in migrant narratives. At the same time, they also reflect on how the Mediterranean has been imagined as starkly divided into two incommensurable spaces and civilizational models – North and South (in actuality, by colonial powers in the modern period). Much Mediterranean migrant literature indeed captures the Mediterranean’s fossilized binaries, North and South. But, The Two-Edged Sea also reveals that one inheres within the other. While the book explores two Mediterraneans, with asymmetrical power relations that reflect the sea’s northern and southern shores, it also delves into how they are and have been in dialogue with each other, effectively deconstructing the binary.

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Nahrain Al-Mousawi writes on popular and literary culture from the MENA region. She has had her work published in Al Jazeera, The National, Globe and Mail, and Chicago Tribune, among other publications. She received her PhD from UCLA in Comparative Literature with a focus on Arabic and English literature, as well as postcolonial and transnational literature and criticism. She has taught at universities, both in the US and Lebanon. Nahrain Al-Mousawi has been a EUME Fellow in the academic year 2015/16.


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