Arabs and the Americas

CWL 481
CWL 481: Arabs and the Americas

This course offers an introduction to the two parallel traditions of Arab American and Arab Brazilian literature, with a focus on the complex interplay of ethnic minority, national, and transnational identities. Arabs have had a long relationship with the American hemisphere. Twelfth-century geographer al-Idrisi reported that eight Arabs sailed west from Lisbon to discover what lay beyond the “Sea of Darkness” (the Atlantic ocean). Columbus reportedly had a copy of al-Idrisi’s book with him when he embarked on his first voyage in 1492, and expecting to reach India, where Islam had been present for centuries, he took with him an Arabic interpreter. Some of the earliest slave narratives were written in Arabic by literate Muslim captives from West Africa. Large-scale Arab immigration to the Americas began in the late nineteenth century, and since then those immigrants and their descendants have participated in a substantial tradition of minority literature in the two largest countries of the hemisphere, the United States and Brazil. Authors discussed include Ameen Rihani, Laila Lalami, Suheir Hammad, Mohja Kahf, Susan Abulhawa, Radwan Nassar, Milton Hatoum, Waly Salomão, and Alberto Mussa. The course has graduate and undergraduate sections.


Photo by Waïl Hassan of the Escadaria Selarón, a tourist attraction in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil