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Nadine Naber Arab American Feminities

Nadine Naber Arab American Feminities

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Arab American Femininities: Beyond Arab Virgin/ American(ized) WhoreAuthor(s): Nadine NaberReviewed work(s):Source:
Feminist Studies,
Vol. 32, No. 1 (Spring, 2006), pp. 87-111Published by:
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ArabAmerican
Femininities:
Beyond rabVirgin/Americanized)Whore
NadineNaber
Itwasatypical weeknightatmy parents'home.Myfatherwasasleepsincehewakes upat 4:00 a.m. toopenhisconvenience storeindowntownSan Francisco. Ijoined my motheronthe couch andwe searchedforsomethinginterestingtowatchonTV.Mymother held theremotecontrol,flipping throughthestations.Stationafterstation asimilar pictureofanAngloAmericanmale andfemaleholdingoneanotherinromanticorsexualways appearedonthescreen. Assheflipped thestation, mymotherremarked,"Sleep, Slept...Sleep, Slept...THAT isAmerica!"Shecontinued,"Al sexalhum, zayshurb almai[Sexforthemis aseasyasdrinkingwater]."-NadineNaber, journal entry,December2,1999A s ILI ST EN ED to mymother,'Irecalledseveralexperiences growing upwithinabicultural ArabAmericanfamilialand communalcontext.AlAmerikan(Americans)wereoftenreferredto inderogatorysexualizedterms.It wasthetrashculture-degenerate,morally bankrupt,andnotworthinvestingin.Al Arab(Arabs),ontheotherhand,werereferredtopositivelyandassociatedwithArabfamilyvalues andhospitality. Similarly,throughouttheperiodofmyethnographicresearchamongmiddle-classArabAmericanfamilyandcommunitynetworksinSanFrancisco,Cal
Feminist Studies32,no.1(Spring2006).C2006by NadineNaber87
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88 NadineNaber
ifornia,2 between January 1999 and August 2001, the theme of female sexuality circumscribedtheways myresearchparticipants imaginedandcon
tested culture, identity,andbelonging.The theme of femalesexuality
tendedto be utilizedaspartofsomeArabimmigrantfamilies' selective
assimilation strategyinwhich thepreservationof Arab culturalidentityand assimilationtoAmerican normsof "whiteness"weresimultaneously
desired.Within thisstrategy,theidealofreproducingculturalidentitywasgenderedand sexualized anddisproportionately placedondaughters.Adaughter'srejectionofanidealizednotionofArab womanhood could signify cultural loss andtherebynegateherpotentialascapitalwithin this
family strategy.Inpolicing ArabAmericanfemininities, this familystrate
gydeployedaculturalnationalistlogicthatrepresentedthe categories"Arab"and"American"inoppositional terms,suchas"goodArabgirls"vs.
"badAmerican(ized) girls,"or"Arabirgin"vs."American(ized)hore."I
coin thetermArab culturalre-authenticitytocontextualize thisprocesswithin Arab historiesof transnationalmigration,assimilation,andracialization.Arab culturalre-authenticity,Isuggest,is alocalized, spoken,andunspoken figureofanimagined"true"Arabculture thatemergesasareaction oranalternativetotheuniversalizingtendencies ofhegemonicU.S.nationalism,thepressuresofassimilation,andthegenderedracializationof Arabwomenand men. I use the termhegemonic (white)U.S.nationalismtorefertothe official discourses of theU.S. stateandcorporatemedia and thenotionofauniversalized abstractAmericancitizenthat"atthesame timesystematically produces sexualized, gendered,andracializedbodiesandparticularisticclaims forrecognitionandjusticeby
minoritizedgroups."3
Thisarticle focusesonthenarrativesof three of thethirtyintervieweeswhoarespecificallyactivistswho have worked withinorsupported Arabhomelandstruggles (i.e.,Palestine andIraq),radical Arab andArabAmericanfeminist,queerArab, and/orwomenof color feminist movements.TheirlocationonthemarginsofbothhegemonicU.S.nationalisms and ArabAmericanculturalnationalismsprovidesarichsitefromwhichtoexploredominant discoursesongenderandsexualitythatcir
cumscribeArabAmericanfemininities.Their narrativesrepresenthistori
cally specificcontexts inwhich thegenderedand sexualizeddiscourses of
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