Between Homeland and Exile: Performing Poetry and Identity in Sahrawi Arab Diaspora Communities


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation investigates how the performance of popular oral poetry in Hassaniya Arabic produces and embodies Sahrawi collective memory and national identity. The genre reveals divergent conceptions of local and national history and state membership among Sahrawi diaspora populations residing in three areas of a highly contested geographic zone: undisputed areas of southern Morocco, the disputed Western Sahara territory, and refugee camps in Algeria under the government of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic founded in exile in 1976. Presentations of Sahrawi history in poetic form challenge versions represented in French and Spanish colonial discourse, Moroccan postcolonial accounts and Sahrawi rhetoric of resistance. The study is based on discourse analysis of poetry, personal narratives, and archival sources collected in Sahrawi communities during 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in 2006-07.