June 2006 – Chicago, Illinois
My Master's thesis research investigates the forms of resistance that Arab women engage in to combat racist and islamophobic representations of Arabs in North American popular culture and mainstream media. In the United States, there is a significant body of arts and literature, as well as academic research, that is produced and focuses on Arabs in American. There is no such body of work currently established in Canada, since most works produced or relating to Arabs in Canada are not categorized “Arab Canadian” the way they are commonly categorized “Arab American” in the US. In early June 2006, I flew to Chicago to attend the first ever gathering of Arab women from across the United States, entitled AMWAJ (Arab Movement of Women Arising for Justice). A historic event that brought together Arab women artists, activists, academics, etc. My presence at this conference served two purposes:
1) To document and record certain sessions at the conference that might be useful for my research
2) To make connections and meet Arab women producing culture (such as artwork, film, performance, writing, etc) who might be used as a site of analysis for my research.
1) Documentation: Sessions Recorded: -The Story of the Feminist Arab-American Network: Successes and Lessons for Future Organizing with Carol Haddad This session provides perspectives from Arab women activists, and the issues expressed as significant to Arab women doing activist work.
-Student Activism This session provides a grounding for looking at approaches that Arab women in Canada might use to participate in activism through cultural production.
2) Networking: Carol Haddad, the founder of the Feminist Arab-American Network from the 80s Evelyn Alsulthany, who teaches Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbour. LailaFarah, a performance artist who performed a piece called “Living in the Hyphen-Nation”, and who teaches at DePaul University in Chicago.
Vicki Moufawad-Paul, a Toronto-based filmmaker whosefilms look at Palestinian identity in Canada.
Leila Buck, member of the New York City based Arab women's performance groups, Nisaa.
Tru Bloo, a queer Arab woman hip hop artist from San Francisco
Most useful to my research was being introduced to a variety of Arab American women using performance as a medium for social commentary and activism. Since returning to Montreal from Chicago, I have been searching for Arab women in Canada who are using performance in a similar fashion.