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New School Creative Writing MFA program theses ➔ asmarani/Writing from a Third Culture


Related people/organizations

Safia Elhillo (author)
Mark Bibbins (thesis advisor)
New School (New York, N.Y.). Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program (sponsoring body)


June 25 2015


"asmarani: Poems"— asmarani (which loosely translates from Arabic to mean “brown/dark-skinned person,” often used in song lyrics as a term of endearment) is a collection of poems investigating Black-Arabness through writing about (and in the voice of) the asmarani frequently addressed in the music of legendary Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez. "Writing from a Third Culture: Literature Project"— For the “third-culture kid,” the binary of here and there is significantly less defined, with the host land (“here”) haunted & modified by the original homeland (“there”), which is often more mythology than it is geographic reality. I believe it is it is important for “third culture kids” to write, because the worlds on either side of the hyphen (in my case, Sudanese-American) do not have any ready-made narratives for us, and will often pretend that we do not exist. Theodor Adorno observes that “for a man who no longer has a homeland, writing becomes a place to live.” In my third culture narrative, the Sudanese homeland and American host land are both fundamental to a transnational engagement with identity—being Sudanese-American means collapsing the binary notion that I am either Sudanese or American, that I belong either here or there. In an interview with two generations of the Sudanese diaspora, the older generation spoke predominantly of the beauty of a long-lost Sudan, while the younger generation. my generation, focused primarily on their struggles with an inherited nostalgia for a place they have never encountered, that no longer exists. I find this paradox at the heart of third-culture identity—the dilemma that occurs when where one is from is not the same as where one considers home. “Exile [is] a misunderstanding between existence and borders” (Mahmoud Darwish). This project is an exploration of the negotiation of a world constructed in response to the loss of a world.



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