Call for Book Chapters: The Arab World as Ghurba: Citizenship, Identity and Belonging in Literature and Popular Culture

deadline for submissions: 
February 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Nadeen Dakkak, University of Warwick
contact email: 

Seeking chapter contributions to an edited collection, provisionally titled "The Arab World as Ghurba: Citizenship, Identity and Belonging in Literature and Popular Culture." 

Please submit chapter abstracts (300-500 words) by 15 February 2021, accompanied by:

  • Author's title, name, affiliation and position 
  • Brief biography (up to 100 words)
  • Acknowledgement that the work has not been previously published

Full chapter submissions will be due by the beginning of May 2021.

For further information and to submit abstracts, please contact the editor: Nadeen Dakkak (

About the editor: Nadeen Dakkak is an Early Career Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study at the University of Warwick. She recently completed her PhD in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick where she researched migration to the Arab Gulf States in Arabic fiction. 


About the book project:

This project follows an interdisciplinary conference I organized in June 2019 at the University of Warwick and which brought together researchers from different disciplines addressing the concept and experience of ghurba in different Arab countries. In this edited collection, the focus is narrowed to explorations of literature and popular culture, itself a wide field encompassing all kinds of modern and contemporary literary and cultural productions that have emerged from inside/outside the region in any language and that respond to various experiences of physical or psychological ghurba in Arabic-speaking countries.

     The Arabic word ghurba, which literally means estrangement or separation, is typically used to refer to the state of being a foreigner in a land away from home, hence evoking feelings of alienation, loneliness and a strong yearning for loved ones. In our contemporary world, ghurba is very often associated with the migration of Arabs from Arab countries to faraway places, especially to developed European or “Western” destinations. What is absent in this understanding of Arab migration, however, is the fact that the region constituting the so-called “Arab World” today has always been and continues to be an immigrant destination, receiving migrant workers, refugees and other mobile subjects from both inside the region as well as from outside it. It is, in other words, also a site of ghurba, which prompts us to ask about how it has been experienced by diasporic individuals and communities and the different ways in which they have navigated their identities in light of both changing and rigid conceptualizations of citizenship and belonging.

     The aim of this edited collection is to investigate the cultural implications of different kinds of movement and migration to and within the Arabic-speaking world. While inter-Arab labor migration and regional displacement have been the subject of research focusing on political and economic state relations as well as the social and economic repercussions of migration and remittances,[1] studies exploring literary and cultural responses to these phenomena are scarce. How does (im)mobility within and across Arab borders manifest in works of literature and popular culture? How do such works conceptualize or negotiate national identity, Arab identity and cultural affinities in light of political and economic crises in the region and the (im)mobility that has been triggered by these crises? What forms does otherness in the Arabic-speaking world take in the sphere of literature and culture, and how do they conform to or diverge from articulations of racial, linguistic and cultural otherness amongst the Arab diaspora in European or Western immigrant destinations?

     Exploring these and other questions on experiences of (im)mobility, otherness and place-making amongst diasporic communities, ethnic and religious minorities and other social groups within the Arabic-speaking world makes it possible to evaluate the extent to which literature and culture consolidate or contest official and public discourses revolving around the notion of ghurba, or the experience of ʾightirāb more generally. Words like ʾightirābghurba and mughtarib imply detachment from the host country and assert a migrant’s status as an outsider, the citizen of another country. While ghurba is a recurring word in everyday usage that captures the emotional strains of migration, ʾightirāb and mughtarib carry more official references to migration and are used in state discourses and policies on emigration and diaspora. Literary and cultural constructions of ghurba and ʾightirāb provide an insight into the interaction between political structures and discourses, and subjective affects and experiences, thus revealing how the former inform the latter, but also how the subjective can navigate official discourses and redraw boundaries.

     This edited collection underscores the importance of understanding the cultural implications of regional movement and counters the tendency to prioritize migration narratives that rehearse colonial and post-colonial North-South relations. Examining migratory movements to and within the Arabic-speaking world contributes to the growing body of scholarship that seeks to centralize the global South in migration studies in order to question classical concepts and frameworks and to propose alternative theorizations that contest the dominance of Eurocentrism in migration research.[2] A primary aspect of such an approach would be to situate the Arabic-speaking world in the global political and economic networks that have given rise to regional migratory movements in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as well as to recognize domestic factors shaping experiences of (im)mobility. For example, the two main reasons behind migration and displacement in the region, political conflict and oil, have global and local dimensions. Similarly, the formation of national borders in Arab countries after decolonization included an interplay of external and internal factors. Contested borders ultimately result in contested citizenship, which becomes manifest in the discrepancy between lived experiences, affective attachments to place, and legal definitions of belonging and inclusion.

     An approach that centralizes the global South in the study of migration would also question the knowledge that shapes predominant understandings of Arab migrant and diasporic experiences alongside opening the space for marginalized voices and forms of knowledge. Who counts as diasporic? And whose feelings of ghurba are acknowledged? When experiences of displacement, migration and diaspora do not conform to our understanding of these terms, they are not recognized as legitimate and the subjects who experience them are rendered voiceless and invisible.[3] The marginalization of (im)mobile subjects in the Arabic-speaking world is also a result of methodological approaches that examine migration experiences without recognizing how individuals articulate their own perspectives and subjective experiences as valid forms of knowledge.[4] Literature and popular culture are rich spaces of possibility that can, although not necessarily, offer nuanced and counter-narratives which employ autobiographical and marginalized knowledge.

     Following from the above, this edited collection aims to embrace the authorial voices of its contributors by encouraging them to bring their own personal experiences in conversation with the materials and subjects they study. Whether through creative writing, experimental approaches to literature and culture, or the inclusion of personal anecdotes, academic analysis and criticism can convey the affect that flows in experiences of displacement, migration and (im)mobility in general. By including contributions that incorporate creative and personal elements in scholarly writing, I hope that this edited collection would be accessible and of interest to a wider readership from inside and outside academia.         


[1] See, for example, Tsourapas, Gerasimos. The Politics of Migration in Modern Egypt: Strategies for Regime Survival in Autocracies. Cambridge University Press, 2019, and “The Politics of Migration Interdependence in the Post-Arab Spring Middle East,” in The Dynamics of Regional Migration Governance, edited by Andrew Geddes, Marcia Vera Espinoza, and Leila Hadj Abdou. Edward Elgar, 2019, pp. 128-145, Helene Thiollet. “Migration as Diplomacy: Labor Migrants, Refugees and Arab Regional Politics in the Oil-Rich Countries,” International Labor and Working-Class History, no. 79, 2011, pp. 103-121,, Arab Migration in a Globalized World. International Organization for Migration, 2004, and Viewpoints: Migration and the Mashreq, Middle East Institute, April. 2010 

[2] See for example, Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, “Introduction: Recentering the South in Studies of Migration,” Migration and Society, vol. 3, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1-18,, Adamson, Fiona B. and Gerasimos Tsourapas. “The Migration State in the Global South: Nationalizing, Developmental, and Neoliberal Modes of Migration Management” International Migration Review, vol. 54, no. 3, 2020, pp. 853-882, SAGE,, and Nawyn, Stephanie J. “Migration in the Global South: Exploring New Theoretical Territory,” International Journal of Sociology, vol. 46, no. 2, 2016, pp. 81-84. Taylor and Francis,


[3] Vora, Neha. Impossible Citizens: Dubai’s Indian Diaspora. Duke UP, 2013, pp. 23-30.


[4] Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, p. 12.


Contact information:

Nadeen Dakkak

PhD Candidate

Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies 

University of Warwick

Coventry, CV4 7AL