Call for Abstracts for Special Issue papers: 'Wombs and Tombs: Hauntings and Generational Trauma in Arab Women’s Writing'

deadline for submissions: 
July 29, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Roxanne Douglas (The University of Warwick) and Layla AlAmmar (Lancaster University)
contact email: 

Call for Special Issue paper proposals:

Wombs and Tombs: Hauntings and Generational Trauma in Arab Women’s Writing

To be aimed at Contemporary Women’s Writing or the Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies


There is a pattern in Anglophone scholarship which pathologizes Arab women’s writing, and Arab women more generally, especially around themes of trauma. That even if a text by an Arab woman writer is fiction, it is treated as an autobiographical account of the author’s trauma, or as confessional evidence of real Arab women’s lives as sociological objects of study. Tentatively titled Wombs and Tombs: Hauntings and Generational Trauma in Arab Women’s Writing, this special issue therefore seeks a new approach to the writing of Arab women through the lenses of Gothic Theory and Literary Trauma Theory. With few exceptions, Arab women’s literature has largely been neglected by these two paradigms, and so, this special issue seeks to fill the gaps in scholarship by bringing together innovative readings of this large and diverse body of writing.

By using psychoanalytic literary theory on this body of work we hope to engage with the artistic agency of the author, not as an interlocutor (who, as Michelle Hartman (2012) describes ‘tells ”us” about “them”’), but as a theorist in her own right. We believe such an approach will allow conceptual space to consider both the gap of literary trauma theory application to Arab literature as it stands, alongside questions about the ways that such paradigms may not fit Arab contexts. There are certainly writers who contest and expand various aspects of trauma theory in innovative ways while there are others whose work can be mapped onto "conventional" or axiomatic notions of literary trauma theory. We think that one avenue of inquiry could be to explore how some Arab writers (perhaps Anglophone or Francophone) may appropriate or engage in conventional trauma theory as a way of speaking to certain audiences (for example Joumana Haddad or Mansoura Ez Eldin). Does this then become a kind of betrayal to (or effacement of) local contexts and particularities, or does it indicate that trauma theory itself has become a kind of language that writers can "speak" in order to convey and theorize certain experiences?

Hanadi Al-Samman’s Anxiety of Erasure: Trauma, Authorship, and the Diaspora in Arab Women's Writings (2015) was a groundbreaking intervention at the intersection of Arab women’s literature and literary trauma theory, focusing on how Arab women deploy the cultural myths of Shahrazad and female infant burial (wa’d) in order to resurrect silenced traumatic histories. This special issue aims to build on Al-Samman’s work by extending beyond the diasporic writers and two specific myths which form the basis of her study. This will illuminate the broad range of narrative styles and tools that Arab women writers use to disrupt conventional notions of trauma, which, as per Freud, continue to be seen as fundamentally unspeakable and inaccessible. Consequently, the issue will also bring Arab women’s writing to bear on Literary Trauma Theory, extending paradigmatic understandings of embodied and insidious trauma, the overlapping of the personal and the political in contexts of recurring violence, postmemory and rememory, as well as the articulation of inter- and transgenerational transmission of female trauma. 


We invite 300-500 word abstracts proposing 7,000 - 9,000 word articles, translations, or creative responses for a Special Journal Issue, to be aimed at Contemporary Women’s Writing and the Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies, on the following suggested topics:


  • Inter- and transgenerational trauma
  • Hauntings, death, and the uncanny
  • Mourning and Melancholia
  • Undeath, liminal states and places
  • Folklore, myths, and the irreal
  • Postmemory, (re)memory, and memorializing
  • Erasure, forgetting, and repression
  • Testimony and narrative witnessing


The papers gathered in this issue will explore gothic articulations of memory and hauntings through the activation of indigenous cultural myths such as Shahrazad, the Wa’d, and aspects of Jinn mythology, as well as gothic tropes such as ghosts, haunted houses, and revelations about one’s dead mother. Counter to some scholarship’s preoccupation with the silenced, traumatized Arab woman, this special issue aims to respond to the timely call in Arab feminist literature and activism to share and testify to their trauma. 

Please email abstracts to by 29th July 2022

Co-editors: Roxanne Douglas (The University of Warwick) and Layla AlAmmar (Lancaster University)