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Title: Exile from exile : the representation of cultural memory in literary texts by exiled Iranian Jewish women
Author: Langer, Jennifer
Awarding Body: SOAS, University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2013
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My thesis examines the question of alienation and belonging in Iran and in exile as it arises in the representation of cultural memory in literary texts by exiled Iranian Jewish women. I establish a contestation between the textual protagonists' Jewish, Iranian and female identities and exile as a mnemonic site for negotiating a fusion of identities. My work thus seeks to contribute to a heterogeneous nature of the relationship between Jews and gender since the narrative of Iranian Jewish women is barely acknowledged in scholarship on Iranian Jews or in studies of Iranian women. My thesis contributes to the growing, but still insufficiently disseminated, body of literature on Mizrahi Jewish identity. I challenge the dominant scholarly representations of the relationship between Iranian Jews and broader Muslim Shi'a society as straightforwardly polarised and complicate Jewish notions of exile which hitherto have focused on a more Zionist narrative where the object of yearning is Israel. My research is based on six novels and memoirs created in American and Belgian exile and represents Iranian Jewish women in the context of shifting state and religious ideologies during the Shah's reign and the subsequent Islamic regime. All the literary texts are sites of resistance and denial and represent the innate desire of the Iranian Jewish women to be seen as belonging to Iran whilst resisting their rejection as Jews. Exile offers the protagonists the opportunity to define their identities rather than accepting definitions by others in which Iranian and Jewish identities are invariably polarised. To achieve belonging to the Iranian nation, exiled Iranian Jews uphold the importance of Iranian Jewish history and memory. The re-instatement and glorification of Iranian Jews in the Iranian narrative of nation is crucial for some yet an ambiguous space results from the coexistence of imagined belonging with victimisation and exclusion.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral