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Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies pres.

CMENAS Colloquium Series. South-South Relations in the Era of Far-Right Populism: The Syrian Refugee Crisis on Brazilian Television

Wail S. Hassan, Professor of Comparative Literature and English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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The 2019 CMENAS Colloquium Series theme is "Migration in the Islamicate World."

Brazil’s Arab and Arab-descended community, numbering an estimated 7-10 million, or 3.5-5% of the population, has been quite visible in national life, especially when compared to its counterpart in the United States, which numbers 2.5-3.5 million, or a mere 1% of the population. Since the early twentieth century, the turco stereotype has been widespread in Brazilian literature and popular culture, but in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, television melodrama O Clone (The Clone) captured the nation’s attention with its depiction of Islam and Muslim immigrants in Brazil. Less than two decades later, in April 2019, and a few months after the election of a populist, far-right president, a new Brazilian telenovela focusing on Arabs debuted. Orfãos da terra (Orphans of the Earth) depicts the plight of mostly Syrian, but also African and Haitian, refugees fleeing civil wars and natural disasters to Brazil. This presentation will analyze the representation of the latest wave of Arab arrivals and compare it to earlier representations in the context of current cultural politics in Brazil.

About the Speaker:
Waïl S. Hassan is Professor of Comparative Literature and English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the President of the American Comparative Literature Association. A specialist in modern Arabic literature and intellectual history, he is the author of Tayeb Salih: Ideology and the Craft of Fiction (2003) and Immigrant Narratives: Orientalism and Cultural Translation in Arab American and Arab British Literature (2011). He has translated Abdelfattah Kilito’s Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language from Arabic into English (2008) and Alberto Mussa’s Lughz al-qāf from Portuguese into Arabic (2015); co-edited Approaches to Teaching the Works of Naguib Mahfouz (2012); and edited The Oxford Handbook of the Arab Novelistic Traditions (2017). He is currently working on two books, one on the institution of Arabic literature in the U.S., and another on Arab literary and cultural relations with Brazil.

If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation to attend this event, please reach out to us at least 2 weeks in advance of this event. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange. Contact:

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