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The Radius of Loss : Readings on Contemporary African American and Iranian American Literature and Performance


This dissertation navigates a space of intersection between literature and performance emerging from African and Middle Eastern diasporas. With a focus specifically on African American and Iranian American texts, this project identifies the potential for collaboration between cultural texts produced by artists writing about the afterlife of captivity and loss. My readings examine the separate excursions into the past made by each artist in what I recognize as an attempt to disrupt a social forgetting that renders specific memories and experiences as historical excess. My project moves beyond the simple compilation or juxtaposition of voices by seeking to critically engage with the eruptions of haunting memory and inherited nostalgia. Furthermore, I argue that a specific form of melancholy figures hauntingly in African American and Iranian American cultural texts. Nostalgia for a site identified as home---whether it be Ghana or Iran---looms prominently in the literature as does the understanding that the home that is full of both meaning and identity has been foreclosed upon as the feasibility or prospect of a return is both treacherous and often dispiriting not necessarily because of the circumstances of the destinations, but because the home that would satisfy the yearning no longer exists. My readings of these texts pay close attention to how these types of traumatic memories specific to captivity continue to circulate, illustrating the afterlife of imprisonment and the radius of loss. I situate points of connection through how the texts perform loss, the centrality of captivity, the theoretical framework of black feminist writings, and lastly, through the tensions of home that erupt in the texts. The aim of my dissertation is to consider how these cultural texts create an archive that bespeaks the critical role women have performed in challenging state- sanctioned violence. While I am careful to not collapse or reduce the specificity of differences in historical circumstances, my scholarship seeks to provide openings for discourses of collaboration that have yet to occur

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