Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (PhD)

Degree Level



Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies


Mohja Kahf

Committee Member

Ted Swedenburg

Second Committee Member

Yajaira Padilla


American Imperialism, Contemporary Chicana Fiction, Contemporary Iraqi Women's Fiction, Female Archetypes, Feminist Postcolonial Theory, Oppositional Subjectivities


In dominant imperialist discourses, women, such as Iraqi women and Chicanas, have been marginalized in political, social and economic structures and have been manipulated to maintain imperialist exploitation and processes. They have been frozen within certain archetypal configurations. Iraqi women have been misrepresented as victims of their culture and traditions, and Chicanas have been represented in derogatory terms or excluded from mainstream hierarchies of representation. This study examines some counternarratives and oppositional subjectivities/ consciousnesses provided by Iraqi and Chicana women writers through their utilization of the legacy of a number of fictional and historical female figures. The primary texts analyzed in this study are Tashari (Dispersed) (2013) by Ina’am Kachachi, Al-ʿyūn al Sūd (The Black Eyes) (2002) by Maysalun Hadi, “Shahrazad and Her Narrator” (1999) by Lutfiyya al-Dulaimi, So Far from God (1993) by Ana Castillo, and “Never Marry a Mexican” (1991) by Sandra Cisneros. The innovative use of female archetypes in these works both enriches the literary heritage and represents new subjectivities for Arab/Iraqi and Chicana women. The female cultural figures analyzed in this project are al-Khansa, Shahrazad, Zarqa al-Yamama, La Llorona, the curandera, and La Malinche. Each writer brings attention to positive aspects of these figures, focusing on their legacy as active subjects, discourse transmitters/creators, and protectors. This dissertation examines how female archetypes are reclaimed/ re-presented in Chicana and Iraqi literature to reflect new anti-patriarchal and anti-imperialist subjectivities available to women while maintaining the rich cultural heritage of these figures in their respective cultural traditions. This reclamation/ re-presentation provides oppositional subjectivities that reveal Iraqi and Chicana women’s day-to day experiences and ways of resistance and survival at times of loss, marginalization, and identity erasure/distortion.