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

Swedenburg, Ted

Second Committee Member

Banton, Caree

Third Committee Member

Bailey, Constance


Afro-Arab, Anti-Black racism, Arab slave trade, Contemporary Arabic literature, Literary theory, Slavery


Black Arabs and Afro-Arabs tend not to be centered in Arabic discourse, especially modern Arabic literature, and Black people of other ethnicities are marginalized, as if Black peoples and Afro-Arabs were not part of the history and present-day of the Arabic-speaking world. I explore in this dissertation project the representations and experiences of Black and Afro-Arabs in contemporary Arabic fictional narratives. I argue that the contemporary literary era sees a shift in re-presenting Black peoples and Afro-Arabs in the Arabic fictional discourse. By moving Black and Afro-Arab characters from periphery to center, contemporary Arab writers challenge and disrupt, in an unprecedented way, the fixed discourses on Blackness and anti-Black racism in Arabic literature by producing works of fiction that primarily center the Black experience to their narratives and give voice to the formerly silenced and oppressed. By perceiving the relegation of Black and Blackness to the margin in previous periods, particularly in the works of the nineteenth and twentieth century Arab writers, I examine how contemporary Arab writers counter this hegemonic discourse by producing various themes, focusing primarily on Arab anti-Black racism, Blackness, and the experiences of enslaved Black and Afro-Arab subjects during the various periods of the Arab-led slave trade. I focus in this study on some of these emerging themes adopted by contemporary Arab novelists, men and women equally, from different parts of the Arabic-speaking world to embody the historically neglected Black experience in canonical Arabic literature. The primary fictional texts selected for this project were originally written in Arabic language during the twenty-first century, and they are Laila Aljohani’s Jahiliyyah (Days of Ignorance, 2007), Aluwan Alsuhaymi’s Al-Qar (The Tar, 2012), ʻAmmar Ba Tawil’s Salmeen (2015), Samiha Khrais’ Fustuq ‘Abeed (Slaves’ Peanuts, 2016), Jokha Alharthi’s Sayyidat al-Qamar (Celestial Bodies, 2011), and Khalid al-Bassam’s Thaman al-Milh (The Price of Salt, 2016). I utilize an array of theoretical approaches, including Critical Race Theory (CRT), trauma theory, intersectionality, and postcolonial feminist theory, to offer interdisciplinary perspectives that allow for a nuanced understanding of the selected texts. My examination of these texts advances the conversation on Black and Afro-Arab experiences in contemporary Arabic literature and culture and contributes to the current discussion on “race” and anti-Black racism in the Arabic-speaking world. Key words: Comparative literature, Contemporary Arabic literature, Anti-Black racism, Slavery, Arab-led slave trade, Black, Afro-Arab, Critical Race Theory, Trauma theory, Postcolonial feminism, Intersectionality.