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Title: Reclaiming Trauma and Memory: War Memorials and Literature in Post-Invasion Kuwait
Authors: Abdulla Bassam Alnouri 
Supervisor: Dr. Mai B. Al-Nakib
Keywords: Reclaiming Trauma : War Memorials
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher:  Kuwait university - college of graduate studies
Abstract: In the normative social and political order of modern society, events are marked by a chronological ontology that relies on a linear perception of time. National, scientific, and religious histories are organized chronologically, as are the lives of individuals inhabiting these orders. However, for those who experience trauma, this normalized perception of time is often disrupted. In this work, Kuwaiti memorials and literature responding to the trauma of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait are examined in order to determine to what extent they either express or obscure trauma. This thesis suggests that cultural works that encircle trauma register its troubled relationship to time and language and do not restrict expressions of it to fixed narratives. In contrast, works that gentrify trauma homogenize the traumatic event by narrowing its narrative focus and assigning fixed meaning to the trauma, imposing a coherent interpretation of an otherwise incoherent event. My reading of Kuwaiti memorials and literature is informed by the work of Jenny Edkins. In Trauma and the Memory of Politics, Edkins addresses how the historical memory of trauma is shaped and analyzes how memorials impact social and political realities. Primarily concerned with the relationship between trauma, violence, and national narratives, Edkins examines to what extent memorials to trauma can honor the history and memory of trauma without co-opting it into a national narrative. Stephanie Lehner demonstrates how trauma can be similarly encircled in literature. In this thesis, I show how Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait can be understood as a heterogeneous traumatic experience and demonstrate how it affected the lives of individuals from various nations. I demonstrate how the museum, the Kuwait House for National Works, and the short story collection by Layla Al-Othman, Hawajiz Sawda’ (Black Barricades), both use nationalist rhetoric to gentrify the trauma of the Iraqi invasion. In contrast, I identify the Martyrs’ Museum and Mai Al-Nakib’s short story collection, The Hidden Light of Objects, as works that encircle trauma by marking its impossibility, recognizing its ability to persist over time, thereby repoliticizing the traumatic event. By blocking the work of forgetting, I show how works that encircle trauma move through a traumatic past without minimizing or attempting to limit the trauma, thus providing opportunities for a shared present amongst people of diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Appears in Programs:0321 Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies

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