The Psychology of the Other; Narrating Diaspora Identity and Psychic Trauma in Leila Halaby’s Once in a Promised Land


The word diaspora invokes trauma. Being positioned in the in-between space and the struggle to assert identity, attempting to rearticulate one's existence, and negotiating a state of being subject to othering and social discrimination all boil into the trauma hovering around diaspora characters. In Once in a Promised Land, Leila Halaby responds to Arab Americans' identity crisis in post 9/11 attacks. The novel is inscribed in Arab Anglophone fiction that documents the current cultural anxieties and deconstructs politics of identity and cultural production to voice out a juxtaposed complex projection of dual existence. Being an Arab and a Muslim in America in the aftermath of 9/11 meant being viewed with suspicion; following the storyline of Jassim and Salwa who flee Jordan to “the promised land” where their life’s walls started collapsing, Halaby projects the hostility and pressure Arab-Muslims go through in America. To illustrate the psychological dimension of migrant identity, the paper explores power relations and the politics of subjugation. The novel’s significance for the study lies mainly in it being a powerful contrapuntally written novel; it brings traditional readings and writings to a crisis. The text delves into the underpinnings of the migrants' experience to grasp the architecture of discursive construction of otherness be it; bodily, religious, or racial othering and allows diaspora characters to vocalize their rich and complex existence. The paper unpacks the narratives’ social and political discursive dynamics to highlight the wholeness of the psychological struggle, it makes use of Fanon's theory to gauge the effect of sociopolitical on the human psyche and capture the psychic trauma through the characters of Salwa and Jassim.

Author Information
Salma Bahar, Chouaib Doukkali University, Morocco

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2022
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies

This paper is part of the ECAH2022 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Bahar S. (2022) The Psychology of the Other; Narrating Diaspora Identity and Psychic Trauma in Leila Halaby’s Once in a Promised Land ISSN: 2188-1111 – The European Conference on Arts & Humanities 2022: Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon