Najat Rahman

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2014/2015
discipline Literature
Associate Professor, Comparative Literature, University of Montreal

Research project

In the Wake of the Poetic: Palestinian Diasporic Artists After Darwish


How may the diasporic “inform/disrupt” ideas of the national? (Butler 2010) What does it mean to articulate a belonging in diasporic forms and conditions? To trace the influence of the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, long deemed a “national poet” and one who so poignantly expresses a loss of home, to diasporic artworks that often evoke this poetry directly and yet which are “at home and in the world” demand a thinking of “belonging without the conditions of belonging,” as Giorgio Agamben has argued. (1993) Could “dislocations felt by displaced subjects towards disrupted histories and to shifting and transient national identities” constitute this belonging? (Rogoff 2000)


My proposed research aims to produce a theoretical and interdisciplinary analysis of the aesthetics and politics of Palestinian diasporic cultural production in the last two decades in light of its significant presence on the international scene, and following on the heels of the immense influence of Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry that had dominated Palestinian culture for decades. The 1990’s have heralded a new period of creativity in the wake of the Oslo Accords, and “as a result of the decentralization of the Palestinian political scene.” (Pappé 2005) It traces the influence of Darwish’s poetry in language, lyric, performative and visual art forms.


The evocations of Darwish’s poetry by artists from spoken word poets such as Suheir Hammad to visual artists such as Eman Haram, has necessitated an approach that addresses poetry’s relation to other arts, and the transformation not only of what is ‘national’ through this diasporic art but the distinct boundaries of those forms, where the poetry of Suheir Hammad beckons that of Darwish in a language composed of Arabic and English, in written poems also performed as slam poetry. The artworks call for an approach that is multilingual and intermedial, a new comparative literature as Emily Apter has proposed. (2006) The multi-media demands of the project are both innovative and challenging not only because one is working across different media but rather because each work already seems to be multi-medial and therefore demands a new approach. This is an art that privileges the medium, where different art media are combined to create innovative and hybrid forms, often highlighting the fluid boundaries between literary production and other modes of artistic creativity (particularly poetry’s relation to film, video, and performance art).


This project aims at rethinking the national through the diasporic, theorizing the multilingual through the intermedial that the diasporic also has spawned, and examining the relationship between aesthetics and politics in these artworks in light of the theoretical contribution of Jacques Rancière (2010).




Najat Rahman is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the Faculty of Arts and Letters in the University of Montreal. She holds a Ph.D in Comparative Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Selected publications


Humor in Middle Eastern Cinema, with G. Devi (eds), Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 2014.


'Translation and Subjective Mapping in the Art of Mona Hatoum and Suheir Hammad', Revue intermédialités [online], doi: 10.7202/1015089ar, June, 2013.


'‘‘Laughter that Encounters a Void?’’: Humor, Loss, and the Possibility for Politics in Recent Palestinian Cinema’, in A. Horton & J. Rapf (eds), The Blackwell Companion to Film Comedy, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, pp. 474-496.


'Unmasking of Shadow Selves in Assia Djebar’s Ombre Sultane: The Anonymity of Manhood', in L. Ouzgane (ed.), Masculinities in African Literature and Film, James Curry, 2011, pp. 55-67.


'Apocalyptic Narrative Recalls and the Human: Rawi Hage’s De Niro’s Game', University of Toronto Quarterly, vol. 78, no. 2, 2009, pp. 800-814.


'Lyric in Mahmoud Darwish’s Work: Threatened Longing and Perpetual Search', Mahmoud Darwish, Exile’s Poet: Critical Essays, Interlink Books, Northampton, 2008, pp. 41-56.


Mahmoud Darwish, Exile’s Poet: Critical Essays, with H. Nassar (eds), Interlink Books, Northampton, 2008.


Literary Disinheritance: The Writing of Home in the Work of Mahmoud Darwish and Assia Djebar, Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, 2007.



senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
IMéRA, Aix-Marseille Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Linguistics
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
IMéRA, Aix-Marseille Institute for Advanced Study
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
IMéRA, Aix-Marseille Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Public Health
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
IMéRA, Aix-Marseille Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Comparative Studies