Date: Thursday 31 August 2017
Venue: EB.G.35, Western Sydney University, Parramatta South campus
Greg Noble and Sherene Idriss
(Institute for Culture and Society)
Cosmopolitics in the Arab Diaspora: Gender, Activism and Online Publics
People of Arabic-speaking background are often seen to be either disengaged from mainstream political life or too easily radicalised, swayed by extremist ideologies and prone to violence. Neither view adequately conveys their diverse experiences of civic and political participation. This paper draws on research with members of the Hands off Syria organisation to explore one example of the sustained forms of political talk and action amongst Arab-Australians and the spaces (physical and virtual) in which they occur. This (very much work-in-progress) paper examines the ensemble of activities and perspectives that constitute a vibrant counterpublic that often bypasses mainstream media and political culture. On the one hand, this is a story about the nuanced and multi-layered discourses which exhibit political engagement around Middle Eastern, Australian and international issues. On the other, however, it is also a story about how people navigate the restructuring of diasporic communities along sectarian lines in ways that parallel the conflicts in the Middle East. Drawing on interviews, and focusing on several key moments (such as the mock Syrian elections) the paper considers how political talk among Arab-Australians articulates identity, faith and belonging in south-western Sydney with imagined globalised homelands. It also examines the ways Hands of Syria weaves together nationalist, anti-imperialist and cosmopolitical stances. Further, it negotiates the gendered and 'tribalised' nature of community politics, but in terms of both localised practices of protest and forays into the 'digital diaspora', embodying forms of civic pedagogy unimagined by political and community leaders.
Greg Noble is Professor at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. His research interests centre around: the intersection of youth, ethnicity and gender; everyday multiculturalism; migration and settlement, especially amongst the Lebanese community; Bourdieusian theory; cultural pedagogies and habit; and the cultural analysis of education. His current research includes the ARC Discovery projects, 'Australian Cultural Fields: National and Transnational Dynamics' and 'Assembling and Governing Habits' (led by Professor Tony Bennett). His most recent books include Cultural Pedagogies and Human Conduct, Disposed to Learn and Being Lebanese in Australia. He is currently finalising Multicultural Education for a Culturally Complex Society with Megan Watkins.
Sherene Idriss is an Adjunct Researcher in the Religion and Society Cluster at Western Sydney University. She obtained her PhD from the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University in 2015. Her thesis, titled 'Everything creative is non-Leb: The creative vocational aspirations of Arab-Australian young men' examined the ways that categories of youth, gender, social class and personal ambition intersect and play out in ethnic-minority communities. Her research interests include community politics and cultural brokerage in Muslim minority groups within Sydney; youth subcultures; and the intersections between religion, gender and identity practices. Her book, Young Migrant Identities: Creativity and Masculinity – based on the thesis – has just been published by Routledge.