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Title: Creative writing, identity and change : a case study of American University of Beirut students in post-war Lebanon
Authors: Khalaf, Roseanne Saad
Supervisors: Creese, Angela
Award date: 2001
Presented at: University of Leicester
Abstract: The thesis explores connections between diaspora, exile and the re-entry of displaced youth into a post-war society. The study is based on a sample of sixty creative writing students at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Questionnaires were administered, interactive interviews conducted and autobiographical narratives analyzed to isolate and examine the themes that foreground their texts. Some of the significant findings reveal that the sample of returnees under study are hybrids, cosmopolitan travellers who are everywhere but nowhere at home. Their position of "suspended inbetweenness" situates them in the margins of whatever society they happen to be in. Yet paradoxically, it is the experiences of multiplicity that hold immense possibilities. For when channelled into creative expression, and reinforced by the formation of spaces where silent and muted voices can speak, they enable this marginalized group to serve as vectors for forging new cultural identities and fostering change. In parts of my thesis I inevitably utilize the more conventional form of academic writing that locates the work in its appropriate theoretical context. Overall however, it assumes the shape of an experimental, narrative ethnography. The mode of ethnographic writing captures, in my view, the evocative elements inherent in "life as lived" by the sample of returnees as well as myself. To achieve this, a reflexive approach, which places my work in an interpretive perspective seemed most appropriate. Among other things, it fuses the humanities with the social sciences, the personal with the professional, and my lived experience with my research. Accordingly, my research narrative is interspersed with personal vignettes that run parallel to the texts and conversations of the students. I have also applied a number of methodologies to meet the multi-layered and shifting demands of the study. Given the sampling frame and exploratory nature of the study, a set of assertive or unequivocal conclusions would be of questionable validity. Instead, I think it more consistent with the spirit and nature of the study, to extract a few relevant inferences about the role of creative writing students in a post-war setting. First, creative writing classes have allowed students to take up identity positionings not available to them in other areas of social life. This was made possible by becoming part of the process of establishing a community of writers with shared goals. Second, I have come to view emotional narrative engagement as much more than a powerful tool for communicating defiance and nonconformity. It creates the conditions whereby students’ private discourse is transformed into something akin to a public realm, a “third space”, where negotiation occurs in ways that, I believe, will eventually unsettle fixed positions of identity and behavior. It is my premise that in these spaces, perceptions of the “other” can be altered to serve as venues for genuine openness and civility in a post-war society desperately in need of multiplicity and creative alternatives.
Type: Thesis
Level: Doctoral
Qualification: EdD
Rights: Copyright © the author. All rights reserved.
Appears in Collections:Theses, School of Education
Leicester Theses

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