Arab America

Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism

320 pages

10 halftones

August, 2012

ISBN: 9780814758878



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Nadine Naber is Associate Professor in the Gender and Women's Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is co-editor of Race and Arab Americans (2007) and Arab and Arab American Feminisms (2011).

All books by Nadine Naber

Arab Americans are one of the most misunderstood segments of the U.S. population, especially after the events of 9/11. In Arab America, Nadine Naber tells the stories of second generation Arab American young adults living in the San Francisco Bay Area, most of whom are political activists engaged in two culturalist movements that draw on the conditions of diaspora, a Muslim global justice and a Leftist Arab movement.
Writing from a transnational feminist perspective, Naber reveals the complex and at times contradictory cultural and political processes through which Arabness is forged in the contemporary United States, and explores the apparently intra-communal cultural concepts of religion, family, gender, and sexuality as the battleground on which Arab American young adults and the looming world of America all wrangle. As this struggle continues, these young adults reject Orientalist thought, producing counter-narratives that open up new possibilities for transcending the limitations of Orientalist, imperialist, and conventional nationalist articulations of self, possibilities that ground concepts of religion, family, gender, and sexuality in some of the most urgent issues of our times: immigration politics, racial justice struggles, and U.S. militarism and war.


  • "In Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism, Nadine Naber traces the historical, political, and community-building experiences of Arab Americans living in the San Francisco Bay area with impressive attention to the cultural, religious, and generational heterogeneity of her interlocutors...[This book] should be required reading not only in Middle Eastern Studies courses, but also for scholars in Ethnic Studies, Urban Studies, and other interdisciplinary fields that deal with questions of community building, racialization practices, and anti-imperialist struggle."

    Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East Migration Studies

  • "One of the striking features of Naber's research work is not merely her employment of the standard qualitative techniques such as participant observation and intensive interviews, but rather her almost total immersion in the lived reality of her interviewees.  This immersion transforms the 'respondents' into her interlocutors and she is no longer perceived as a researcher or outsider to their lived experience."

    —Adlai S. Davids, Journal of International Women's Studies

  • "Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism stands to make a unique contribution to the fields of cultural studies, American studies, Arab American studies, Arab studies and gender studies. It is a pioneer scholarly endeavor that highlights the interplay between politics, gender and society. By focusing on the politics of empire and diaspora through the study of two communities of middle class Arab families and Arab and Muslim activists, Naber offers a dynamic conceptualization to the notion of Arabness in the United States."

    —Rita Stephen, Mobilization

  • “[…] Arab America humanizes complex people whose personal stories we rarely read, especially when…we rely only on the American media to inform us.”

    Cinema Journal

  • “[T]he book’s greatest value lies in Naber’s talent to address culture, religion, kinship and politics as fluid, relational and historically defined domains that span national borders.” 

    Social Anthropology

  • Arab America is a thoughtfully written, meticulously researched work of scholarship, and one of the most important works of Arab American studies to appear in recent years.”

    Journal of American Studies of Turkey

  • "Researched over twelve years, Naber's ethnography Arab America...provides an intimate history of Arab American identity formation and social justice organizing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Naber's chapters guide the reader through a politically contextualized progression of Arab American history while situating her work in relation to diaspora studies and women of color feminisms."

    —Umayyah Cable, New Wave Arab American Studies

  • "Numerous Arab-Americans have covered themselves in glory in recent years. But that is not the overriding theme of Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics and Activism. The author, Nadine Naber, associate professor in the Programme in American Culture and the Department of Woman’s Studies at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, is interested in the cultural aspects of political activism in the Bay Area, and she is particularly preoccupied with how counter-narratives, embracing sexuality and gender, transcend what she describes as the restrictions and limitations of orientalist and conventional nationalist articulations of self and ground concepts of religion. Naber tackles these themes by scrutinising sympathetically the lives of young Arab-American political activists in the Bay Area of California in and around San Francisco. By doing so, she enunciates the dilemmas of the Diaspora. The author details the personal and political repercussions of these dilemmas in an engaging manner, highlighting the intimate correlation between means and ends."

    —Gamal Nkruman, Al-Ahram Weekly

  • "Through an ethnographic study of life in the San Francisco Bay Area for members of the Arab diaspora, Nadine Naber's Arab America provides a unique and powerful contribution to studies of Arab Americans." 

    —Karen Culcasi, Antipode

  • Arab America is a vital intervention in the growing field of Arab-American studies. At once an historical overview and an ethnographic study, it portrays a complex picture of activism as it negotiates Arabness in America. Organized around the tensions entailed in living on the hyphen of ‘Arab-American’ identity, the text insightfully highlights the dilemmas of a diaspora in an empire deeply embedded in the Middle East. Naber perceptively engages the feminist call for intersectionality in ways that are productive, dynamic and fresh.”

    —Ella Shohat, author of Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices