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Rowing for Palestine, Performing the Crossroads, Living Multiple Consciousness: Mark Gerban and Suheir Hammad

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Abstract:

“In ‘ethnicity,’ the double sense of general peoplehood (shared by all Americans) and of otherness (different from the ‘mainstream’ culture) lives on,” writes Werner Sollors in his introduction to Theories of Ethnicity. Contemporary transcultural and transnational identities oftentimes incorporate a complication of this “double sense”: “Otherness” is, on the biographical level, multiplied by the addition of a third or fourth (etc.) nation or culture, and, on the level of identity, defined not only by a resulting multiple consciousness, but, moreover by a perceived pan-ethnic, trans-cultural consciousness. “General peoplehood” then begins to comprise the globe. Following W.E.B. Du Bois’s example in The Souls of Black Folk, individuals such as Suheir Hammad and Mark Gerban strive to make their multiple consciousness public, yet not only in order to improve the situation of the “other(s),” the particular ethnicities and cultures they themselves embody, but also that of the “other” in general.

Suheir Hammad, one of the most successful contemporary performance poets, was born in Amman, Jordan, to Palestinian refugee parents, and migrated to Brooklyn, NY, with her family when she was five. As the title of one of her collections of poetry—Born Palestinian, Born Black—demonstrates, Hammad’s identitiy, as she herself says, is shaped by different “narratives”—Palestinian (also in terms of symbolic ethnicity), American, and Palestinian American—and, even more so, by a “collective view” (Hammad), a “Black Consciousness [sic] perspective, a shared philosophy of suffering” (Christopher Brown). Hammad performs this multiple, trans-cultural consciousness both on the local stages of poetry and political activism, but also on the global platforms of television and online transmission.

Mark Gerban’s biographical background is even more complex: Born in the U.S. to a Jewish/American mother and a Muslim/Palestinian father, his career as a professional lightweight rower—for Palestine—requires him to live in Germany permanently and, furthermore, makes him a global citizen: Since his “secret struggle to find [him]self” has taught him, as Gerban explains, that the results of his “sacrifices were beyond rowing,” Gerban constantly tries to broadcast his multi-cultural experience and knowledge as a transnational lesson for peace. He not only engages in charity projects for Gaza, but also makes his personal multiple consciousness available as a representative example in (anonymously) published articles, online newsletters, and an autobiography (in ms.).

This paper will examine how Hammad’s and Gerban’s individual multiple consciousness merges into a pan-ethnic, transnational consciousness and into the voice of the “other” in their literary, cultural, and political performance, which utilizes both more traditional and newer, global forms of transmission. It will illustrate how they employ their position in the public sphere—pop culture, sports, art—to transcend the biographical in order to spread a transnational, political message.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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MLA Citation:

Bauridl, Birgit. "Rowing for Palestine, Performing the Crossroads, Living Multiple Consciousness: Mark Gerban and Suheir Hammad" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico, <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p244714_index.html>

APA Citation:

Bauridl, B. M. "Rowing for Palestine, Performing the Crossroads, Living Multiple Consciousness: Mark Gerban and Suheir Hammad" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p244714_index.html

Publication Type: Invited Paper
Abstract: “In ‘ethnicity,’ the double sense of general peoplehood (shared by all Americans) and of otherness (different from the ‘mainstream’ culture) lives on,” writes Werner Sollors in his introduction to Theories of Ethnicity. Contemporary transcultural and transnational identities oftentimes incorporate a complication of this “double sense”: “Otherness” is, on the biographical level, multiplied by the addition of a third or fourth (etc.) nation or culture, and, on the level of identity, defined not only by a resulting multiple consciousness, but, moreover by a perceived pan-ethnic, trans-cultural consciousness. “General peoplehood” then begins to comprise the globe. Following W.E.B. Du Bois’s example in The Souls of Black Folk, individuals such as Suheir Hammad and Mark Gerban strive to make their multiple consciousness public, yet not only in order to improve the situation of the “other(s),” the particular ethnicities and cultures they themselves embody, but also that of the “other” in general.

Suheir Hammad, one of the most successful contemporary performance poets, was born in Amman, Jordan, to Palestinian refugee parents, and migrated to Brooklyn, NY, with her family when she was five. As the title of one of her collections of poetry—Born Palestinian, Born Black—demonstrates, Hammad’s identitiy, as she herself says, is shaped by different “narratives”—Palestinian (also in terms of symbolic ethnicity), American, and Palestinian American—and, even more so, by a “collective view” (Hammad), a “Black Consciousness [sic] perspective, a shared philosophy of suffering” (Christopher Brown). Hammad performs this multiple, trans-cultural consciousness both on the local stages of poetry and political activism, but also on the global platforms of television and online transmission.

Mark Gerban’s biographical background is even more complex: Born in the U.S. to a Jewish/American mother and a Muslim/Palestinian father, his career as a professional lightweight rower—for Palestine—requires him to live in Germany permanently and, furthermore, makes him a global citizen: Since his “secret struggle to find [him]self” has taught him, as Gerban explains, that the results of his “sacrifices were beyond rowing,” Gerban constantly tries to broadcast his multi-cultural experience and knowledge as a transnational lesson for peace. He not only engages in charity projects for Gaza, but also makes his personal multiple consciousness available as a representative example in (anonymously) published articles, online newsletters, and an autobiography (in ms.).

This paper will examine how Hammad’s and Gerban’s individual multiple consciousness merges into a pan-ethnic, transnational consciousness and into the voice of the “other” in their literary, cultural, and political performance, which utilizes both more traditional and newer, global forms of transmission. It will illustrate how they employ their position in the public sphere—pop culture, sports, art—to transcend the biographical in order to spread a transnational, political message.


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