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Eman Hassan, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


A creative dissertation of Witness and Protest poetry, Raghead addresses subjectivity values in post-Gulf War Kuwait. Using a combination of poetic and critical theory to inform the work, primarily the ideas of psychoanalyst Kelly Oliver’s Pathology of Recognition, the Hegelian Death Drive cycle, and Witness poet Carolyn Forché’s Impress of Extremity, the collection explores power dynamics and causes of subjective trauma in times of war and peace in Kuwaiti society. The poems move from the self/other dynamic onto larger social and global issues, aiming to show how trauma is the result of both pathology of recognition and the impress of extremity. The objectification of migrant workers under the Sponsorship system in Kuwait illustrates the degrees of impress upon individual agency and bodies exposed to violence. The poems contend that in pathology of recognition, even aggressors experience forms of trauma. Using specific accounts from the First Gulf War, Raghead explores the impress of extremity, focusing on how war is linked to concepts of power and ownership: ownership of objects, bodies as subject-objects, and land in an oil producing culture that has lead to a state of disconnect. The role of memory and forgetting from traumatic impress is also explored. The dissertation examines the multicultural position of Arab/American subjects and the tension implicit in a heritage of two extremely different cultures. The work also seeks to empower the Gulf Arab female subject, exploring the way meaning is often imbued into linguistic constructs. The title itself, Raghead, asks for a transformation of the pejorative, a redress of discriminatory perceptions that witness and protest poets alike have consistently asked of their readers over the course of human history. The poems are often poised towards healing, working to reconstitute traumatized subjective expression-ability through exploring the power of language and the idea of language making inherent to personal agency. The work can be considered as a form of historical accounting, relying on factual records, the fictional, and on personal testimony. Raghead seeks to inform, inviting the reader to share what is being witnessed, with the intent to compel readers towards active self-evolution.

Subject Area

Creative writing

Recommended Citation

Hassan, Eman, "Raghead" (2017). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10683099.