Hanan Jasim Khammas (CCL Visiting Doctoral Scholar, 2021)

Hanan is Visiting Doctoral Scholar at the CCL, June – October 2021.

A PhD candidate in literary theory and comparative literature at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Hanan works on the representation of the body in contemporary Iraqi fiction.

She is Adjunct Lecturer of Arabic and contemporary Arabic literature on the Arabophone Master in Contemporary Arabic Studies at UAB, where she teaches modules on Contemporary Arabic Literature and Contemporary Arab Thought. Starting in September this year, Hanan will academic coordinator of the Master’s degree.

Hanan is a member of the research project Gender(s), Language(s) in Contemporary Arabness and the Junior editor at Revista Banipal, the Spanish edition of Banipal. She is also a member of the research group Literary Cartographies of the Mediterranean.

Her research interests revolve around notions of corporeality in modern and contemporary fiction with comparative focus on fiction written in Arabic. Hanan is in the final stages of writing her PhD thesis, provisionally titled The Body Sign: Corporeality in Contemporary Iraqi Fiction. Here’s a description of the project in Hanan’s own words:

Briefly, my hypothesis suggests that the representation of the body in the fictional works written after the 2003 war and invasion responds to the cultural semiotics of the body in both Iraqi culture and the discourse and praxis of the war on terror. I claim that the encounter between the two semiospheres results in the writing of a body that, although evokes both, challenges the very structure of their semiosis.

Therefore, my thesis is structured in three main blocks: the first, corporeality in Iraqi culture and literature prior to 2003 (Chapter title: This is a Man’s World), in which I offer a socio-anthropological and literary overview of corporeality in modern Iraq, and the Baʿathist state. The second, corporeality in the discourse and praxis of the war on terror (Chapter title: Operation Feminise), in which I examine corporeality in the war on terror narrative, focusing on media, literature, and video games.

The third, corporeality in post 2003 fiction (Chapter title: Powers of Re-gendered Grotesque) – echoing Kristeva’s Powers of Horror – in which I examine the aesthetic representation of the body in four fictional works: ʿĀliah Mamdūḥ’s al-Tashahī (2007), Sinān Antūn’s Waḥahā Shajarat al-Rumān (2010) – English translation by the author himself as The Corpse Washer (2014), Aḥmad Saʿdāwī’s Frankishtāin fī Baghdād (2013) – English translation by Jonathan Wright as Frankenstein in Baghdad (2018), Ḥasan Blāsim’s Maʿraḍ al-Juthath (2014) – English translation by Jonathan Wright as The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq (2014).

These four works, I argue, share different elements of the grotesque body – as defined by Mikhail Bakhtin and Julia Kristeva – which I consider a major aesthetic development in contemporary Iraqi fiction as it is also present in other fictional works written after the 2003 war and invasion. Also, the stand on sexuality in these works shows a modification in the perception of war and corporeality, which substantially distinguishes contemporary authors from those of the Iraqi modern period.

Therefore, the thesis offers a genealogy of corporeality in Iraqi culture and literature rather than a strict focus on post 2003 literary production. The chapter titles give you a hint of the direction of the content in each chapter.

Hanan’s ORCiD record will give you a further idea of her academic activities and interests, as well as some of her publications.

As part of her activities for the CCL, Hanan contributes to the CCL blog and has organised the seminar series Remnants of the Iraq Wars: Iraqi Literature Twenty Years after 9/11, which includes the online seminars Iraq: Corporeality & Memory. Iraqi literature, 20 years after 9/11 (7 September 2021, 16.00 – 18.15) and Aftermath Bodies: Corporeality in Contemporary Iraqi Fiction (22 September 2021, 16.00 – 17.30).