Cultural Trauma and the 9/11 Narratives by European-American and Middle- Eastern American Writers (Published)
In this paper, we argue that Jeffrey C. Alexander’s theory of Cultural Trauma provides a more fruitful framework for the study of 9/11 narratives written by both European-American writers and hyphenated Americans with Middle Eastern backgrounds. Unlike previous studies which have focused on Homi Bhabha’s notion of “interstitial perspectives,” we will focus on how Alexander’s theory helps us understand how European-American writers perceived and interpreted the crisis of 9/11, and how hyphenated American writers reacted to the dominant discourse on this tragic incident. Therefore, the present study is an endeavor to delineate the tenets of Alexander’s theory and to show how this theory helps us see the fundamental arguments and counterarguments on 9/11 offered by two different bodies of writers. Consequently, the first part of the paper will focus on the subtleties of Alexander’s theory and its ability to provide us with a framework within which we can analyze these different narratives, and the second part of this paper will put his theory of cultural trauma into practice. Using Alexander’s theory, we will offer a reading of such diverse works as DeLillo’s Falling Man and McInerny’s The Good Life as well as Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Alaa Al Aswany’s Chicago. This analysis will help us see how the white American narrative of invasion, xenophobia, fall, and rise again meets the alternative narrative of being surrounded and destructive nostalgia of writers whose home countries have been impacted by America’s war on terror after 9/11.