Contesting Arab-Australian identity: through a study of Egyptian-Australians and the Arab Spring
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 13:15 authored by Carla Liuzzo
In 2011 the Arab world erupted in a wave of social and political protest popularly labelled the Arab Spring. The events captivated the world’s attention and emphasised the flaws in the conceptualisation of Arab identity which has long been underpinned by Orientalist views of the Middle East and its people.. In Australia the Arab Spring events provide an opportunity to question assumptions underlying Arab identity in Australian society. Despite recent increased migration from Arab countries under the policy of ‘multiculturalism’ the dominance of timeworn ideas about Arabs still persist. Arab-Australians are often represented in popular discourse in ways that deny them membership to the imagined Australian community. This study contributes new empirical knowledge about the multiple layers of self-identification of members of the Arab-Australian community. Through a media content analysis of coverage of the Arab Spring in Egypt and interviews with members of the Egyptian-Australian community it is demonstrated that identity constructs such as Arab-Australian, are not homogeneous monoliths nor are they exempt from resistance from those within them. Examining Arab-Australian identity as a response to constructed notions of Australia’s dominant ‘mainstream’ culture, this thesis highlights the gaps between how Arab-Australians are represented and how they represent themselves. Limited empirical evidence exists about the experiences of different groups within the Arabic speaking population and this thesis seeks to address the lack of diversity in the way Arab-Australians are represented within the broader ongoing debate about identity, nationalism and belonging in Australia. This thesis demonstrates the need for more adequate representation at all levels of discourse by highlighting the diversity within constructed identity categories. Furthermore this thesis argues that identities should be subject to continuous challenge in scholarly discourse, particularly those burdened with heavy and pervasive stereotypes, such is the case with Arab-Australian identity.