Accepted Paper:

Staging Silence: Arab Women's Cancer in Wasafuli al-Sabr  

Author:

Abir Hamdar (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is a critical reflection on my play Wasafuli al-Sabr (I am Waiting for You) which premiered in Beirut in July, 2017. It explores the ethnographic and creative strategies the play deployed to render Arab women's silent and invisible experience of cancer visible and audible on stage.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will offer a critical reflection on my play Wasafuli al-Sabr (I am Waiting for You) which premiered in Beirut in July, 2017. Based on extensive interviews with real-life female cancer patients from the Arab world, the play is the first dramatic staging of Arab women's experience of cancer. To be precise, the paper will particularly focus on the fact that the history of women's cancer in the Arab World is at one and the same time the history of a silence - of shame, taboo, prohibition and repression - and it will reflect upon the ethnographic and creative strategies the play deployed to make that silence 'speak'. If the play focuses on women's cancer testimonies, it also attempts to highlight the story of those women who continue to be bound by the dictates of silence and who refused to be interviewed or who, when interviewed, remained silent. In summary, the paper will reflect on how the play sought to offer what Michel Foucault (in his History of Madness) famously calls an archaeology of silence. What creative and dramatic strategies were employed and adopted to make silence speak or rather to make the silence audible? How did the unspoken and unexpressed experience of cancer act as a structuring device for the voices of other women who chose to break the silence?

Panel P027
Materialising the Imagination: How People Make Ideas Manifest