All posts by Andres Ramirez

Arab American Heritage Month

by Andres Ramirez, Resources by Dale Correa

The celebration of April as Arab American Heritage Month is relatively recent, having previously been celebrated by some states at different times of the year.  Due to grassroots and independent advocacy from the Arab American community, the move to April has gained increasing support.  First introduced in April 2019, Michigan Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell have led a Congressional resolution to recognize the contributions Arab Americans have made in the United States through the month of April.  While gaining support, this bill is still pending, and the designation has not yet recognized across the entire federal government.  This April, the US State Department also designated April as Arab American Heritage Month, highlighting the contributions Arab Americans have made throughout the country and within the agency itself.

Arab heritage includes a vast spectrum of languages, religions, traditions and experiences, representing cultures thousands of years old, and principally originating from Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East and North African region, including Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen. Immigration by people from Arabic-speaking countries to the United States began on a large scale in the late 19th century. Since then, several periods of immigration to the US have been marked by the dynamics in countries of origin, along with changes in US immigration policies.  I encourage you to explore the resources provided by Dale Correa below, highlighting the aspects of Arab American heritage, and the contributions made by Arab Americans.

SOURCES

Alsharif, Mirna “April is Arab American Heritage Month, the State Department declares”

CNN, April 5, 2021 https://edition.cnn.com/2021/04/05/us/arab-american-heritage-month/index.html

Arab American Institute. https://www.aaiusa.org/

Arab American Museum.  “Coming to America”. Online exhibit. https://arabamericanmuseum.org/coming-to-america/

Arab American Staff. “Dingell, Tlaib introduce Arab American Heritage Month resolution in U.S. House” April 26, 2021 https://www.arabamericannews.com/2021/04/26/dingell-tlaib-introduce-arab-american-heritage-month-resolution-in-u-s-house/

U.S. State Department. “The Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Celebrates National Arab American Heritage Month”.  April 1, 2021

https://www.state.gov/the-bureau-of-european-and-eurasian-affairs-celebrates-arab-american-heritage-month/

Washingt0n Press Release, April 30, 2019

https://web.archive.org/web/20190804211819/https://debbiedingell.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=1703

 

Arab-American Faces and Voices book cover
Arab-American Faces and Voices cover

Notable UT Press publications

The Making of Arab Americans: from Syrian nationalism to U.S. citizenship by Hani J. Bawardi.

While conventional wisdom points to the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 as the gateway for the founding of the first Arab American national political organization, such advocacy in fact began with the Syrian nationalist movement, which emerged from immigration trends at the turn of the last century. Bringing this long-neglected history to life, The Making of Arab Americans overturns the notion of an Arab population that was too diverse to share common goals.

Arab American Faces and Voices: The Origins of an Immigrant Community by Elizabeth Boosahda.

As Arab Americans seek to claim their communal identity and rightful place in American society at a time of heightened tension between the United States and the Middle East, an understanding look back at more than one hundred years of the Arab-American community is especially timely. In this book, Elizabeth Boosahda, a third-generation Arab American, draws on over two hundred personal interviews, as well as photographs and historical documents that are contemporaneous with the first generation of Arab Americans (Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians), both Christians and Muslims, who immigrated to the Americas between 1880 and 1915, and their descendants.

 

Telling our Story book cover
Telling our Story book cover

Resources available from UT Libraries:

 

Literature & Art

Articulations of Resistance: Transformative Practices in Arab-American Poetry

Four Arab American Plays: works by Leila Buck, Jamil Khoury, Yussef El Guindi, and Lameece Issaq & Jacob Kader

Modern Arab American fiction: a reader’s guide

The Music of Arab Americans: a retrospective collection

Poetics of Visibility in the Contemporary Arab American Novel

 

Politics & History

Arab American News (periodical)

The Arab Americans: a history

Arab American Biography

A kid’s guide to Arab American history: more than 50 activities

Race and Arab Americans before and after 9/11: from invisible citizens to visible subjects

Telling Our Story: The Arab American National Museum

 

Other Resources:

ACC’s research guide on Arab/Middle Eastern Americans

Arab American Historical Foundation

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Professor Germine Awad, UT College of Education

 

 

Rituals of Remembrance

Across time and cultures people have developed an astounding diversity of practices to remember the passing of others.  Nearly every cultural and religious tradition have their own practices of mourning and remembrance.  This is necessary as the death of a loved one creates the paradoxical impulses of both wanting to hold on to someone and the need to let them go. One common feature of many of these traditions is they are a public ceremonial method for processing private grief; the transferring of private grieving into a shared community activity.  The following post provides a very brief sampling of remembrance practices from a variety of cultures with links to resources in the UT Catalog electronic resources for further exploration.

Famously from antiquity, pharaoh rulers from ancient Egyptian cultures had enormous monuments built, including the pyramids that have withstood millennia, to house their remains as well as their earthly possessions, to ensure their legacy and a prosperous afterlife.

The tombs of early Chinese rulers also displayed immense funerary dedication for the dead. The tomb of Qin Shi Huang from the late 3rd century BCE contained the Terracotta Army of roughly 9,000 terracotta sculptures, buried to protect the first Emperor of China in the next life.

Ancient Roman mausoleums were monumental memorials intended as public records of a prosperous individual’s life.  Some funeral monuments were situated publicly, such as on a well-traveled road, with inscriptions admonishing those passing by to remember the deceased, allowing a manner of momentary survival as their name lived on.

In Judaism, the first stage of avelut is shiva (“sitting”), a seven-day period of mourning following burial. For this week, mourners remain at home, refraining from work and receiving visitors.  Visitors may offer prayers and condolences and bring food so mourners need not need cook during their time of grief.

The annual Chinese Qingming Festival is a traditional observance for paying respect to ancestors through visiting, sweeping, cleaning and repairing their gravesites.  Half cooked food is offered at the graves, firecrackers are used to chase off evil spirits, while incense is burned to entice the ancestor spirits to partake in the offerings.

Some African funeral traditions have a social and performative aspect to funerals, which are intended to provide a catharsis for grief over loss of a loved one.

In England in the mid-1800s, as photography became more affordable, and epidemics took their toll on the country, memento mori (“remember you must die”) photography of deceased family members became popular as a way of preserving their memory.

In contemporary North American Judeo-Christian traditions, we are most familiar with funerals with attendance by families and friends of the departed.  Contemporary practices such as including sentimental tokens to include in internment such as photographs or wedding rings can be seen to reflect ancient practices of including goods such as arrowheads, pottery and shell jewelry in ancient burials.

Another tradition found to be adopted contemporarily are funeral processions. Many may be familiar with processions of mourners or cars, even for heads of state, such as Abraham Lincoln’s Funeral Procession in April 1865, or the funeral procession for President John F. Kennedy in 1963.  Funeral processions have remained a powerful metaphor for enabling the transport of the departed from one world to the next.

In the Remembrance Project members of UT Libraries staff have developed an interactive exhibit for the UT community to honor loved ones and colleagues, and to acknowledge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the UT community and worldwide.  We invite members of the UT Community to share remembrances of colleagues, friends and loved ones as a way to honor and share their memory.  Remembrance offerings are meant to be personal and individual, and may be inspired by your personal or cultural traditions or of those you are honoring.

https://scalar.usc.edu/works/the-remembrance-project/index

Through acknowledging our losses and sharing we hope to provide a communal space during this challenging time for working through the difficulty of grief and loss.  We invite you to explore further about various traditions of mourning and remembrance. We have collected some resources from the UT Library collection as a starting point.

SOURCES

Do funerals matter? the purposes and practices of death rituals in global perspective / William G. Hoy. https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/be14ds/alma991058080349106011

Ancient Egyptian tombs the culture of life and death / Steven Snape.

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/be14ds/alma991057957240006011

Roman Funerary Practices and Monuments

https://go.gale.com/ps/retrieve.do?tabID=T003&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchResultsType=SingleTab&hitCount=3&searchType=BasicSearchForm&currentPosition=1&docId=GALE%7CCX2458800905&docType=Topic+overview&sort=Relevance&contentSegment=&prodId=GVRL&pageNum=1&contentSet=GALE%7CCX2458800905&searchId=R1&userGroupName=txshracd2598&inPS=true

Challis, Debbie. “Memento Mori: Grief, Remembering, and Living.” Lancet Psychiatry, The 3.3 (2016): 210–212. Web.

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/1jebi5l/cdi_crossref_primary_10_1016_S2215_0366_16_00060_2

Terracotta army : legacy of the first emperor of China / Li Jian and Hou-mei Sung ; with an essay by Zhang Weixing and contributions by William Neer.

DS 747.9 Q254 L5 2017 Fine Arts Library

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/be14ds/alma991046548279706011

Hindu Ancestor Rituals Knipe, David Encyclopedia of India, 2006, Vol.2, p.183-184

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/1jebi5l/cdi_gale_vrl_3446500266

Qingming. Shu-min, Huang. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, 2002, Vol.5, p.34-34

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/1jebi5l/cdi_gale_vrl_3403702442

Shiva. Encyclopedia of World Religions: Encyclopedia of Judaism, 2016

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/1jebi5l/cdi_credo_entries_27433443

Ukaegbu, Victor. “African Funeral Rites: Sites for Performing, Participating and Witnessing of Trauma.” Performance research 16.1 (2011): 131–141. Web.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13528165.2011.562037