Approaching Raw Wounds: The Rhetoric of Trauma in Palestinian and Northern Irish Fiction Writing

A conversation to bring together contemporary Palestinian and Northern Irish writers will be held at the Middle East Centre. The symposium aims to explore ways that literature allows for an engagement with the legacies of the writers’ societies’ traumatic past whilst they navigate the present world in their socio-political contexts. Moderated by Bayan Haddad, the workshop aims to gauge the social motives behind the authors’ creativity and experimentation in their writing. The event is open to the public and the audience’s participation in the conversation is part of it.

Writers include Ahlam Bsharat, Ahmed Masoud, Dave Coates, Susannah Dickey, Michael Magee, Bekriah Mawasi, and Wendy Erskine and with the academic contributions of Nora Parr and Stephen O’Neil.

9:45-10:00: Coffee
10:00-10:30: Welcoming remarks by Prof. Eugene Rogan and overview of key ideas in the workshop by Bayan Haddad
10:30-11:00: Overview of partition in Ireland, with an eye on the comparison with Palestine by Prof. Stephen O’Neill
11:00 -12:30 Panel 1: Chaired by Abed Zaidi * Ahlam Bsharat, Susannah Dickey and Wendy Erskine: Reflecting on the writing process and the fractured literary self
12:30-13:30: Lunch Break
13:30-14:30: Panel 2: Chaired by Yesmine Abida * Bekriah Mwasi and Michael Magee (via Zoom): Lived experiences and centring the overlooked and the often-unseen aspects of oppressed lives
14:30- 15:30: Panel 3: Chaired by Sara Alsaeed * Dave Coates and Ahmed Masoud: Reflections of genres and writing as survival
15:30-16:00: Discussion and final remarks by Prof. Nora Parr
Biographical information about the speakers:

Ahlam Bsharat is a Palestinian writer, poet, and creative writing specialist. Bsharat’s storytelling spans across genres like short stories, novels, and memoirs. Her work inspires writers globally, especially in young people’s literature. Her latest work is titled From Beneath The Hunter’s Rifle: Stories of Jerusalem Children under House Arrest published by the Tamer Institute for Community Education in partnership with the Rights for Time Network. In this work, Ahlam collected the testimonies of children in Jerusalem who were subject to house arrest and she tried to communicate what the children were unable to say.

Dana Al Shahbari is an interpreter from English to Arabic and vice versa and a first-year PhD student specialising in Modern Arabic Literature at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge. Dana will be interpreting Ahlam’s contributions.

Ahmed Masoud is a Palestinian writer, director and academic from Gaza who is based in London, the UK. He is the author of the acclaimed novels, Vanished – The Mysterious Disappearance of Mustafa Ouda (Rimal, 2015) and Come What May (Victorina Press, 2022). He also wrote and directed several plays including Obliterated, the Shroud Maker and Camouflage amongst other radio and theatre works.

Bekriah Mawasi is a Palestinian writer, translator and cultural practitioner. She explores movement in space, visual culture and contemporary literature. Her work includes nonfiction essays, short stories, poetry and illustrations. She is an Open Knowledge enthusiast and a librarian. Writing primarily in Arabic and occasionally in English, she aims to provide a bilingual perspective to the exploration of expression within colonized multilingual spheres.

Dave Coates is a writer and editor from Belfast, now based in Edinburgh. He was a co-organiser of the Ledbury Poetry Critics Programme and is currently working on his first novel, a high fantasy story about labour organising.

Michael Magee was born and grew up in West Belfast. He is the fiction editor of The Tangerine. His debut novel, Close to Home, was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, the Nero Debut Novel Prize, and was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. It was also named the Waterstones Irish Book of the Year.

Nora Parr is a research fellow at the University of Birmingham. Her book Novel Palestine: Nation through the works of Ibrhaim Nasrallah came out last fall with the University of California Press’ New Directions in Palestine Studies Series. Her current work is on concepts of trauma and Palestinian fiction. Through this she has partnered with the Palestine Trauma Center (Nusairat, Gaza Strip), with whom she is now working to collect testimonies of the ongoing atrocity in Gaza. She is a co-Editor for the journal of Middle Eastern Literatures.

Stephen O’Neill is a Teaching Fellow in British and Irish Writing at the School of English, Trinity College Dublin. He previously worked at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the University of Notre Dame. Stephen has written extensively on the culture of Ireland, with a focus on the impact of the island’s partition on its literature and art. His book, Irish Culture and Partition, is to be published next year by Liverpool University Press.

Susannah Dickey is a novelist and poet from Derry. She is the author of two novels – Tennis Lessons (2020) and Common Decency (2022) – and her debut collection of poetry, ISDAL, was published in 2023 and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the John Pollard Prize.

Wendy Erskine has written two award-winning short story collections, Sweet Home and Dance Move published by The Stinging Fly Press and Picador. She also edited an anthology of writing about art in the home titled well I just kind of like it for Paper Visual Art Books. In 2022, she was a Seamus Heaney Fellow at Queen’s University, Belfast. She is now a head of department in a secondary school.