Everywhere but Nowhere: Yassin Al-Haj Saleh's Understanding of Exiles

September 4, 2019
Following the Arab uprisings, the displacement of millions of Syrians has raised the phenomenon of collective exiles, seen in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Germany. Al-Haj Saleh’s emerging account on exile is one of the accounts that tapped into the subject of exile in light of these uprisings. Al- Haj Saleh is widely known as a Syrian writer and scholar who witnessed the breakout of the Syrian revolution. He juxtaposes exile with the experience of prison. For him, the meaning of ‘exiles’ is relational to the meanings of home, freedom, and self. Adding to the academic literature on al-Haj Saleh’s contributions to the Arab political and cultural realms, this paper discusses his take on the notion of exile following the Syrian revolution. In Arabic, the term ‘exile’ means al manfa, to negate something. Based on this linguistic conceptualization of the word, al-Haj Saleh tends to use the word ‘exile’ for any action negating another. Thus, the verb ‘to negate’ is synonymous with the verb ‘to exile’. In this paper, I emphasize al-Haj Saleh’s understanding of the term ‘exile’. I illustrate my understanding of his views of exile as an act of negation of (A) history through ‘political’ eternity, (B) freedom through jail, and (C) this negation itself through the processes of enjailment and exilification. Building on that, I illustrate how he contends for the end of exile. My aim is to shed light on al-Haj Saleh’s understanding of ‘exile’ and make it clearer for the readers.
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