When I came back from my Fulbright in 2012... I worked as an adjunct lecturer at the American Studies Department at the University of Graz, I published a few peer reviewed articles and an edited book while looking for funding... I started to apply internationally in the second year and I am very grateful to have won the highly competitive humanities PhD fellowship at the University of Copenhagen.
The fact that I managed to obtain the position at Copenhagen is to a large degree indebted to my Fulbright experience. The network and input enabled me to draft and build a successful PhD project, which I hope will make an impact on both the academic field of American Studies and the mutual understanding between people, American and otherwise.
The questions of Arab American women's self-representation are set in a complex web of political, aesthetic and scholarly discourses and without my Master at Stony Brook I could not have developed such a deep understanding of these processes and a clear line of questioning. My current PhD project traces a historical perspective on the actual presence and authorial agency of the diverse Arab American population in the United States; within this field, I focus specifically on Arab American women’s self-representation and their responses to the shifting orientalist tropes about ‘Arab womanhood’. Their active participation in cultural production and politics challenges homogenizing orientalist stereotypes and also highlights Arab American agency within Western orientalist discourses. To understand and publicly engage this diversity is now more important than ever when Western media and public discourses about ‘Arab’ communities are dominated by fear. I also plan to embed my analysis in a comparative perspective to African American women’s self-representation, and broader questions of transnational feminist politics.
For now, I will spend 3 years at the Center for Transnational American Studies, working with Prof. Martyn Bone, and together with Silvia Schultermandl we plan to also establish a cooperation between our departments in Graz and Copenhagen... Further, I will spend the next fall semester at Brown University to do archival research, which will also enable me to maintain and expand my networks on the American side of things.
So I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am for the opportunities my Fulbright experience has given me, and I hope that once my PhD is finished it will result in the positive contribution to mutual understanding I want it to be.
Martina Koegeler was an Austrian Fulbright Student of comparative literature at the University of Stony Brook (State University of New York) in 2010–11.