AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume 5, Number 1. February   2021                                Pp. 210 -224

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“Fuel Burns Mixed with Seawater”: The Relationship between the Refugee Tragedy and
the Ecological Crisis in the Mediterranean Sea in Khaled Mattawa’s Mare Nostrum (2019)

Ashwaq Basnawi
Department of European Languages and Literature
Faculty of Arts and Humanities
King Abdulaziz University
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia


Received: 11/23/2020             Accepted: 2/3/2021                Published:  2/24/2021


With environmental sustainability gaining more attention in contemporary literature, Arab-American poets have begun to focus on the connection between nature and current Middle Eastern and North African politics. Khaled Mattawa’s fifth collection of poems, Mare Nostrum (2019), discusses the twenty-first-century refugee crisis in the Mediterranean through the effects of economics and environmental destruction on both humans and marine ecosystems alike. This paper aims to examine the Mediterranean migrant tragedy’s entanglement with its ecological crisis in Mattawa’s poems. The study seeks to answer the question: can an analysis of Mare Nostrum (2019) illustrate a parallel between humans’ oppression and the environment? A postcolonial ecocritical lens can explore this connection by looking at the “changing relationship between people, animals, and environment . . . that can be recuperated for anticolonial critique” (Huggan and Tiffin 12). The study’s significance exists in showing the destructive impact of political crises that extend beyond human displacement to become an ecological issue that threatens marine ecosystems. The study’s findings reveal that Mattawa’s poems illustrate that the environmental and humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean is a result of both economic and political instability.
Keywords: Arab-American literature, Khaled Mattawa Mare Nostrum, marine ecosystem, the Mediterranean refugee crisis, nature, postcolonial ecocriticism

Cite as: Mu’in, F. (2021). Developing Language Skills and Building Characters through  Literature. Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies 5 (1) 210 -224.


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Received: 11/23/2020  
Accepted: 2/3/2021 
Published: 2/24/2021

Dr. Ashwaq Basnawi is an Assistant Professor of English Literature at King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She specializes in contemporary women’s poetry. Her interests lie in ecocriticism, environmental studies, and representations of diaspora and migration in postcolonial literature.