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Table of contents :
About Editors and Contributors
Ali Tilbe and Rania M Rafik Khalil
The Bildungsroman and Building a Hybrid Identity in the Postcolonial Context: Migration as Formative Experience in Monica Ali’s Brick Lane
Petru Golban and Derya Benli
The Migrant Female Writer, Originally from Muslim Country in the Literary Field: A Sociological Approach
Migration, Integration and Power. The Image of “the Dumb Swede” in Swede Hollow and the Image of Contemporary New Swedes in One Eye Red and She Is Not Me
Coerced Migration, Migrating Rhetoric: The ‘Forked Tongue’ of Native American Removal Policy in the Nineteenth-Century United States
The Migrant Hero’s Boundaries of Masculine Honour Code in Elif Shafak’s Honour
Literary Representations of Progressive Era Lithuanian Immigrants in the United States and the Question of Genre: Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906)
Cansu Özge Özmen
Migration, Maturation and Identity Crisis in Abani’s Select Novels: A Postcolonial Reading
Bernard Dickson and Chinyere Egbuta
Culture, Literature and Migration
Culture, Literature and Migration Edited by Ali Tilbe & Rania M. Raﬁk Khalil
TRANSNATIONAL PRESS LONDON 2019
Culture, Literature and Migration Edited by Ali Tilbe and Rania M. Raﬁk Khalil Copyright © 2019 by Transnational Press London All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal. First Published in 2019 by TRANSNATIONAL PRESS LONDON in the United Kingdom, 12 Ridgeway Gardens, London, N6 5XR, UK. www.tplondon.com
Transnational Press London® and the logo and its afﬁliated brands are registered trademarks. Requests for permission to reproduce material from this work should be sent to: [email protected] Paperback ISBN: 978-1-912997-28-2 Cover Design: Gizem Çakır Cover image: “Five human hands on brown surface” by Clay Banks, https://unsplash.com/@claybanks? www.tplondon.com
ABOUT EDITORS AND CONTRIBUTORS Maria Bäcke is a Senior Lecturer of English with a PhD in TechnoScience. She has worked as a lecturer of English since 2003 and is currently employed at Lund University and Kristianstad University, Sweden. She teaches courses on English literature, discourse analysis, academic writing, society and culture, grammar and phonetics, as well as oral proﬁciency. Her PhD thesis, Power Games: Rules and Roles in Second Life (2011), focuses on organisation, power, hierarchies and roles in online role-play groups and her current research centres on how power and authority are mirrored in the literature, with the aim to nuance discourses on migration, integration and diversity. Derya Benli is a Research Assistant at Namık Kemal University since 2012. She is currently a PhD student at Istanbul University focusing on the Bildungsroman in contemporary postcolonial ﬁction. She is the author of a number of articles, among which “The Representation of Sexual/Erotic Desire and the Desire of Individual Accomplishment in the Aeneid and the Epic of Gilgamesh”, “Nature, Co-authorship and Metapoetry: Tintern Abbey as a Bildungsgedicht”, and “The Quest for An Authentic Self: Memory and Identity in Philip Ridley’s Mercury Fur”. Her research interests include different aspects of postmodern and contemporary English ﬁction. Francesco Bellinzis has recently held a PhD in Sociology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain. He was a visiting researcher at the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Brighton. He was also a member of the PhD student forum of Barcelona Centre For International Affairs (CIDOB). His main areas of interest are the sociology of literature, gender, and migration. Estella Ciobanu is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Letters, Ovidius University of Constanţa, Romania. She teaches Identity and Gender in the USA, Culture and Religion in the USA, Postmodernism, and Anglo-American Cultural Icons. Her academic interests include iconisation studies and gendered representations of the body in literature, medieval theatre, cartography, anatomo-medical practices and the arts. She is the author of Representations of the Body in Middle English Biblical Drama (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), The Body Spectacular in Middle English Theatre (2013), The Spectacle of the Body in Late Medieval England (2012) and over forty articles, and co-author (with Petru Golban) of A Short History of Literary Criticism (2008). Bernard Dickson holds a PhD in Literature from the University of Calabar, Nigeria. He teaches African Literature & Literature of the African Diaspora at the University of Uyo, Nigeria. His articles have appeared in journals in India and Nigeria. E-mail: [email protected]
Chinyere Egbuta is rounding off her doctoral studies at the University of Uyo, Nigeria. She was educated at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She is at present a lecturer at the School of Languages and Communication, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba. Egbuta has published scholarly articles in learned journals. Tatiana Golban holds a PhD in English and American Literature from Al. I. Cuza University of Iasi, Romania. Her academic and professional career started in 1995, and she currently teaches literary theory and English literature-related classes as an Associate Professor at Tekirdağ Namık Kemal University, Turkey. Her research concerns include particular aspects of the history of English literature, comparative literary studies, and literary theory and criticism. Petru Golban holds a PhD in English and American Literature from Al. I. Cuza University of Iasi, Romania. His academic and professional career started in 1995, and he currently teaches literary theory and English literature-related classes as an Associate Professor at Tekirdağ Namik Kemal University, Turkey. He is also the author of 9 books, including A History of the Bildungsroman: From Ancient Beginnings to Romanticism , The Foundations of English Literary Criticism: From Philip Sidney to Henry James and Texts Analyzing Literature as Argument , and some 50 literary studies. His research concerns include particular aspects of the history of English literature, comparative literary studies, and literary theory and criticism. Rania M. Raﬁk Khalil is a lecturer of drama, theatre and performance currently teaching in the Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts and Humanities at The British University in Egypt (BUE). She is also the Research Coordinator and Internationlisation Coordinator for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. Dr Khalil is currently working on a refugee research consultancy for the UNHCR and the British Council, UK with a budget of $52,000 in the MENA region. Cansu Özge Özmen was awarded a PhD fellowship from the Intercultural Humanities department at Jacobs University Bremen in 2006. She wrote her dissertation on 19th century American travel narratives of the Orient and was awarded a PhD degree in Literature in February 2010. Her dissertation was published by LAP Lambert Academic Publishing in 2012. She currently works as Assistant Professor at Tekirdağ Namık Kemal University in Turkey. Her main areas of interests include early Ottoman-American relations, 19th-century American travel literature, Critical Animal Studies and AntiNatalism. Email: [email protected] Ali Tilbe is a Professor and Head of French Language and Literature Department at Tekirdağ Namık Kemal University, Turkey. Professor Tilbe holds a PhD in French Culture and Literature from Atatürk University, Turkey. He currently teaches literary theory and
contemporary French novel at Tekirdağ Namik Kemal University. He is also the author of the Autoﬁction in Postmoderne Literature (2019, Transnational Press London), editor of more than 40 books and journal issues and published some 70 literary articles. His research concerns contemporary French novel, autoﬁction, autobiography, sociology of literature, migration literature, postmodern minimalist novel, literary theory and critics.
CONTENTS About Editors and Contributors Introduction Ali Tilbe and Rania M Raﬁk Khalil Chapter 1 The Bildungsroman and Building a Hybrid Identity in the Postcolonial Context: Migration as Formative Experience in Monica Ali’s Brick Lane Petru Golban and Derya Benli Chapter 2 The Migrant Female Writer, Originally from Muslim Country in the Literary Field: A Sociological Approach Francesco Bellinzis Chapter 3 Migration, Integration and Power. The Image of “the Dumb Swede” in Swede Hollow and the Image of Contemporary New Swedes in One Eye Red and She Is Not Me Maria Bäcke Chapter 4 Coerced Migration, Migrating Rhetoric: The ‘Forked Tongue’ of Native American Removal Policy in the Nineteenth-Century United States Estella Ciobanu Chapter 5 The Migrant Hero’s Boundaries of Masculine Honour Code in Elif Shafak’s Honour Tatiana Golban Chapter 6 Literary Representations of Progressive Era Lithuanian Immigrants in the United States and the Question of Genre: Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906) Cansu Özge Özmen Chapter 7
Migration, Maturation and Identity Crisis in Abani’s Select Novels: A Postcolonial Reading Bernard Dickson and Chinyere Egbuta
INTRODUCTION Ali Tilbe and Rania M. Raﬁk Khalil People move and settle from one country or city to another in response to a multitude of reasons including economic, social, educational and political aspects. Human mobility often aims at settling in a new location and movers, in other words, people who migrate, face many challenges settling in these new destinations. Widely used ofﬁcial deﬁnitions restrict migration to any move for settlement purposes for 12 months or 6 months plus one day irrespective of the move being voluntary or forced. In the process of integration following the move, language and communication are two key challenging areas involving issues such as bilingualism, belonging, cultural and social isolation, loneliness, assimilation, and alienation. Transnational movers often fall between two or more cultures across geographies. This comes as a cure but also with challenges. They may tend to re-establish and maintain a unique culture transcending the “nationals” they come from and move into or they may retreat to their own cultures and values and become introverted with a feeling of resentment and rejection. Sirkeci and Cohen (2016), emphasising these challenges faced at home, in transit and at destinations, deﬁne migration as “movement from an environment of (human) insecurity to a relatively secure one”. The conﬂict model of migration assumes primarily that “every migration is one way or another draws on a conﬂict expressed in the perception of insecurity”. Thus, they reject the differentiation between forced and voluntary migration, and argue these conﬂicts, tensions, challenges and disagreements cause insecurity and may result in migration; hence all migrations are “forced” to a degree (Tilbe and Sirkeci, 2015, p. 1). According to Sirkeci (2009), human insecurity should be seen as a reﬂection of the conﬂict(s); which may lead to a feeling of deprivation and poverty for a certain group of people or individuals in a certain place. If they are then able to move, they can migrate from a perceived (human) insecurity to somewhere else they feel secure to realise their aspirations (Sirkeci et al., 2019). “Perception of human insecurity can be based on material or non-material environments. For example, members of a minority group may feel insecure because they are not allowed to practice their own cultural traditions and develop their
mother language. The non-material environment of human insecurity can also be pinned down in another context by a mere feeling of oppression (or resentment) by minorities” (Sirkeci, 2009, p. 6). As can be seen, the phenomenon of migration is one of the most inﬂuential factors in social life. One of the most important areas where this phenomenon is reﬂected is undoubtedly the ﬁeld of literature. It was unthinkable that a social event such as immigration or mo should not take place in literature at least in a thematic sense. In this context, the projections of “migration” from the ﬁrst oral-literary products of humanity to the present day have been reﬂected in literary production. as a material. It is understood that writers sometimes carry migration to literary production and take advantage of it, and sometimes it is understood that “migration creates an independent literary environment through representatives of immigrant backgrounds”. There is no doubt that this two-way relationship between literature and migration has become more pronounced at this stage. ‘Literature is an expression of society’ reﬂects the phenomenon of migration very well. Because when we talk about migration, people and society come to mind directly. Writers, poets, and artists have been successful in creating their own art, music and literature in these new transnational areas since they can reﬂect the social memory and the highest possible consciousness of migration. This relationship has been the subject of research on migration novels and poems that have been increasing in number in the world migration literature. Literature and society have descriptive characteristics. Literature is the product of the culture in which it is produced and consumed. Although the ﬁctional world of literature does not reﬂect external reality exactly, it is not independent of it. The coincidence or conﬂict of events or behaviours and sensations experienced in stories and novels with real-life experiences provides a link between the novel reality and the philosophical, individual or universal realities of life. (Tilbe, 2015). In this book, we have focused on the relationship between migration and literature and brought together interesting and high quality 8 articles from world literature. Petru Golban, Derya Benli, focus on migration in Bildungsroman. Novels such as David Copperﬁeld, Great Expectations, Jane Eyre, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Sons and Lovers, Jacob's Room,
Nights at the Circus, English Music, Never Let Me Go, Black Swan Green, as well as Brick Lane, are among the most famous Bildungsromans in English literature. The common and the unifying element of these and other novels designated as Bildungsromane is the principle of formation, whose textualization in different novels follows different thematic perspectives based on particular experiences of the protagonist, which include, among others, family circle, parental ﬁgures, education, love, profession, social and cultural constraints, inner drives, and so on. In Bick Lane, such a formative experience, among others, is migration. This study aims to reveal how migration determines Nazneen's growth and struggles to achieve personal identity formation, while also disclosing how Monica Ali's novel both adheres to and departs from the Bildungsroman literary tradition. Cansu Özge Özmen, seeks to examine the literary representations of the “new immigrants” to the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By focusing on the muckraker journalist Upton Sinclair's popular novel The Jungle, the study presents questions about the convenience of various literary choices regarding generic conventions and constraints. Although Sinclair's decision to depict Lithuanian immigrants out of all the recent immigrant groups is arbitrary, his reappropriation and recontextualization of these conventions contribute to his purposefulness regarding literary propaganda of democratic socialism which he presents as the ultimate remedy for all societal ills in Progressive Era United States. Some of the movements and genres that Sinclair tests his plot structure against are Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, literary journalism; the immigrant novel, social reform novel, Bildungsroman, exemplum, and ﬁnally roman à thèse or ideological novel. Sinclair's generic nonconformity, despite rendering his work vulnerable to criticism enables him to provide his readers with the directives in perceiving his plot of decline in the particular light he formulates. Francesco Bellinzis, in this article, proposes a sociological approach to investigate how a migrant female writer achieves a space of representation and how she negotiates the migrant background in the literary ﬁeld. Bellinzis combines Bourdieu's ﬁeld theory with gender and postcolonial theories and examines theoretical implications by exploring the notion of autonomous cultural production. The sociological approach advocated here links the concept of the literary ﬁeld to transnational practices rather than to limit this focus on national borders. Then this approach links the concept to
writer's marginalities and strategies of reaction. The contributors to this special issue move beyond the analysis of a monolithic marginality, to an analysis of when and where migrant female writers overcome their different marginalities, to ﬁnd a position in the literary ﬁeld. Maria Bäcke, aims for this literary study is to draw parallels between the tale of Swedish emigration into the U.S. to more current literary images of immigration into Sweden, particularly concerning an agency, the acceptance or resistance to the majority culture and the negotiation of power. In ﬁctional or semi-ﬁctional form, Ola Larsmo's Swede Hollow, Jonas Hassen Khemiri's One Eye Red, and Golnaz Hashemzadeh's She Is Not Me promote the viewpoints of immigrants. Using text analysis as a method and with the help of Gilles Deleuze's and Felìx Guattari's concepts of smooth and striated space, the structures and shifts in power, agency and societal hierarchies will be mapped. This paper outlines the costs as well as the beneﬁts of migration and how the characters carve out new identities and create possibilities for themselves while navigating more or less visible social structures and hierarchies. Estella Ciobanu studies one outstanding component of the historical episodes that resulted in the infamous ‘Trail of Tears' (not only the Cherokees'): the various discourses of power and disempowerment which accompanied the Native Americans' coerced migration westwards, itself the underside of the whites' triumphal progress towards the Paciﬁc frontier. She argues that not only these two entangled migrations (as historical events) deserve attention, but especially their discursive (verbal and visual) representation for its capacity to reveal the making and continual discursive (re)negotiation of positions of power. Whilst, historically, such (re)negotiation was inconsequential for the Native Americans, one particular issue is worth examining anew: the rhetorical ‘migration' of discursive subject positions of power to the natives' world. The assimilation not only of white education, but also of the whites' tropes may not have empowered the Native Americans politically to pre-empt their relocation, yet it testiﬁes to the cultural underside of the colonial translatio imperii . Tatiana Golban, explores the concept of honour code as enforced upon men in the eastern culture in Elif Shafak's popular novel Honour. In the process of migration of Toprak family from Turkey to England, this code they were accustomed to in their homeland fails to represent a system of
social regulations; however, this code continues to represent a compulsion that they are neither able to control nor understand. This study focuses on the case of the protagonist of this novel, Alexander, who is an heir to diasporic memories and codes of eastern culture. Through the lenses provided by Mikhail Bakhtin's concepts of organic hybridity and intentional hybridity about a migrant hero, as well as Gilles Deleuze's theoretical ideas which are related to movement, difference and rhizome, Shafak's character will be investigated. In his initial state of organic hybridity, Alexander experiences only a positive identiﬁcation with the ‘new' land, visible in the preference of his name, Alex, rather than Iskender. However, he gradually becomes entrapped by his exceptional status, experienced as an intentional hybrid, triggered by some nationalist and politically oriented interests. This research aims to reveal how Shafak's character, through his movement in time and space, explores the boundaries of masculinity, acknowledges his difference and transforms. From his enmeshment in cultural codes and ideology, Alexander/Iskender deterritorializes and reterritorializes anew, and becomes ready to cross the new lines of a new journey, defying the oppression or repression of any ideology or cultural codes. Bernard Dickson focuses on Chris Abani's novel. A major critical concern of contemporary Nigerian literature is the question of place and displacement in a global world. This is a world that collapses time and space and engenders massive movements and identity crisis. Chris Abani is an author whose thematic thrust revolves around the journey motif especially as it relates to the child-protagonist. This study adopts the postcolonial agency to interrogate the coming-of-age dilemma in a dystopian postcolony. It examines the challenges associated with disjointed maturational processes of the child-protagonist who struggles towards selfdiscovery amidst the identity crisis which he/she has to grapple with in a global space. The primary texts for the study are Abani's GraceLand and Becoming Abigail. With these novels, the study explores the psycho-social effects of such variegated experiences in shaping the personality of the child protagonist. Conclusions are drawn and recommendations are also made based on the ﬁndings in the course of the study. We would, ﬁnally, thank our reviewers whose rigorous reviews helped us to enhance the content of this book. Their support was priceless. Hence we are grateful to Prof. Laila Galal, Prof. Wafﬁa Mursi, Prof. Aida Jean Ragheb, and Dr. Inas El Ibrashy, all from Ain Shams University, Prof. Amal
Mazhar from Cairo University, in Egypt; Prof. Ali Tilbe and Dr. Petru Golban, both at Tekirdağ Namık Kemal University in Turkey; Dr. Doris Humbach from United Arab Emirates University and Dr. Carmen Zamorano from Högskolan Dalarna in Sweden. References Cohen, J.H. & Sirkeci, I. (2011). Cultures of Migration, the Global Nature of Contemporary Mobility. Austin, TX, US: University of Texas Press. Sirkeci, I. (2009). “Transnational Mobility and Conﬂict”. Migration Letters , Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 3-14. Sirkeci, I. & Cohen, H-J. (2013). “Not Migrants and Immigration, but Mobility and Movement”. http://citiesofmigration.ca/ezine_stories/not-migrants-andimmigration-butmobility-and-movement/ (07.05.2015). Sirkeci, I. & Cohen, J. H. (2016). Cultures of migration and conﬂict in contemporary human mobility in Turkey. European Review , 24(3), 381-396 . Sirkeci, İ., Utku, D., & Yüceşahin, M. M. (2019). Göç çatışma modelinin katılım, kalkınma ve kitle açıkları üzerinden bir değerlendirmesi. Journal of Economy Culture and Society , 59(1), 199-226. Tilbe, A. (2015). “Göç/göçer yazını incelemelerinde Çatışma ve Göç Kültürü Modeli” [Bildiri]. Ali Tilbe ve Ark.(Ed.). 3rd Turkish Migration Conference, Charles University Prague, Turkish Migration Conference 2015 Selected Proceedings , (25-27 June 2015). (ss. 458-466). London: Transnational Press London. Tilbe A. ve Bosnalı S. (Eds.) (2016). Göç Üzerine Yazın ve Kültür İncelemeleri . London: Transnational Press London. (ss. 87-99). Tilbe, A. & Civelek, Kamil (2018). “Çatışma ve Göç Kültürü Modeli Bağlamında Göç Romanı İncelemesi: Yüksel Pazarkaya’nın Savrulanlar’ı. Göç Dergisi , Cilt: 5, Sayı: 1, sf. 77 – 106. Tilbe, A., & Sirkeci, İ. (2015). Editörden: Göç ve göçmen yazını üzerine. Göç Dergisi , 2(1), 1-4.
CHAPTER 1 THE BILDUNGSROMAN AND BUILDING A HYBRID IDENTITY IN THE POSTCOLONIAL CONTEXT: MIGRATION AS FORMATIVE EXPERIENCE IN MONICA ALI’S BRICK LANE Petru Golban and Derya Benli Introduction Focusing on Monica Ali’s novel Brick Lane , and with regard to its major protagonists Nazneen, Chanu, and Karim, the present study reveals the ways in which the author creates characters who face difﬁculties and are subjected to crises caused by their alienation from their native country, culture and identity, which would lead in turn to their cultural ambiguity, transformation into hybrid individuals, and eventually to experiences of identity crisis in an environment represented by the Bangladeshi community in east London. Monica Ali reveals that identity is under threat within the East End immigrant community; in this respect, she appears to materialize in her ﬁctional discourse various concepts and concerns – such as identity, identity crisis, identity formation, individual subject, developing consciousness, hybridity, ambiguity, mimicry, individual and society – just as Wordsworth would reify in his literary practice his own principles of poetic composition, or as Lawrence would express in his novels the Freudian principles. These concepts and concerns of the postmodern period and postmodern ﬁction co-exist in the novel, and should be discussed in a critical study, along with those that would promote Ali’s novel among the most important
contemporary Bildungsromane in English literature; such concerns include character, personal development, maturing self, formation, migration, profession, sentimental ordeal, individual autonomy, self-realization, socialization, social integration, cultural demands, and others. The Bildungsroman, or the novel of formation, is one of the most proliﬁc types of ﬁction, which possesses a long developmental history that had started, according to Bakhtin, in ancient times and established itself as a distinct novelistic subgenre with Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre . In English literature, the Victorian Age saw the ﬂourishing and complexity of the Bildungsroman, and, although it is claimed that the subgenre lost its aesthetic vitality and validity in the periods succeeding the nineteenth century, there are many twentieth-century and contemporary authors, in England as well as other countries, that would write autobiographical novels revealing the process, both physical and intellectual, of growth, development and eventual formation of an individual personality from childhood to entering upon maturity. As we deﬁne the Bildungsroman as the novel of identity formation, our study focuses on the issue of identity, which is among the most discussed and literary thematized aspects of human existence in the postmodern and contemporary novel, in general, and in English ﬁction, in particular. Its textualization would often involve a number of other aspects and issues encompassing the revaluation of values, the crisis of representation, the lack of originality, the relativity of meaning, the doubts about reality, the subjected subject, the fall of contemporary culture and the doubts concerning historical and cultural advancement, as well as the various binary oppositions, such self and other, centre and margin, West and East, and the attempts to reject or deconstruct the Western, dominant attitudes. Theoretical Considerations The novels dealing with postcolonial life and the experience of migration would approach the issue of identity in relation to that of the subjugated individual and his or her transformation into a hybrid identity. The hybrid identity acquired by the protagonists of a postcolonial Bildungsroman such as Brick Lane represents actually the formation of the protagonist, and stipulates the fulﬁlment of the formative process. To us, formation in a Bildungsroman is at once the expected fulﬁlment of the process of character development, the main thematic principle, and
the central element of the Bildungsroman literary system. In this respect, a more correct deﬁnition belongs again to Gisela Argyle, for whom Bildung means “both the achievement and the process towards it” (26). She regards Bildung as “a special type of development in its stress on the hero’s conscious effort and on the manifold aspects of human endeavour; it is distinguished from education in its stress on the hero’s interior motivation and goal” (26). Nazneen, among all the other characters in the novel, reveal conscious efforts at development, personal progress, emancipation, and cultural integration supported by inner perspectives of a life experience. Nazneen is the portrayal of the postcolonial idea that cultural multiplicity, complexity and ﬂux within the context of migration pave the way for perpetual movement and change which provide the migrant individual with new possibilities for developing a new kind of identity with multiple perspectives. By refusing to go back with Chanu and stating her decision to him openly and conﬁdently, Nazneen accomplishes her biggest quest in her road towards individual transformation within the framework of multicultural Bildungsroman. However, this does not mean that her formation is completed, as the novel discloses the fact that she is in a constant ﬂow of progression. She is no longer entrapped by the supremacy of Fate; instead, she begins to rule her life with the principles of rationality as an independent woman both economically and socially. The novel clearly reveals that multicultural London, cultural diversity and rootlessness provide her with the strength and agency that she needs for a fulﬁlled identity. While she is ice-skating with her sari, she becomes the exact embodiment of the hybrid individual who creates her own Third Space in a multicultural Western society, as Homi Bhabha suggests. Monica Ali’s Brick Lane is commonly approached in the framework of postcolonial studies and among the terms and concepts that have been produced by the postcolonial theory since the second half of the twentieth century, such as hybridity, in-betweenness, mimicry, ambiguity, alienation and so on, identity, which is a broader term, requires more attention and a complex examination in the framework of our research, since we deﬁne the Bildungsroman as the novel of identity formation. Apart from its close relation to postcolonial study in terms of the status of the postcolonial subject, the issue of identity has been mainly studied by the other ﬁelds of science, such as sociology and psychology. Although identity is a ﬂoating concept which is open to constant change and transformation, what is
certain is that it is being mostly shaped by society and culture. We inherit certain types of identity in accordance with the community we live in and its cultural consequences that are imposed on us. According to Chris Weedon, identity is perhaps best understood as a limited and temporary ﬁxing for the individual of a particular mode of subjectivity as apparently what one is. One of the key ideological roles of identity is to curtail the plural possibilities of subjectivity inherent in the wider discursive ﬁeld and to give individuals a singular sense of who they are and where they belong. (19) Thus, identity as well as the sense of belonging, gains a more peculiar signiﬁcance in minority and migrant communities living and being marginalized in a multicultural society, especially Britain, which is at the same time a principal subject of postcolonial literature. With the dramatic increase in migration in the 1950s received by Britain from South Asia, Africa and other formerly colonized countries, postcolonial novels and migration literature began to ﬂourish, produced by primarily by BlackBritish writers who illustrate the “peripheral” lives of the migrant minorities as well as the racial and religious prejudicial treatment that they encounter from the white majority, which is deﬁned as the “centre”. Among them, Monica Ali is a representative of contemporary migrant ﬁction writer who differs from the earlier Black-British writers in that, “[r]ather than alienation, these novels are seen to offer self-assurance, dwelling rather than diaspora, and a new hybridity less about being “in-between” cultures and more about the fact that culture is now, in essence, “in-between”” (Upstone 336). The one major difference that provokes the classiﬁcation of the migrant writers in Britain as the “ﬁrst generation” and the “second generation” is their attitude towards the issue of “searching for home” that constantly occupies the immigrant subject in their ﬁctions. The earlier writers manifested more radical approach regarding the postcolonial theory by arguing that the true identity and the sense of belonging can be achieved by returning to the idealized homeland and to the native culture and by rejecting the acquirement of the dominant Western culture and any form of identity. The second generation of writers, mostly British-born, adopted a more liberal perspective towards postcolonial concepts such as cultural dislocation, search for identity, assimilation, and so on. In his seminal work
The Location of Culture (1994), Homi Bhabha discloses the state of cultural in-betweenness within postcolonial context, which is deﬁned as “Third Space” by Bhabha and in which one can ﬁnd the possibility of constructing a new form of identity and of ﬁnding a hybrid place in a multicultural society: It is signiﬁcant that the productive capacities of this Third Space have a colonial or postcolonial provenance. For a willingness to descend into that alien territory – where I have led you – may reveal that the theoretical recognition of the split-space of enunciation may open the way to conceptualizing an inter national culture, based not on the exoticism of multiculturalism or the diversity of culture, but on the inscription and articulation of culture’s hybridity . To that end we should remember that it is the ‘inter’ – the cutting edge of translation and negotiation, the in-between space – that carries the burden of the meaning of culture. It makes it possible to begin envisaging national, anti- nationalist histories of the ‘people’. And by exploring this Third Space, we may elude the politics of polarity and emerge as the others of ourselves. (38-39) Within this “Third Space”, Bhabha celebrates the cultural diversity and the elimination of boundaries by rejecting any kind of ﬁxed construction and singularity which eventually constructs deﬁnite identiﬁcations, especially with culture, identity, and race in political terms. The in-between space produces richness and endless possibilities and Bhabha uses the “stairwell” metaphor to understand the cultural overlap and refers to it as the “connective tissue” while stating that “[t]his interstitial passage between ﬁxed identiﬁcations opens up the possibility of a cultural hybridity that entertains difference without an assumed or imposed hierarchy” (4). Cultural hybridity, which is a key concept of contemporary migration novels, requires thus constant transformation, change, and ﬂuidity by providing the migrant identity with a multicultural perspective. The perpetual “becoming” of the migrant subject can be theorized and connected to the thematic aspect of the Bildungsroman with its essential feature of identity formation and development, as we have witnessed Nazneen’s identity formation and transformation. Hybridity is not a recent notion that emerged with Homi Bhabha’s postcolonial theory. Mikhail Bakhtin has an undeniable inﬂuence on Bhabha’s ideas of in-betweenness and cultural plurality with his seminal linguistic
approach to the novel genre. The concept of hybridity was reﬂected on with a different perspective while he prefers novel over the epic genre because of novel’s “polyglot” nature, which means the coexistence of multiple voices and languages. Contrary to the epic genre which stems from a monolithic, traditional and nationalistic framework, novel “emerged and matured precisely when intense activization of external and internal polyglossia was at the peak of its activity” (Bakhtin 12). Polyglossia is a very crucial element in literary representation for Bakhtin, because [t]he new cultural and creative consciousness lives in an actively polyglot world. The world becomes polyglot, once and for all and irreversibly. The period of national languages, coexisting but closed and deaf to each other, comes to an end. Languages throw light on each other: one language can, after all, see itself only in the light of another language. (12) According to Bakhtin, as epic emerged from the absolute past of a nation which is very rigid to any change and interpretation, the idea of diversity of voices, plurality, constant change and becoming does not have any connection with this kind of literary expression. Novel belongs to modernity and the present; it is always open to multiple reﬂections, interpretations and constant development, as being free of the limits. Thus, Bakhtin’s celebration of polyglossia, perpetual change, ﬂuidity, and continuation on linguistic and literary levels, as a reaction to any kind of stable, absolute, hierarchical and monoglot constructions and systematizations, became a source of inspiration for the twentieth-century postcolonial and migration writers and theorists who promote multicultural and heterogeneous existence of the migrant identity, especially for Homi Bhabha, whose theories of hybridity, in-betwenness and mimicry constitute the foundation of the postcolonial studies. Sten Pultz Moslund states that, like Bakhtin’s theory of heteroglossia and of coexistence of multiple cultures and languages in literary representation, Gilles Deleuze’s ideas, especially about “minor literature”, also establishes a large part of the theoretical aspect of the multicultural and migration novels (6). In literary expression, according to Deleuze, it is crucial to get rid of the boundaries; he calls this kind of literature “rhizomatic literature”. Moslund interprets Deleuze’s idea of rhizomatic literature as the following:
Like Bakhtin’s notion of the heteroglot novel, the rhizome operates with multiplicity and indeterminacy, violating any logic of uniﬁed meaning or being. Deleuze contrasts the rhizome with what he calls the root-book. Rather than a central root, the rhizome is a subterranean stem with an irreducible, decentred, intangible, mazelike net of roots. (7) For Deleuze, cultural multiplicity can be achieved by excluding all types of limits and boundaries and being “unrooted”, which means perpetual ﬂux and new insights and visions for the migrant subject. The common perception of Bakhtin, Deleuze and Bhabha regarding linguistic and cultural diversity generates actually the major theoretical difference between the ﬁrst generation of migrant writers, who advocate the return to the roots and belonging to a unique cultural background, and the more contemporary multicultural migrant writers, who celebrate constant movement by removing the boundaries and ﬁxed constructions as a requirement of the postmodern world where globalization is at its peak and cultures are in an endless intermingling. Considering the migrant experience in this transcultural world, the search for identity and self becomes a compelling challenge for the migrant individual, who also faces the difﬁculties of racial discrimination that he/she may experience. To be able to develop an identity in order to survive in a multicultural society is signiﬁcant for entering the “Third Space” and gaining multiple perspectives in a borderless, constantly changing and ﬂuid zone of existence in Bakhtinian and Deleuzian point of view. Departing from the connection between the concept of identity and hybrid existence in which perpetual progress and heterogeneity pave the way for an endless “becoming”, migration novels and the protagonist’s character and identity development within the nomadic experience can inevitably be scrutinized under the light of the tradition of the Bildungsroman, or the “novel of formation”. Migration, Identity Formation, and the Bildungsroman We would deﬁne the Bildungsroman in short as the novel of identity formation . With certain caveats, of course; namely, that the formation of identity is textualised as a process , diachronic and large-scale, from birth or early childhood through adolescence and youth to entering upon adulthood; this process is rendered in a biographical or autobiographical manner as
development – spiritual, psychological and moral, rather than physical – leading to the formation of personality. The novel begins with Nazneen’s birth and childhood, but, immediately, in the same Chapter One, the narration unfolds with Nazneen of eighteen years old and married in London; throughout the whole narrative, childhood will not be the ﬁrst part of a chronological process but will be given as short instances of a fragmented diachronic process through memory and based on the principle of free-association. For example, at the end of Chapter Three, when Nazneen imagines her husband Chanu and his being fond of reading in her native village of Gouripur, she thinks that he might end as Makku Pagla and she almost simultaneously remembers another childhood experience, this time involving this man’s death. Nevertheless, at the very beginning of the novel, corresponding to the Bildungsroman thematic pattern, we encounter the early of life of Nazneen, her family and her provincial background, with father Hamid, mother Rupban, and aunt Mumtaz, who is Hamid’s sister. Born pre-mature at seven months and unwilling to step into the world, Nazneen is apparently born dead, since she refuses to feed for ﬁve days, and is left to fate to decide: “Fate will decide everything in the end, whatever route you follow” (Ali 14). A “comically solemn child”, Nazneen remains almost unchanged up until late into her maturity; bound to the story of “How You Were Left To Your Fate”, she never questions its logic and is dominated by the image of her mother as “naturally a saint”, and stays obedient and a fervent believer in God to whom she would tell everything: “Rupban advised her to be still in her heart and mind, to accept the Grace of God, to treat life with the same indifference with which it would treat her” (Ali 15). The principles governing her life are endurance and obedience – “What could not be changed must be borne. And since nothing could be changed, everything had to be borne” (Ali 16) – which would govern her existence throughout all her life until the age of thirty-four, when “she could not wait for the future to be revealed but had to make it for herself” (Ali 16). But the beginning of change and challenge, whatever weak and silent this beginning would be, occurs with Nazneen at the age of eighteen, married in London, performing her duties as a wife, like a servant doing housework, like an object being “sent away to London” (Ali 18). Unlike her sister Hasnia, who listened to no one and eloped to Khulna with the nephew
of a saw-mill owner, Nazneen reluctantly accepts marriage to a man who, according to the picture she saw, “was old. At least forty years old. He had a face like a frog. They would marry and he would take her back to England with him” (Ali 17), where, as Nazneen declares to her father, “Abba, it is good that you have chosen my husband. I hope I can be a good wife, like Amma” (Ali 16). The narrative insists on revealing Nazneen’s position as a servant, an “other” without self, an ardent believer. The ﬁrst and the only so far perspective to emerge beyond this status quo is the tattoo lady, a symbol of the outer world; Nazneen would like to spend some time with the tattoo lady, but she does not dare and ﬁnds excuses not to go. In her household, Nazneen is proud of all the beautiful things that she possesses, since nobody in her village had anything like this, and she is certain that her father made a good marriage for her, as, in particular, Chanu had not beaten her, although “it was foolish to assume he would never beat her” (Ali 22). Nazneen oscillates between the spiritual and the material, but remains a faithful and obedient follower of fate. Applying the established in Victorian realist ﬁction method of binary opposition in contrasting characters in order to better disclose their characteristic features (for instance, Jane Eyre versus Helen), Monica Ali conveys Nazneen’s thoughts which often turn to Hasina, who “kicked against fate”, or, perhaps, if fate “cannot be changed, no matter how you struggle against it, then perhaps Hasina was fated to run away with Malek. Maybe she struggled against that, and that was what she could not alter” (Ali 22). The main difference, however, between the sisters, as we will see later in the novel, with regard to the principle of determinism, is that Nazneen is subjected socially, conditioned culturally, whereas Hasina is a subject subjected to more individual, primitive, animal, passionate drives. Meanwhile, still in Chapter One, Chanu, talking on the phone with an acquaintance, discloses Hasina’s condition as a wife in that she is a “good worker”, “unspoilt girl” from the village, as well as her physical appearance as not beautiful, but he is satisﬁed. Overhearing this conversation, Nazneen reveals ﬁrst instances of disagreement, a bit of personal pride: she might have some “high notions” and some “self-regard” since she has imagined that he might be in love with her, that he was grateful for her, “young and graceful”, having accepted him, but the truth is that, as one of Chanu’s
proverbs says, “a blind uncle is better than no uncle”, meaning that “[a]ny wife is better than no wife”, which makes Nazneen express one of her ﬁrst instances of disagreements: “Narrow hips! You could wish for such a fault, Nazneen said to herself, thinking of the rolls of fat that hung low from Chanu’s stomach. It would be possible to tuck all your hundred pens and pencils under those rolls and keep them safe and tight” (Ali 23). In such moments of the narrative, in which Nazneen’s pitiful, pathetic, inferior status, encompassing cleaning, cooking, and cutting Chanu’s corns, is rendered, the voice of the heterodiegetic narrator is harsh, the utterance is direct and merciless, which points to a ﬁctional mode inherited from the tradition of the Victorian realist novel, in particular Dickens. Also parts of Victorian inheritance in Ali’s Bildungsroman are the sentimental, melodramatic, and comic modes of narration. And for this, we should not go far into the text, as immediately on the following pages, conscious of her condition, and in her loneliness, missing people, Nazneen plays again with the idea of death, her thoughts being suicidal: “How long would it take to empty her ﬁnger of blood, drop by drop? How long for the arm? And for the body, an entire body?”, and, a paragraph later, “Sometimes she dreamed the wardrobe had fallen on her, crushing her on the mattress. Sometimes she dreamed she was locked inside it and hammered and hammered but nobody heard” (Ali 24). Pertaining to the tradition of sentimentalism is especially Nazneen’s relationship with her sister Hasina, whom Nazneen really misses and cares about, which is textualized again by another tradition going back to the eighteenth-century novel: the epistolary technique. Amid syntactic ambiguity and broken semantic structures in Hasina’a letters, the reader learns that the feeling is mutual, perhaps with a greater degree of sentimentalism on Hasina’a part – “You remember those story we hear as children begin like this. ‘Once there was prince who lived in far off land seven seas and thirteen rivers away.’ That is how I think of you. But as princess ” (Ali 26) – but also that Hasina’a life is opposite to that of Nazneen: “Even we have nothing I happy. We have love . (…) I sixteen year old and married woman ” (Ali 25). According to Chanu, the immigrants coming from their villages to Tower Hamlets think they are still in the village, in a sense they are home again, and Nazneen’s loneliness turns quickly to socializing, where Mrs Islam was the ﬁrst person who called on Nazneen; she “knew everything about everybody” (Ali 28) and is deemed by Chanu to be “respectable”.
During one of such visits, Mrs Islam and Razia Iqbal drink tea and gossip about an accident when a woman fell from the sixteenth ﬂoor. They also gossip about a certain Jorina, who is working at a garment factory and mixes with all sorts of people, English, Turkish, Jewish; this type of cultural mixedness, according to Mrs Islam, is a threat to national identity: “if you mix with all these people, even if they are good people, you have to give up your culture to accept theirs” (Ali 29). Chanu would give his own reasoning about people of the neighbourhood and explains his own condition in England to be between his compatriots, Sylhetis, and the white people, Englishmen. To a white person, explains Chanu, “we are all the same: dirty little monkeys all in the same monkey clan” (Ali 28), but, learned and educated, with a diploma in English from Dhaka University, Chanu considers himself to be different, superior to other immigrants, whom he calls “peasants”, who are “Uneducated. Illiterate. Close-minded. Without ambition” (Ali 28). In his superiority, “I don’t look down on them, but what can you do? If a man has only ever driven a rickshaw and never in his life held a book in his hand, then what can you expect from him?” (Ali 28). Likewise, Mrs Islam is different: “If she knew everybody’s business then she must mix with everybody, peasant or not. And still she was respectable” (Ali 28-2 9). The ﬁrst chapter ends with the preparation for an important dinner: Nazneen has to cook for Dr Azad, who is invited because, to Chanu, he is a very important person and has inﬂuence, and his words could facilitate Chanu’s promotion, which is one of his obsessions. Although the ﬁrst chapter of the book focuses primarily on Nazneen’s “transfer” from one family and cultural background into another, it already reveals a number of thematic and narrative aspects which are typical to the Bildungsroman literary pattern, and the novel, on the whole, would make use and textualize most of them. The common main thematic elements, or categories, shared by the plot pattern of all Bildungsromane, are the following: (1) a child (sometimes orphaned or fatherless) lives in a village or provincial town; (2) the child is in conﬂict with his actual parents, especially father, or any parental ﬁgures (the trial by older generation);
(3) the child leaves home to enter a larger society (usually city), and the departure is determined either by (2) or other external stimuli, or by an inner stimulus (usually the desire for an experience that the incomplete, static atmosphere of home does not offer); (4) the child, or the adolescent, passes through institutionalized education and/or self-education; (5) a young person now, the character seeks for social relationship with other humans; (6) his/her experience of life is a search for vocation and social accomplishment, as well as, or rather above all, a working philosophy of existence; (7) he/she has to undergo the ordeal by society and occupational requirements (professional career); (8) he/she has to resist the trial by love (sentimental career); (9) the character passes through moments of spiritual suffering and pain; (10) now in his/her early manhood/womanhood, after having passed through physical change, the character experiences epiphanies that lead to (or should determine) his/her ﬁnal spiritual (psychological, moral) change in the sense of initiation and by this achieve formation as the concluding stage of the process of development; formation is complete or relativistic, or not existing at all, that is to say, the ﬁnal stage of the formative process upon entering maturity implies the dichotomy success/failure, or a third possibility of partial success/partial failure. These thematic elements represent the literary system of the Bildungsroman and co-exist on the structural level with narrative ones to form a particular archetypal plot, helping critics and readers to identify a Bildungsroman. Among the structural features, the most common ones are the following: (1) the split focalization between the narrator and the hero; (2) the narrator is usually autodiegetic; (3) the complex chronotope and two temporal dimensions, one is the time of the story/narrative of identity formation and the other is the time of telling/narration; (4) the mode of narration is mainly linear and retrospective;
(5) the tone of the narrative is usually ironic and often interrelated with the use of foreshadowing; (6) the point of view is mostly omniscient, revealing at full the main character’s interior existence and social experience; (7) the text is “readerly”, the reader perceives the textual material through the eyes of the protagonist-narrator, and both the narrator and the reader understand and know more than the protagonist who changes by the end of the novel; this should be so since the novel depicts the process of an immature, inexperienced, often naïve character reaching identity formation. Chapter Two remains focused on Nazneen’s process of formation to textualize various elements of the Bildungsroman plot pattern, but it also develops more postcolonial and cultural concerns, disclosing Chanu’s another obsession, this time with integration, whereas Dr Azad is anxious about mimicry and split identity. The Victorian and even earlier British novelistic tradition co-exists now with Homi Bhabha and other contemporary scholars in postcolonial and cultural studies. As if materializing their concepts and opinions, Dr Azad sees mimicry a danger – “This week I saw two of our young men in a very sorry state (…) now our children are copying what they see here, going to the pub, to nightclubs. Or drinking at home in their bedrooms where their parents think they are perfectly safe. The problem is our community is not properly educated about these things” (Ali 31) – and another problem is what he calls “Going Home Syndrome”, which is related to the issue of split identity or in-between position, which is explained by Chanu: “These people are basically peasants and they miss the land. (…) They don’t ever really leave home. Their bodies are here but their hearts are back there. And anyway, look how they live: just recreating the villages here” (Ali 32). Chanu reveals his desire for integration and success through his ambition for being promoted, which receives another melodramatic touch rendering self-humiliation for promotion which somehow disgusts even Nazneen and she “wanted to get up from the table and walk out of the door and never see him again”(Ali 34). On hearing that Dr Azad does not really know who Mr Dalloway is, Chanu confesses:
I am forty years old. (…) I have been in this country for sixteen years. (…) I had ambitions. Big dreams. And then I found things were a bit different. These people here didn’t know the difference between me, who stepped off an aeroplane with a degree certiﬁcate, and the peasants who jumped off the boat possessing only the lice on their heads. (…) And I made two promises to myself. I will be a success, come what may. That’s promise number one. Number two, I will go back home. When I am a success. (Ali 34-35) Later in the narrative, watching ice skating on television, Nazneen experiences one of her ﬁrst epiphanies, here a moment of aesthetic epiphanization, which becomes her dream, a symbol of her newly emerging desire for personal emergence and formation, the metaphor of her existence: to be able to skate would mean to stay on her own legs, to live on her own, to possess her own identity. Meanwhile, Nazneen thinks about the woman who fell, imagining her to have jumped, to smile while falling, because “with this single everlasting act she deﬁed everything and everyone” (Ali 40). Nazneen also thinks about her life, whether she is beginning to love Chanu, or just getting used to him; the narrator proclaims a pattern of her existence to have been established “around and beneath and through her” with cleaning and cooking and washing and cutting corns, and “the days were tolerable, and the evenings were nothing to complain about” (Ali 41). This routine co-exists with moments of escapism when she watches ice skating and a split personality emerges: the new Nazneen, who was “no longer a collection of the hopes, random thoughts, petty anxieties and selﬁsh wants that made her, but was whole and pure”, and “ﬁlled with white light, glory”; when she switched off the television, the old Nazneen would return, the servant, who, for a while, was “a worse Nazneen than before because she hated the socks as she rubbed them with soap, and dropped the pottery tiger and elephant as she dusted them and was disappointed when they did not break”; as if afraid of the new Nazneen, she “was glad when the ice e-skating came no more” and she “began to pray ﬁve times each day” (Ali 41). Nazneen’s split personality concerns her as an individual subject, inner perspectives of existence, disregarding social, or cultural, or migration experience, and her newly acquired immigration background about which she does care much, except her wish to learn English. Chanu also represents
a case of split personality but with regard to social and cultural identity and integration into English life, facing personal issues but within immigration background and migration experience. Chanu graduated from Dhaka University in English literature, has literary ambitions, possesses various certiﬁcates, can recite from Chaucer, Dickens, and Hardy, and looks with scorn and superiority at English people, in particular his rival in promotion, Wilkie, who know nothing of their own literary heritage. Chanu is really obsessed with the idea of promotion, which is his source of frustration; frustration co-exists in Chanu with alienation, as a minority in England and as a minority within his Bangladeshi minority, a kind of double alienation. As for his moments of escapism, Chanu would make Nazneen a kind of audience in front of whom he would perform, and often “she had the feeling he was not talking to her, or rather that she was only part of a larger audience for whom the speech was meant”; in his performance, Chanu “was loud, he talked, he joked, and he sang or hummed. Sometimes he read a book and sang at the same time. Or he read, watched television and talked. Only his eyes were unhappy. What are we doing here, they said, what are we doing on this round, jolly face?” (Ali 42). Another form of escapism includes verbalization of knowledge, and, apparently prompted by Nazneen’s lack of education and understanding, Chanu would show his intellectual superiority, as in the scene when buying a new sari and she asks him about the colour, to which he answers purposely in a comprehensive and academic way invoking Hume and various principles of philosophy. For Nazneen, her childhood experience is a more common mode of escapism, which is a dream now, and not a place, not a spatial reality, but a temporal one, reiﬁed as a static memory, “not a different place but a different time” and she “was free to wish it but it would never be” (Ali 45). Nazneen would often remember her sister, her mother’s death, and how Mumtaz took care of the girls, gave them food, kissed them, and that she never spoke to Abba after the death and funeral of Nazneen’s mother; the strange thing is that on the day she died, Amma was wearing her best sari, and it was not a special day. In the Bildungsroman literary tradition, the narrative scheme, with some, if controversial, exceptions such as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Jacob’s Room , is built as the diachronic order of a traditional, linear,
retrospective perspective that “prompts hero and reader to look back, towards the past” (Moretti 68). As such, the “Bildung is concluded under the sign of memory, of memoire voluntaire , of the rationalization of the accomplished journey” (68). Nazneen, however, does not want to live in the past; she would like to go out and socialize. “I don’t stop you from doing anything. I am westernized now. It is lucky for you that you married an educated man”, says Chanu, but he is yet reluctant to let her go out: “If you go out, ten people will say, “I saw her walking on the street.” And I will look like a fool. Personally, I don’t mind if you go out but these people are so ignorant. What can you do?” (Ali 45). Nazneen’s socializing occurs with other Bengali wives at the estate, in particular when she strikes up a friendship with Razia, who becomes a kind of substitute for her sister Hasina and to whom she tells about her sister and how Hasina made a love marriage. Nazneen herself has seemingly become a perfect housewife – whose life is patterned into “[r]egular prayer, regular housework, regular visits with Razia” – and she apparently assumed compliance – she “told her mind to be still. She told her heart, do not beat with fear, do not beat with desire” – and, as a perfect housewife, if “she wanted something, she asked her husband”, but “she deferred to him” (Ali 51) in that she learnt how to make him buy the necessary thing, for instance, a new mattress, as if it is his choice and decision to buy it. From house into estate and then into the city, Nazneen begins to discover London, the streets, people, the buildings, and herself, which offers a type of pleasure almost sexual: “Nazneen, hobbling and halting, began to be aware of herself. Without a coat, without a suit, without a white face, without a destination. A leafshake of fear – or was it excitement? – passed through her legs” (Ali 56). Invisible in this immense world, Nazneen is made visible by a woman on the street who looked up and saw her and smiled at her. Lost and cold, Nazneen feels “a little pleasured”, because of a little emergence of identity through speaking: “[s]he had spoken, in English, to a stranger, and she had been understood and acknowledged. It was very little. But it was something” (Ali 61). This scene immediately reveals the fact that multicultural migration novelists, as if substantially answering to Homi Bhabha’s theory of cultural hybridity, advocate the idea that cultural diversity and cosmopolitanism represent an opportunity for the migrant
individual to establish an identity with multiple perspectives and transformative capacity. Nazneen is lost in the city of London just like Hasina is lost in Dhaka, beaten by her husband, leaving her home, becoming a prostitute, as it will be later revealed in her letters to Nazneen. Another attempt at identity becoming and emergence mingled with personal pride occurs when Nazneen tells Chanu that he could go to Dhaka and ﬁnd her sister, which Chanu is reluctant to do, and Nazneen almost confessed to him about her urban experience: “Do you know what I did today? I went inside a pub. To use the toilet. Did you think I could do that? I walked mile upon mile, probably around the whole of London, although I did not see the edge of it. And to get home again I went to a restaurant. I found a Bangladeshi restaurant and asked directions. See what I can do!” (Ali 62-63). This experience, however, remains silent, not verbalized, and occurs in her mind; what is physically materialized is a kind of rebelliousness expressed by Nazneen in her daily activities: “Nazneen dropped the promotion from her prayers. The next day she chopped two ﬁery red chillies and placed them, like hand grenades, in Chanu’s sandwich. Unwashed socks were paired and put back in his drawer. The razor slipped when she cut his corns. His ﬁles got mixed up when she tidied” (Ali 63). Meanwhile, in Chapter Three, we learn that Nazneen is pregnant; Mrs Islam takes her to see Dr Azad and teaches her a lesson how to control men by telling her a story of how some village women managed to make their husbands dig a new well. Razia is actually the person who takes real care of Nazneen; she is also the person who, unsophisticatedly and in simple words, explains Chanu’s condition with regard to promotion and that he considers Mr Dalloway and others to be racists and talks about discrimination: “Ask him this, then”, says Razia, “Is it better than our own country, or is it worse? If it is worse, then why is he here? If it is better, why does he complain?”, and to Nazneen’s words that Chanu “says that racism is built into the “system””, Razia answers that it revolves around people, where “[t]here are good ones, and bad ones. Just like us. And some of them you can be friendly with. Some aren’t so friendly. But they leave us alone, and we leave them alone. That’s enough for me” (Ali 72-73).
This type of thinking opposes the sophisticated, philosophical and terminological speculations of Chanu, who also is dreaming of a mobile library “to bring the great world of literature to this humble estate” (Ali 75). Nazneen, on the other hand, experiences a sense of entrapment – she “looked and she saw that she was trapped inside this body, inside this room, inside this ﬂat, inside this concrete slab of entombed humanity” (Ali 76) – yet she gets used to her life in London and her home, Gouripur, is now less a pleasant place of escapism and is more associated with “inconvenience” with regard to “live without a ﬂushing toilet, to abandon her two sinks (kitchen and bathroom), to make a ﬁre for the oven instead of turning a knob”. Revealing the narrative’s reliance on and continuity of the great British novelistic tradition established by precursors such as Sterne and Dickens, Ali’s Bildungsroman employs, whatever naturalistic, the comic mode of narration: “She tried to imagine Chanu, marching off to the latrine with a heavy book in his hand. He liked to read, sometimes for half an hour or more, while sitting on the toilet. The ﬂies would see him off the latrine” (Ali 78). Chapter Four begins with the baby who looks “astonishing” and who, instead of uniting the parents, prompts more differences between them. Ruku is fair-skinned, and Chanu claims that it comes from his grandmother’s cousin but Nazneen knows that his skin is like his aunt’s, Hasina; they have also different views and feelings about the baby: for Nazneen, “the baby’s life was more real to her than her own”, whereas for Chanu, “the baby was a set of questions, an array of possibilities, a spark for debate and for reﬂection. (…) An empty vessel to be ﬁlled with ideas. An avenger: forming, growing. A future business partner. A professor: home-grown. A Chanu: this time with chances seized, not missed” (Ali 83). As Nazneen is visited by both Mrs Islam and Razia, Nazneen prefers Razia, who became her true friend, whereas Mrs Islam, who “was sure to have more advice about the baby” (Ali 82), is a sort of false parental ﬁgure that exasperates Nazneen, but Chanu di fferentiates between the two women with regard to respectability, background, education, and for him Mrs Islam is the right person to socialize with. But for Nazneen the closest being in the world is her son; there is a special bond between mother and son – “He stared at her face as if it were a wonder, as if he beheld beauty there. His eyes, unfurled now from the ancient wisdom they brought from the womb, were wide worlds, bright as
stars. She put him down on a nest of cushions brought from the sitting room. He was shattered. Betrayed. He howled like a widow” (Ali 85-86) – which made her smile and feel pleased since he had cried for her. The baby offers to Nazneen powers to raise her voice, express her opinion, confront another person, by which revealing an attempt to strengthen and assert her identity which has just begun to rise: for instance, when Mrs Islam suggests that she would take the baby to let Nazneen clean the house, Nazneen’s answer is straight: “‘He’s staying here,’ said Nazneen. ‘With me.’ (…) Nazneen trembled, but the warmth of Raqib’s body against her chest ﬁred her resolve. ‘He’s staying here.’” (Ali 88). Mrs Islam leaves the house making a comment that white people “do what they want” (Ali 88), as if suggesting that Nazneen begins to live her life like white people do. Chanu, mimicking the English, still lives in his world of dreams and ideas, reluctant to act, speculating and philosophizing; he questions whether Dr Azad ought to invite them for dinner to return hospitality, or whether the promotion would ﬁnally occur; speaking of promotion, he uses the word “if”, but it used to be “when”. Nazneen’s affection for the baby is paralleled by her disgust for her husband: “She was astonished that she had made this creature, spun him out of her ﬂesh. When she remembered that Chanu had made him too she was stunned” (Ali 89). Nazneen’s attitude towards her husband relies on her understanding that he “can see”, “can comment”, but “he cannot act” (Ali 92-93). Given this realization, Nazneen’s attitude towards Chanu and their relationship, in general, become parts of her formative experience; the relationship started with obedience and now turned to an attitude comprising both a physical repulsion – when cutting his hair, or the dead skin around his corns, or his toenails, or his ﬁngernails, and her “stomach growled because on Sundays, with Chanu close by, she didn’t eat much” (Ali 93) – and a spiritual one. The latter is rooted in his frustrations and obsessions regarding a degree to be ﬁnished at Open University, the promotion to be won, the house in Dhaka to be built, and the mobile library to be founded, ultimately signifying, again, that he “cannot act” . Opposing this is her dream-world of ice-skating, which provides her moments of escapism, as once, looking at a magazine with a picture of a couple of ice-skaters, Nazneen “fell, somehow, into that picture”, “was
shocked to ﬁnd she was travelling across the ice, on one foot, at terrible speed. (…) Applause. She could not see the audience but she heard them. And the man let go of her hand but she was not afraid” (Ali 93). Such dreaming, which Nazneen tries to eliminate, opposes and is opposed by her real, daily routine: “she made vows to herself. Regular prayer, regular housework, no more dreaming” (Ali 94). Razia, unlike Nazneen who ﬁnds refuge in imaginative ﬂight, is far from dreaming and attempts to ﬁnd in the real world solutions and alternatives to real issues. Razia is different from other immigrants in that she possesses a voice, an opinion, and declares that she will get a job in the factory, which is against the system, and people would talk, says Nazneen, Mrs Islam would, and the whole community, to which Razia replies: “Will the community feed me? Will it buy footballs for my son? Let the community say what it will. I say this to the community” (Ali 97). Unlike Razia who is aware of her background and accepts to stay part of it, Chanu prefers to see himself a misﬁt in this immigrant environment, a higher person, whose superiority should be asserted by his eventual “promotion”, but the promotion is no longer “when”, the days of “when the promotion would come” are over, and Chanu has changed from what he was when they were ﬁrst married, “if not handsome, at least smart” (Ali 101). Nazneen is also changing as if in a process of development that would eventually lead to identity formation. During this process, she has learned that everything has been settled for her, that her place was to “sit and wait”, that there was nothing else to be done, but [s]ometimes she wanted to get up and run. Most of the time she did not want to run, but neither did she want to sit still. How difﬁcult it was, this business of sitting still. But there was nothing really to complain of. There was Chanu, who was kind and never beat her. There was Raqib. And there was this shapeless, nameless thing that crawled across her shoulders and nested in her hair and poisoned her lungs, that made her both restless and listless. What do you want with me? she asked it. What do you want? It hissed back. She asked it to leave her alone but it would not. She pretended not to hear, but it got louder. She made bargains with it. No more eating in the middle of the night. No more dreaming of ice, and blades, and spangles. No more missed prayers. No more gossip. No more disrespect to my
husband. She offered all these things for it to leave her. It listened quietly, and then burrowed deeper into her internal organs. (Ali 102) Nazneen’s conformity and obedience are rooted in her childhood experience, as when she was ten, and that summer Amma’s sister paid a visit, and the two women were crying and suffering: little Nazneen was not sure what the source of their woes was, only that it had to do with being a woman, and that nothing can be done. Inevitability, indecision, and inactivity were the main lessons learned in childhood by Nazneen, which is revealed during that summer of her tenth year, when Mustafa, the cowman, after having kidnapped a girl from a neighbouring village, was, as a punishment, tied to a tree and left to die, and little Nazneen would not be able to decide whether to untie him or bring him some water. There were a dilemma and a choice to be made: “[s]he did not want him to die but it did not seem possible to intervene in such a momentous event”, because it occurred to her that “people might be angry if she freed this man who was being punished, but that was not what stayed her hand. Matters of life and death were simply beyond her scope” (Ali 105). Such a dilemma and a choice of the childhood experience are, to a certain degree, similar to the present twofold perspective of existence opened by her migration experience: remain obedient and inactive versus aspire and speak, “nothing else to be done” versus “to get up and run”, utter “if you say so, husband” versus disagree and doubt his words. This dilemma of existence that Nazneen faces in her developmental process is further emphasized by their visit to Dr Azad’s house in Chapter Five, a visit prompted by Chanu’s sense of frustration regarding his ascendance into a higher sphere, an area which is very respectable. Chanu and Nazneen seem not to be exactly welcomed by Mr Azad, but Mrs Azad insists that they should stay for dinner. Mr Azad is apparently traditional in his manners, speech, preference for juice and water, whereas his wife and their daughter assumed the Western way of life and behave like English in a natural, normal way. Chanu displays mimicry in his joining Mrs Azad in a beer, which results in Nazneen’s silent disapproval: “My husband does not say his prayers, thought Nazneen, and now he is drinking alcohol. Tomorrow he may be eating pigs” (Ali 110). As if to justify his action, Chanu explains it as a matter of culture: “it’s part of the culture here. It’s so
ingrained in the fabric of society. Back home, if you drink you risk being an outcast. In London, if you don’t drink you risk the same thing” (Ali 110). But Chanu would still prefer to live in Dhaka not to risk that their son Raqib may end up alcoholic or grow up in a racist society. “This is the tragedy of our lives. To be an immigrant is to live out a tragedy” (Ali 112), Chanu goes on sentimentally and pathetically with his reﬂection and meditation on the destiny of those who have experienced migration; also, “behind every story of immigrant success there lies a deeper tragedy” (Ali 113). Asked by Mrs Azad to explain this tragedy, Chanu declares, apparently in a Eastern, emotional and theatrical way, that I’m talking about the clash between Western values and our own. I’m talking about the struggle to assimilate and the need to preserve one’s identity and heritage. I’m talking about children who don’t know what their identity is. I’m talking about the feelings of alienation engendered by a society where racism is prevalent. I’m talking about the terriﬁc struggle to preserve one’s sanity while striving to achieve the best for one’s family. (Ali 113) To this, Mrs Azad answers in a Western, apparently rational and pragmatic way: “Assimilation this, alienation that! Let me tell you a few simple facts. Fact: we live in a Western society. Fact: our children will act more and more like Westerners. Fact: that’s no bad thing. My daughter is free to come and go. Do I wish I had enjoyed myself like her when I was young? Yes!” (Ali 113). Moreover, Mrs Azad argues, the idea of “tragedy” as postulated by Chanu is wrong: ‘Listen, when I’m in Bangladesh I put on a sari and cover my head and all that. But here I go out to work. I work with white girls and I’m just one of them. If I want to come home and eat curry, that’s my business. Some women spend ten, twenty years here and they sit in the kitchen grinding spices all day and learn only two words of English.’ She looked at Nazneen who focused on Raqib. ‘They go around covered from head to toe, in their little walking prisons, and when someone calls to them in the street they are upset. The society is racist. The society is all wrong. Everything should change for them. They don’t have to change one thing. That,’ she said, stabbing the air, is the tragedy.’ (Ali 114) Meanwhile, Nazneen thinks that Mr Azad “comes to our ﬂat to get away from her”, since Chanu’s family seems to be traditional, and Dr Azad sticks
to tradition. Ironically treated, this aspect is further implied by Azad’s daughter who, after having asked for money, says “Salaam Ale-Koum” and goes to the pub. However, watching closer Mrs Azad and feeling a kind of affection for this woman, “this fat-nosed street ﬁghter”, Nazneen understands that Dr Azad would come to their house not “for the food, not to get away from this purple-clawed woman (although maybe for these things as well), not to share a love of learning, not to borrow books or discuss mobile libraries or literature or politics or art. He came as a man of science, to observe a rare specimen: unhappiness greater than his own” (Ali 114-115), and the source of his unhappiness might be that he could not make his wife and daughter be what he believes in and preaches. Nazneen is going to discover what unhappiness actually means soon enough when Raqib the baby is sick and is brought to a hospital. This painful event seems to bring husband and wife close as a couple: Chanu “closed a hand around her wrist. (…) Nazneen thought about getting up. She would wait until Chanu released her, so that she did not pull away from him. She did not want to pull away from him” (Ali 118); also, “Nazneen smiled at her husband. For now, he was speaking only to her. There was no one over her shoulder. The audience had ﬁnally gone home. She put her free hand brieﬂy across his round cheek. To touch like this was permitted here, among these stateless people, where the rules were unknown and in any case suspended” (Ali 119). Concerning her attitude towards her husband, Nazneen considers now that “Abba did not choose so badly. This was not a bad man. There were many bad men in the world, but this was not one of them. She could love him. Perhaps she did already. She thought she did. And if she didn’t, she soon would because now she understood what he was, and why. Love would follow understanding” (Ali 120-121). Her irritation with him, “instead of growing steadily as it had for three years, began to subside. For the ﬁrst time she felt that he was not so different. At his core, he was the same as her” (Ali 121). She may even understand now the role and value of his obsessions with the “degrees, the promotion, the Dhaka house, the library, the chair-restoring business, the import-export plans, the interminable reading”, which are Chanu’s way of working his own method, his search for an essential thing, his way to create “a special place, where he could have peace of mind” (Ali 121); in other
words, this is his way of attempting to attain escapism, which is makes him be “the same as her”. Paralleling Nazneen’s status and role of mother is Razia, who, vising Nazneen in the hospital, complains about her husband working a lot, day and night, only to send money to imam who is going to build a new mosque in the village. “If he was God-conscious, I would not mind. But my husband is not God-conscious. Listen, is this how a God-conscious man acts?”, says Razia, and goes on revealing that for “three days the children had eaten only Wheat Bisks in water and handfuls of raisins” and that “[b]uilding mosques and killing your own children. Holy man” (Ali 124125); talking about her husband in this way, Razia reveals a sincere consideration about the welfare of her children above everything else: “Honestly, sister, for myself I don’t need anything. Have you heard me complain before? But the children suffer” (Ali 126). Chanu comes to the hospital and brings food to Nazneen who invites Razia to join her. The rice is perfect, thinks Nazneen, it is “superb. Just the rice would be enough for her. But fresh coriander made her swoon for the chicken. The deeply oily aubergine beckoned lasciviously. She wanted to stick her tongue in the velvety dal” (Ali 127). This almost erotic scene of eating suggests her need for accomplishment on personal sentimental level, as if establishing a relationship with her husband, whose ability to cook surprises her: “Chanu could cook. It had not occurred to her that, in all those years before he married, he must have cooked. (…) It did not irritate her that he had not helped. She felt, instead, a touch of guilt for ﬁnding him useless, for not crediting him with this surprising ability” (127-128). The hospital becomes a closed microcosm for Nazneen, outside it everything is “in pieces”, outside is the “broken city” (Ali 117), and the city “was beside her but no longer of her” (Ali 118). Razia is an exponent of the city bringing news to Nazneen, such as that Mrs Islam is a usurer, and that the tattoo lady is gone to an institution. In this universe, Nazneen connects easier and, as she feels it, in a more correct way to God, and her prayers would be made “in a different, better way” (Ali 130). The baby’s health condition seems to improve, and Nazneen feels like having a role in this process of recovery: “She put her hand on Raqib’s forehead. Just for the feel of him. To give him strength. Although, of
course, only God gave strength. Whatever she did, only God decided. God knows everything. He knows the number of hairs on your head. Don’t forget. Amma said that when they went off to school” (Ali 135). Applying in the narrative the method of free-association, Monica Ali shows how remembering her mother’s words makes Nazneen think that “all that she had done for Raqib was nothing. God decided”, and she also thought about “How You Were Left To Your Fate” (Ali 135). Nazneen remembers her own story, the story of “How You Were Left To Your Fate”, which determines her to think that her mother did nothing to save her, but Nazneen lived, and this was in God’s hands. But immediately Nazneen’s self emerges, angry at her mother; she considers her mother to be wrong about doing nothing to save Nazneen the baby, her own child, whereas if Nazneen “had not brought the baby to hospital at once, he would have died. The doctors said it. It was no lie. Did she kick about at home wailing and wringing her hands? Did she draw attention to her plight with long sighs and ostentatiously hidden weeping? Did she call piously for God to take what he would and leave her with nothing? Did she act, in short, like her mother? A saint?” (Ali 135-136). The psychological process of free-association, apparently borrowed by Ali from the modernist stream-of-consciousness novel, recalls another memory of childhood, that of her mother’s death and of Nazneen and Mumtaz preparing the body for the burial. The memory about Amma’s death is counterbalanced by Razia coming to the hospital to tell about her husband’s death, killed by seventeen frozen cows that fell over him. “I can get that job now. No slaughter man to slaughter me now” (Ali 139), declares Razia as if liberated of all constraints. Leaving the hospital for a short visit home, Nazneen experiences a moment of personal intimacy, washing herself, then putting on Chanu’s trousers, taking them off, then imagining herself swinging a handbag like the white girls do; also, as if fulﬁlling her dream of ice-skating, she examined her legs in the mirror. She walked towards the headboard, turning her trunk to catch the rear view, a ﬂash of pants. Close to the wall, eyes to the mirror, she raised one leg as high as she could. She closed her eyes and skated off. Ridiculous. Her leg wobbled. She opened her eyes and was thrilled by her slim brown legs. Slowly, she drew the left leg up and rested the heel on the inside of her right thigh. She tried to spin and got caught up in the bedspread, and fell on the mattress, giggling. (Ali 141)
“[W]here’s the harm?”, she thought, in letting oneself be taken away from the daily routine and sufferings. Nothing has come to her mind as an answer, and she goes on with her routine, packs the things to be taken to the hospital, and starts to write a new letter to Hasina. Still, to her, this moment of spiritual liberation is the working of a jinn, an experience of being tempted, associated with something bad, dark, and death: “Suddenly the thought came to her that she had killed Razia’s husband. Raqib was meant to die, but she had forced Death away. Death was forced to choose again. Be gone from me! she shouted. Be gone! Back to hell, where you belong. And with these words, banished the jinn that had danced, brieﬂy, spitefully, through the room and into her head” (Ali143). But apparently she could not force death away: back at the hospital Nazneen learns from Chanu that Raqib has died, and this chapter ends with the perspective of another, the third act of washing, this time of Raqib, and Nazneen would do it, as she washed her dead mother, in childhood, and, some moments ago, she washed herself: Yes, she would wash him. She brought him in and she would take him out. She had seen babies buried. In the village, babies were buried often. She could remember the funerals, one or two, of cousins who came into the world and left again promptly, as if they had wandered into a room by mistake, apologized and turned back. Little white parcels popped inside a hole and covered with leaves or canes, so that the soil would not stain them, so they left as pristine as they entered. She remembered the burying; of the buried she retained nothing. (Ali 145) The next part of the novel, Chapter Seven, is an epistolary sequence consisting of letters dated chronologically from May 1988 to January 2001 and written by Hasina. In this chapter, Nazneen is silent, and we learn about her life from the letters written by her sister, which, in this way, also disclose the events occurring in Hasina’s life and present a social and economic insight into Bangladesh life, for instance, with regard to women condition, their family status and employment possibilities. Nazneen has a daughter and then another one; Hasina is being gossiped about, as she has got a cheap rent and might have an affair with the landlord, but she has a new relationship at work with a certain Abdul and is ﬁred as accused of immorality. Mr Chowdhury, the landlord, apparently taking care of her, asking no money for rent and telling her that she might come to his house as
a servant, rapes Hasina and continues to visit her once a week. From despair to the sense of getting stronger, Hasina comes to blame herself for her misfortune – “All the time I thinking my life cursed. God have given me life but he has curse it. (…) Little and little I getting stronger. I pray God forgive me. I sick then inside my mind. Everything has happen is because of me. I take my own husband. I leave him. I go to the factory. I let Abdul walk with me. I the one living here without paying ” (Ali 166) – and ﬁnally reaches the “actual truth”: she is a prostitute, a girl among others of the pimp Hussain, another man in her life. Hasina, a life’s misﬁt, receives a marriage proposal from one of her clients, another misﬁt, Ahmed, an albino; they are married and she is seemingly happy, eager to stay inside, to have walls around, whereas Nazneen, as we learn from a letter dated April 1995, enjoys leaving her ﬂat in Brick Lane. Ahmed and Hasina are similar in their being different from others, but, according to Ahmed, Hasina’s face has changed and he declares things not to be “in good order any more” (Ali 176), which leads to Hasina being homeless and starving; this condition presumably lasted for a long period from July 1996 to January 2001, as there were no letters from Hasina, and we ﬁnally learn, from the last letter in this Chapter Seven, that she has been “taken in” and she is now “maid in good house. All are kind. Children are beautiful. My room is solid wall room. Clean place. Nothing here for making scared of. Mistress is kind. Mister is kind. They give plenty of food ” (Ali 177). The last letter dated January 2001 implies that some thirteen years passed following Raqib’s death, and, with Chapter Eight, the narrative resumes its original, prior to the tragic event, movement encompassing Nazneen’s formative process which encompasses, in turn, various elements and features of the literary system of the Bildungsroman. Thematically structured around the process of identity development and formation, the aspects and elements of the Bildungsroman literary system reveal that the main concern is the protagonist presented in a threefold perspective reifying three often combined domains of maturation: (1) some of these elements, such as artistic potential, are located on a rather personal level, and thereby render the domain of the progress of the protagonist as an individual subject; (2) other elements, which exceed the narrow universe of individuality, such as parents, friendship, love, marriage and others related especially to family and school and representing various types of relationship, reveal the interpersonal development or inter-human
development; and (3) on a larger social level, certain elements render the occupational development or professional domain which is strictly interrelated with moral and social concerns in the novel, and together mark the expression of identity development through the relationship between the individual and society. The Bildungsroman reveals thus the identity development and formation of the protagonist through his or her own consciousness, as inﬂuenced by other humans, and as a consequence of social interaction and determinism. Writers of Bildungsromane would emphasize particular aspects in their works according to their period, movement and personal artistic credo. The second and the third developmental domains should be differentiated, in that the third one represents a method of realism which emphasises social determinism and presents the character as part of a community, whereas the second one is more psychological and emotional, for it focuses on intimacy and on creating what Anthony Giddens calls “pure relations” of family, friendship and love, which are “not anchored in external conditions of social or economic life” (89). Nazneen’s process of identity formation continues its development with the heroine as a mother of two daughters, Bibi and Shahana, who are involved, at the beginning of the chapter, with their father Chanu in an “[a]ctivity, ordinary and domestic and cheerful” (Ali 178). Chanu has decided to take “his family back home and Tagore was the ﬁrst step of the journey” (Ali 179): Chanu has been teaching his daughters to recite “Golden Bengal”, but such an activity is hardly “cheerful” for Shahana, his elder daughter, who is fervently against leaving England. “It was inevitably Shahana who incited his anger and it was Shahana who appeared to suffer least” (Ali 180); Shahana would not care about Tagore, or Bengali classical music, hates her kameez and prefers jeans; almost all conﬂicts would end in her yelling “I didn’t ask to be born here ” (Ali 181). To Chanu, who calls her ironically “memsahib”, Shahana is “only a child, and already the rot is beginning. That is why we must go”, whereas to Nazneen, Shahana “was only half-child now. Or rather she was sometimes all child, and sometimes something else. The most startling thing possible: another person” (Ali 182). This beginning of Chapter Eight, following a period of some thirteen years, would suggest that Shanana is closer than her mother to develop an
identity in her own process of becoming, whereas Chanu seems to have remained static: as in the past, his “energy went into the niyyah – the making of his intention – and here he was advanced and skilful, but the delivery let him down” (Ali 181). In particular, concerning ﬁnding a new job, “‘Got to get on to my contacts,’ said Chanu, but he made no move” (Ali 185); another job is necessary because the “small ediﬁce of their savings was reduced to dust” and he is determined to move back to Dhaka – “We are going there. I have decided. And when I decide something, it is done” – but “they did not have money. And money was needed. For tickets, for suitcases, to ship the furniture, to buy a place in Dhaka” (Ali 184). Nazneen would like to work to earn money, doing sewing at home, but Chanu rejects the idea, since, according to him, “[s]ome of these uneducated ones, they say that if the wife is working it is only because the husband cannot feed them. Lucky for you I am an educated man” (Ali 184). Chanu has no longer taken courses, and there are no new certiﬁcates; now he is more teaching than being taught and “the chief beneﬁciaries were the girls” and Nazneen (Ali 185). Chanu turns to history as a matter of national pride – “[i]f If you have a history, you see, you have a pride” – and his country had a glorious past: “In the sixteenth century, Bengal was called the Paradise of Nations” and the “whole world was going to Bengal to do trade. Sixteenth century and seventeenth century. Dhaka was the home of textiles. Who invented all this muslin and damask and every damn thing? It was us. All the Dutch and Portuguese and French and British queuing up to buy” (Ali 185). Nazneen is more practical in her attempts to work and save money to go to Dhaka, or, if they would not go, even put some aside to send money to Hasina. Razia also works hard to support her children, in particular Tariq, who is most of the time in his room, but always asking for money that his mother thinks he needs for textbooks and she believes he studies too hard. Nazneen ﬁnally receives a sewing machine and now she can embark on a type of professional career; she also makes steps into the larger society by improving her language skills: the “television, the brief exchanges at the few non-Bengali shops she entered, the dentist, the doctor, teachers at the girls’ schools. But it was the girls who taught her. Without lessons, textbooks or Razia’s ‘key phrases’. Their method was simple: they demanded to be understood” (Ali 194). A problematic aspect of this larger
society remains money, and the appearance of Mrs Islam in her house and her life makes everything clear to her: “Chanu took a loan. Mrs Islam had come to collect”, but Nazneen has no money to give, and Mrs Islam promises to come again, which sounds more like a threatening: “You will ﬁnd a way”, Mrs Islam said, “God always gives a way. You just have to ﬁnd it. And I will bring my sons next time. They would like to see your husband again” (Ali 199). Nazneen’s process of identity formation is now paralleled by a new Bildungsroman, that of her daughters Bibi and Shanana; the former is obedient, whereas the latter is more rebellious, in conﬂict with the older generation, especially Chanu. Shanana does not want to look at kadam on her father’s computer (it is “boring” to her) and speaks English at home, and even corrects her father’s English. Shanana is more naturalized, more English, which is assisted by her period of adolescence and puberty to contribute to her disobedience. Chanu yet loves his daughters very much, administering to them, when they sleep, “secret doses of love” (Ali 203), but he is also afraid for their future, since all his plans failed to succeed and now have “deserted him”; in the past, however, “each collapse of ambition, though it dented his surface, had goaded him to new determination, a more urgent reaching. He started every new job with a freshly spruced suit and a growing collection of pens. His face shone with hope” (Ali 203). In the past, he “worked hard; worked late on his plans; joked with Nazneen; became indulgent with the children” (Ali 203), whereas now he has stopped making plans, laying down on the bed and grumbling, or stopping eating, and even stopping reading, which would make Nazneen overpowered with worry. Only when he was offered a job to wash dishes in a restaurant, Chanu seemed to be “in some way galvanized. Some vestige of ﬁght was reignited within him and he began setting tasks for his daughters” (Ali 204). The narrative in this ninth chapter focuses mainly on Chanu and the girls; Nazneen seems to have forgotten about her needs and wishes, as if her formative progress has stagnated; instead, there is the “eternal three-way torture of daughter–father–daughter. How they locked themselves apart at this very close distance. Bibi, silently seeking approval, always hungry. Chanu, quivering with his own needs, always offended. Shahana, simmering in – worst of all things – perpetual embarrassment, implacably
angry. It was like walking through a ﬁeld of snakes. Nazneen was worried at every step” (Ali 205). Her life principle has become to be “careful”, to live for others, not for herself, and it “was up to her to balance the competing needs, to soothe here and urge there, and push the day along to its close. When she failed, (…) she felt dizzy with responsibility. When she succeeded, she made it a mantra not to forget, not to let it go to her head. Be careful , be careful , be careful . It took all her energy. It took away longing” (Ali 205). What remains of her formative process towards acquiring identity is her professional experience: Chanu brings home different pieces of garment for Nazneen to work with and she does sewing and earns money. Nazneen seems to support the family now; Chanu is busy with calculations, supervision, passing scissors, making tea, folding garments, as well as working out the most proﬁtable types of garment assignment. Nazneen receives the family’s approval and respect, as when she ﬁnished her ﬁrst pair of trousers, “they clapped and Bibi became sufﬁciently carried away to venture a small cheer, and Chanu’s applause was emphatic, and Shahana smiled ﬂeetingly and marched back to the bedroom” (Ali 207). Also, Chanu claims “When I married her, I said: she is a good worker. Girl from the village. Unspoilt. (…) All the clever-clever girls are not worth one hair on her head” (Ali 207), and appreciates her contribution to the fulﬁlment of his dream to go home, although, in his opinion, this is everybody’s dream: “As you are all aware, we have decided – as a family – to return home. Your mother is doing everything possible to facilitate our dream through the old and honourable craft of tailoring” (Ali 208). The dream of going home seems closer to reality as Chanu himself begins to work as a taxi man, “driver number one-six-one-nine”, employed by “Kempton Kars”, and it has been a surprise for the family that he could drive a car. Now Chanu ceased to be a middleman, and another middleman appeared, Karim, who came into Nazneen’s house and life with a bale of jeans over his broad shoulder. A kind of Nazneen’s professional advancement is sewing next to housekeeping and taking care of the girls, yet sewing can hardly be considered a vocation successfully contributing to identity formation. Sewing, however, as it is seen at the end of Chapter Nine and throughout the next chapter, brings with it a sentimental experience for Nazneen, with
Karim, whom she began to “consider” and about whom she began to learn things such as “[w]hen he spoke in Bengali he stammered. In English, he found his voice and it gave him no trouble”, as well as more physical aspects, such as “[h]is hair. Cut so close to the skull”, or “he refolded his arms. They looked strong, those arms. His hair. Razored short against the skull. It was odd, that the shape of a skull could be pleasing”, or “[s]weat across the top of his lip. Sunshine in his hair made it sparkle. Some kind of oil. Or more sweat” (Ali 210-211). Chanu would often work in the evenings, which became “relaxed”: the girls would do their homework in front of the television and Nazneen would work faster, by which she could save more money and hide it from Chanu, send some to Hasina, and some give to Shahana for shampoo, lotion, and other things. Nazneen learns to be more independent, make her own living, go out more often, as to the bank, and learn to survive on her own. Chanu embarks on a more pragmatic, realistic, materialistic side of existence in doing his taxi job, which he sees as a payback: “You see, all my life I have struggled. And for what? What good has it done? I have ﬁnished with all that. Now, I just take the money. I say thank you. I count it. (…) You see, when the English went to our country, they did not go to stay. They went to make money, and the money they made, they took it out of the country. They never left home. Mentally. Just taking money out. And that is what I am doing now. What else can you do?” (Ali 214). Such a speech shows him a simple man, but Chanu keeps the other, the previous aspect of his personality alive, particularly when he would take out his books in the evenings and begin to speak differently. Chanu remains philosophical, meditative, didactic, and, as always, critical about the relationship between West and East; his “lessons”, like before, would come to reveal his knowledge and please him with his erudition, but are also directed now at his daughters: “Who was it who saved the work of Plato and Aristotle for the West during the Dark Ages? Us. It was us. Muslims. We saved the work so that your so-called St Thomas could claim it for his own discovery”, claims Chanu, and continues: “Dark Ages (…). This is what they are calling it in these damn Christian books. Is this what they teach you in school? (…) It was the Golden Age of Islam, the height of civilization” (Ali 215). Chanu also intends to teach his girls about religion as another important aspect of their returning home to Dhaka, to which Shanana declares to her mother that “I’m not going”, “I’ll run away”, “I’m ready to run” (Ali 216). “Do you
want to go?”, Bibi asks Nazneen; to this, Nazneen tells to the girls the “story of How You Were Left To Your Fate. It was not the ﬁrst time they had heard it but they both listened well. She began with the words I was a stillborn child , and she ended with that was God’s will . It was the way she always told it”, and this is her answer to the question, meaning that “[w]e just have to wait and see. (…) We do not know what God has in His mind” (Ali 216-217). Chanu forgets or does not want to apprehend that Dhaka is a “home” for him and not for his daughters, whose home is England, as it seems that England becomes a home for Nazneen as well. Gradually, her memories of her life in the village begin to fade, just like the “village was leaving her” and it was “only in her sleep that the village came whole again”, as in her dream of Mumtaz and her mynah bird (Ali 217). Apart from memories and dreams, keeping her connected to her homeland are also the letters from Hasina, as the ones in Chapter Ten, which reveal Hasina’s life as a maid in a family in Dhaka, where she fulﬁls her motherhood through her duties to look after her employer’s children. Hasina tells a lot about her daily work and the family, and we have another historical and cultural insight into, this time, upper-class life in Bangladesh. The letters might be also read as a recording of another process of development, a parallel Bildungsroman, involving Nazneen’s sister. This time, Hasina is learning the real value of love; she has encountered two types – with her ﬁrst husband (passionate, like in David Copperﬁeld , the result of a undisciplined heart) and as a prostitute (immoral, to earn money and survive) – and now she experiences a pure love, innocent, that from a child: “Bedtime now the boy give to me kiss and hug. Baby Daisy always want her face to me and she sit on my hip all day if only no work to do. When she smile she put her head back and show all her teeth. All my life I look for one thing only for love for giving and getting and it seem such a thing full of danger can eat you alive and now I stop the looking it come right up to me and show all it tiny little teeth ” (Ali 228). The protagonist of her own formative process, Nazneen, apart from a professional experience, seemingly fulﬁlled, and a sentimental experience, seemingly in its incipient stage, includes in her development also the experience of friendship with Razia, the most “English” of the immigrants, or rather a former immigrant, since she has received British citizenship and holds a passport. With regard to Karim, he continues to visit her ﬂat to
collect the clothes, but his presence in her life increases as Nazneen would often forget to cover her hair, once she made tea for them, and let him pray in her house; even if it was not permitted with an unrelated man, she could hardly stop the prayer words forming on her lips, and when he bowed, it “was he who moved, but she who felt dizzy” (Ali 235). Karim is also responsible for Nazneen enlarging her experience of larger society, when he invites her to join a meeting where she would represent the “older women”. The meeting is for the foundation a Muslim society or organization with debates about its name, mission, statement and election of the Board. Nazneen’s experience of larger society expands with the participation in the meeting, where she feels important – “I have given him victory, thought Nazneen. She felt it a momentous thing. By raising her hand, or not raising it, she could alter the course of events, of affairs in the world of which she knew nothing” (Ali 242) – and, through Karim’s contribution, with discovering more of the world, like Bosnia or Chechnya, and learning about “her Muslim brothers and sisters”. Karim, like Chanu, shares his knowledge with Nazneen, but, unlike Chanu, Karim “shamed her” and “he excited her” (Ali 243) . Such pieces of knowledge, along with her involvement with the movement, the leaﬂets pushed under the door, Karim’s claims that “they are trying to do us down” and “[w]e have to ﬁght back”, make her other concerns (with Chanu, the daughters, and Hasina) appear small; above all, they precipitate the fulﬁlment of a new sentimental experience with Karim: “he prayed in her home several more times. As he took the mat from her, the tips of their ﬁngers found each other and she smelled the crisp smell of his shirt. The smell of limes” (Ali 244). Karim’s form of “ﬁghting back” is very different from that of Chanu’s: in Chapter Eleven, Karim asks for active, brutal action, and for the martyrs, not as suicide, which is not allowed by religion, but as part of a war; in Chapter Twelve, in his conversation with Dr Azad, Chanu claims to have ceased struggling, and now, when one’s expects “to be so-called integrated”, he is “simply taking money out. “Every rupee of proﬁt made by an Englishman is lost forever to India.” That is how I am playing them at their own game now” (Ali 248). Among the problems of integration is heroin; at Dr Azad’s words about the signs, among which constant need for money, Nazneen remembers that every time Razia would mention Tariq,
she talked about money. Chanu has decided to avoid rather than confront the problems; for this, he will take his daughters back home and is preparing them by teaching Bibi and Shanana about art, history, and politics. Chanu is against any radical means and is angry at ﬁnding leaﬂets, but Nazneen is inﬂuenced by the Bengal Tigers and even gives money to Karim. Chanu is rather escapist in his desire to go home, whereas Karim pleads action. Having lived with Chanu’s dream worlds and indecisiveness, it is Karim’s display of action and authority – “Sometimes he became angry and his anger was direct and to the point. ‘It’s my group. I’m the Chairman.’ (…) ‘I say what is radical and what is not.’” (Ali 261) – which brings Nazneen to the point of sexual excitement: “[h]e picked up a handful of brass buttons from the cardboard box. (…) Nazneen felt an electric current run from her nipples to her big toes. She sat very still. (…) Her skin was attached to thousands of ﬁne silk threads, all of them pulling, pricking at the point of tension” (Ali 261); also, “[h]er ﬁngers trembled and she could not work. Karim squeezed the back of his neck. He closed his eyes. His right leg vibrated up and down. When Chanu ﬁdgeted he showed his unease. When Karim could not be still, he showed his energy. For a few moments she drifted helplessly on a tide of longing. Her mouth became loose and her eyes unfocused” (Ali 262). As if sensing the inevitable to occur, Nazneen, in the bathroom, “ examined the hairs on her legs. They were ﬁne and sparse but clearly visible” (Ali 263), and suddenly she “took Chanu’s razor, soaped her legs and began to shave” (Ali 264). Nazneen’s life is now turbulent and tensioned with the expectation of the day that would ﬁnally arrive; every new day begins with the feeling that this is the day, but in the end it would no longer be the day, and Nazneen would take “a deep, deep breath because she had to shout – something urgent, some matter of life or death – but the breath and the shout got stuck. They would never come out. That was how it felt. It was because of the leaﬂet war. It was because of Mrs Islam. It was because she had not told Razia yet. It was because of Hasina. It was because of the Home Fund, which was not growing quickly enough. It was because of the girls, who did not want to go home” (Ali 273). “It’s because of me”, would whisper Karim in her imaginative ﬂight, and in order to “get rid of him she had to get out of bed and begin this day” (Ali
273), which is another day of her pattrened existence with the “children and Chanu, her sister, the cleaning, the cooking, the sewing, the worrying” (Ali 270). At the beginning of Chapter Thirteen, wearing her red and gold silk sari, and thinking about clothes and life, Nazneen experiences one of her ﬁrst epiphanies, this time with regard to the need for change, the necessity to acquire a new identity of a self-sufﬁcient woman: Suddenly, she was gripped by the idea that if she changed her clothes her entire life would change as well. If she wore a skirt and a jacket and a pair of high heels then what else would she do but walk around the glass palaces on Bishopsgate, and talk into a slim phone and eat lunch out of a paper bag? If she wore trousers and underwear, like the girl with the big camera on Brick Lane, then she would roam the streets fearless and proud. And if she had a tiny tiny skirt with knickers to match and a tight bright top, then she would – how could she not? – skate through life with a sparkling smile and a handsome man who took her hand and made her spin, spin, spin. For a glorious moment it was clear that clothes, not fate, made her life. And if the moment had lasted she would have ripped the sari off and torn it to shreds. (Ali 277-278) Nazneen would like Karim to see her in this sari, and she joins again and again the meetings of the organization, but she would rather prefer him to be with her in her ﬂat, he with his magazine, she with her sewing, and he ﬁlling up more and more the space, her whole existence: in the ﬂat, Karim “would walk around and ﬁll up the space. He would walk around as if he were learning to ﬁll the space. Each time he came now he inhabited the ﬂat a little more” (Ali 285-286). At one of such meetings, the Questioner challenges Karim’s authority, but Karim wins the “battle” with his rival, controls the situation, has the last words to declare, closes the meeting, and emerges as the dominant male; Nazneen walks home, although her desire is to run, waits by the door to open it before Karim even knocks, and subdues sexually to his masculinity: He kissed her on the mouth and he led her into the bedroom. Get undressed, he said, and get into bed. He left the room. She got changed into her nightdress and lay beneath the sheets. Through the window she looked at a patch of blue sky and a scrap of white cloud. She pulled the covers up to her neck and closed her eyes. What she wanted to do was sleep. It would
be impossible to stay awake. She was sick and she needed to sleep. She had a fever and her body was shaking. She turned her face into the pillow and moaned and when he kissed the back of her neck she moaned again. (Ali 288) As if nothing has happened, the Chapter Fourteen begins with the family tour of London, a seemingly happy family that discovers London, with an insight into the history of the city and the country, where personal history also intrudes into the present of the narrative. Chanu excels again with his knowledge of historical places and persons; Nazneen talks a lot, asks questions and laughs frequently, which makes Chanu ask “‘Are you feeling well? Too much sun, perhaps?’ She ﬂushed, and she laughed again. She was laughing too much, but now that she had started this laughing business it was difﬁcult to keep it under control” (Ali 294). This is an unusual behaviour for Nazneen, disclosing the happiness of an accomplished woman, but not with Chanu, although “he swelled with pride at how marvellously he had managed the day” (Ali 294). A photograph of the family would show “a middleaged man with stringy calves poking out from long red shorts, a white T-shirt stretched over a preposterous stomach”, “a creature whose near-brush with adolescence showed in a few spots around her chin and an impression – mystically conveyed – that she had curled up her toes with embarrassment”, “a girl who stood with her arms glued to her sides. Her face tilted up to look at the man and she smiled as if there were a knife to her back”, and “a dutiful and modest wife, in a cotton-print sari” (Ali 295-296). It is their ﬁrst photograph together as a family, Nazneen realizes, which “ﬁlled her with a mixture of panic and hope, the possibility of holding things together with the unexceptional ritual of family life”, but, as if symbolizing that the family cannot stay united or survive, when the ﬁlm was developed, “a few shots were only blurs of colour, like a glimpse through a doorway when the monsoon washed away the shape of things, and of the family together nothing could be made out except for the feet” (Ali 297). The future of the family is unpredictable; the history of the country has received a new narrativization in Chanu’s discourse; the history of Nazneen’s process of identity formation yet remains to develop further and receive its narrative form within the general ﬁctional framework of the novel. The ﬁrst intrusion of Nazneen’s personal history into the general
narration as a concrete step towards identity formation is the release of passion from within her relationship with Karim, where, since her ﬁrst time with him, “her life had become bloated with meaning and each small movement electriﬁed” (Ali 299). Nazneen’s personality changes as a result of her relationship with Karim: “sick with shame” combined with “sick with desire”, Nazneen accepts it to be a crime and the sentence is death, but she “took her pleasure desperately, as if the executioner waited behind the door. Beyond death was the eternal ﬁre of hell and from every touch of ﬂesh on ﬂesh she wrought the strength to endure it”; the ﬁre of her passion is yet stronger, for “tenderness could not satisfy her, nor could she stand it, and into her recklessness she drew him like a moth to a ﬂame” (Ali 299). In the bedroom, “everything changed” and, like “a Suﬁ in a trance, a whirling dervish, she lost the thread of one existence and found another”, and she could not stop it; out of the bedroom, “she was – in starts – afraid and deﬁant”; in both cases, and particularly now, with her sentimental experience with Karim, her “life was out of her hands”: Nazneen “had submitted to her father and married her husband; she had submitted to her husband”, and “now she gave herself up to a power greater than these two, and she felt herself helpless before it. When the thought crept into her mind that the power was inside her, that she was its creator, she dismissed it as conceited. How could such a weak woman unleash a force so strong? She gave in to fate and not to herself” (Ali 299-300). The relationship with Karim offers a personal fulﬁlment”, casting “a special light on everything”, making her feel good, and even improving her family and daily existence: Nazneen “spent more time talking to her daughters, and they surprised her with their intelligence, their wit and their artless sensitivity. She served her husband and she found that he was a caring husband, a man of integrity, educated, and equipped with a pleasing thirst for knowledge. She did her work and she discovered that work in itself, performed with a desire for perfection, was capable of giving satisfaction” (Ali 301). The second intrusion of Nazneen’s personal history into the present narration as another concrete step towards identity formation is her relation with Mrs Islam, to whom Nazneen can now talk, express her opinion, and even attempt to impose it. Another aspect of Nazneen’s personal history into the present unfolding of the general narration is her relationship with Razia, who proved to be her best friend and to whom Nazneen wants to tell all her secrets – “about Karim, what she suspected about Tariq, the truth
about Hasina, the saga of Mrs Islam’s money” (Ali 313) – but she choses the least important and harmful one, which is that they borrowed money from Mrs Islam. Nazneen almost tells Razia about her suspision about Tariq when her friend wants to pay for the fabrics at a market stall but ﬁnds no money left in her purse. According to Dr Azad, says Nazneen, money young men hooked on drugs sometimes steal money even from their parents, but Razia decides not to think about it. Apart from these aspects of personal history intruding into the novel’s narrative and necessitating a resolution in order to proclaim the identity formation stands the issue of moving to Dhaka, perhaps the most stringent one. Chanu talks to Shanana about her future, considering her not to be a child anymore, and remains in his world of dreams, beliefs, self-assumed values, and ego-centric oration, whereas his daughter is pleading realism and pragmatism: “You see, the things I had to ﬁght: racism, ignorance, poverty, all of that – I don’t want you to go through it”, claims Chanu, who is overwhelmed by his own speech and does hear his daughter interrupting him: “‘Mr Iqbal just sold his ﬂat,’ said Shahana. ‘It’s these things that make me sad,’ continued Chanu, captivated by his own oration. ‘For one hundred and sixty thousand pounds.’ ‘Living in little rat holes.’ Chanu waggled his head, and his cheeks were ﬁlled with sorrow. ‘He did Right to Buy ,’ said Shahana. ‘Fifteen years ago. Paid ﬁve thousand pounds in cash.’ ‘So that’s why your mother and I have decided …’ ‘You should have bought this ﬂat.’ ‘…to go back home.’ Chanu explored his stomach, checking the texture, the density. He appeared satisﬁed” (Ali 320-321). Returning to Dhaka might be the most stringent issue in Nazneen’s process of development, but the most inﬂuential and formative one, especially on her inner perspectives of existence, is her relationship with Karim. It leads to a moment of Nazneen’s breakdown, mental and physical, equalled to death, which is based on her realization, or rather epiphanization that “it had seemed that she worried unnecessarily about everything. Now it was clear that she had not worried enough. She was back on the tightrope that stretched between her husband and her children, and this time the wind was high and tormenting. And there was Karim. The horror came to her now. She vomited over the clothes she had washed. She was stunned. As if she had just now gained consciousness and discovered a corpse on the ﬂoor, a bloody dagger in her hand” (Ali 321-322).
This experience of abjection leads to another realization, or rather a memory from childhood about her mother saying that “God tests us (…) Don’t you know this life is a test? Some He tests with riches and good fortune. Many men have failed such a test. And they will be Judged. Ot hers He tests with illness or poverty, or with jinn who come in the shape of men – or of husbands. (…) Come down here to me and I will tell you how to pass the test. (…) It’s easy. You just have to endure” (Ali 322-323). The realization that she has failed to endure and let herself be dominated by passion and indulge into immorality induces ﬁrst vomit and then collapse: For several days she stayed in bed and clung to her collapse. She pushed down into it like a diver, struggling against buoyancy, ﬁghting her way into the depths. Where the water clouded with mud, where the light could not reach, where sound died and beyond the body there was nothing: that was where she wanted to be. At times she found this dead space and rested within it. But then she was caught in a net of dreams and dragged up to the surface, and the sun hit the water and sliced her eyes and she saw everything in pieces as if in a smashed mirror, and she heard everything at once – the girls laughing, her son crying, Chanu humming, Dr Azad talking, Karim groaning, Amma wailing – each sound as clear as a lone sitar string on a hot and drowsy afternoon. (Ali 324) Likewise, Nazneen’s Victorian predecessor Jane Eyre, equipped with rationalism, rebelliousness and moral values, betrays her rational approach and deﬁance when falling in love with Rochester, but, still relying on ethical principles, she manages to leave him, escape the existential trap, and restore rationalism and common sense. In Nazneen’s case, when “the dreams would not let her go, would not let her go back under, she began to come out of her delirium” (Ali 324), or, as Chanu calls it, “nervous exhaustion”. To us, Nazneen’s end of illness is a return to life after an experience of death induced as punishment; in the previous Chapter Fourteen, Nazneen’s desire leads to crime and the crime is death, which, in Nazneen’s conception, is the ﬁre in hell as the consequence of the ﬁre of passion in real life with Karim. Eros and Thanatos, love and death, are the two experiences needed to gain meaning of existence, to live further in order to become, to emerge as
an individual subject, in our case, to attain formation of identity. This moment of breakdown is the turning point in Nazneen’s developmental process, and as such it is borrowed by the author as another thematic element from the Bildungsroman literary system established by the Victorians, being equal to Dora’s death for David Copperﬁeld, Magwitch confessing that he is the source of money for Pip, or Jane Eyre discovering that Rochester is married. This moment of mental breakdown would reconﬁgure her spiritual components, shape a new philosophy of life, stimulate the change of her personality, and provide new understandings for various aspects of existence. For instance, as Dr Azad attends her during illness, Nazneen realizes that what keeps her husband and the doctor together is the experience of suffering in that “they entwined their lives to drink from the pools of each other’s sadness. From these special watering holes, each man drew strength” (Ali 328). Nazneen appears to recommence the course of her life by doing the housework, cleaning the rooms, dusting off the sewing machine and settling down to work. Chanu talks to her in third person, “she must not overdo it”, for example, and she answers also in third person, which, by the principle of free-association, determines her to remember her inﬁdelity: “I’ve already overdone it” (Ali 341). Nazneen accepts it and that she is punished by having earned a place in hell for all eternity, and at least that much is settled. This resignatio ad infernum (“willingness to be damned”) determines Nazneen to continue her life in her own way – “She doesn’t seem to be listening”, said Chanu, “‘Oh, she is,’ said Nazneen, ‘she’s listening. But she is not obeying’” (Ali 341) – which is a sign of emerging personality. Meeting Karim reinforces the passion – Nazneen “was aware of her body, as though just now she had come to inhabit it for the ﬁrst time and it was both strange and wonderful to have this new and physical expression. A pulse behind her ear. A needle of excitement down her thigh. Inside her stomach, a deep and desperate hunger” (Ali 343) – which turns to savage, animal intercourse: “there was nothing she would not do. She drew him in, not with passion but with ferocity as if it were possible to lose and win all in this one act” (Ali 343). Moreover, it would later provide her with a sense of fulﬁlment, as when at a meeting, “[s]itting next to her husband, in front
of her lover, she gave way to a feeling of satisfaction that had been slowly growing. It began at the edges and worked its way in so that eventually it found its way to her heart and warmed it. She gave herself a little hug and smothered a smile on her shoulder” (Ali 353-354). Another moment of her personality emerging is when she intervenes in ﬁght between Chanu and Shanana about going to a festival and makes her voice be heard: “Nazneen stood between her husband and her daughter. ‘I say she can go,’ she said, but as they were both shouting she could not be heard. ‘I say she can go,’ she yelled. They were silent and shocked, as if she had ripped out their tongues” (Ali 349). Nazneen’s metamorphosis continues and she can now tell Chanu the truth about Hasina and confess to Razia about Karim; also, her personality becomes complexiﬁed: “Some days she was so tired that she went back to bed, and the days were short and the nights were long. ‘She is convalescing,’ said Chanu on those days. Other days she was ﬁlled with a kind of brittle strength and spilled caustic words on her children and husband. ‘She mustn’t overdo it,’ said Chanu on these days” (Ali 363). Meanwhile, Tarig sold the furniture, and it is now clearly revealed that he is drug addicted; Nazneen continues with her sewing to send money to Hasina and pay Mrs Islam; the terrorist attack on New York, “the start of the madness”, in Chanu’s words, precipitates the idea of leaving England, and Chanu is determined more than ever to go home: the “projects stopped. There was only one project and that meant no unnecessary expense could be entertained. No more gadgets for the computer or the car. Even book expenditure was curtailed” (Ali 372). Girls are upset, especially Shanana who declares that they should stay to be adopted or they might look after themselves. One day, Chanu brings home a purchase: a suitcase, the symbol of their imminent departure; moreover, the fact that Chanu made no speech about his plans for the Dhaka house, about culture clash, religion or history, makes the inevitable a certainty: “Nazneen thought, it is going to happen. We are going to Bangladesh” (Ali 376). Going back to Bangladesh, however, is against Nazneen’s process of identity formation; it would thwart and even terminate it. Moreover, for Nazneen as well as for the girls, “going to Bangladesh” is not “going home”, as Chanu insists to call it.
Concerning Nazneen’s identity, its essence is revealed by Karim, towards the end of Chapter Sixteen, when he is asked by Nazneen why does he like her. In his answer, Karim claims that there are two types of women: the “westernized girl, [who] wears what she likes, all the make-up going on, short skirts and that soon as she’s out of her father’s sight. She’s into going out, getting good jobs, having a laugh” and the “religious girl, [who] wears the scarf or even the burkha. You’d think, right, they’d be good wife material. But they ain’t. Because all they want to do is argue. And they always think they know best because they’ve been off to all these summer camps for Muslim sisters” (Ali 384-385). Nazneen is of neither type; unlike the others, she is “the real thing”, which develops out of a girl from the village: “‘You can arrange for a girl from the village. Bring her over here.’ He was still setting out his options. ‘But then there’s all the settling-in hassle. And you never know what you’re going to get’” (Ali 385). “What ” is the identity acquired and Nazneen’s formative process is summarised by Karim as a “girl from the village” becoming the “real thing” . Hypothetically speaking, Karim apparently states that Nazneen’s formative process has come to its completion and her identity has been formed; what remains is the assertion of the acquired identity, which should occur, as we will see in the last chapters of the novel, by solving the issues with regard to Razia, Karim and Mrs Islam, and especially by asserting the refusal to return to Dhaka. Within East End immigrant community of Brick Lane, Nazneen and Razia develop a friendship based on honesty, which allows them to mutually support and help one another, but Nazneen changes, as Razia does, both devoured by their own troubles. Razia has changed because of her problems with Tariq and becomes a kind of emotionless person without anger, fear, pain; Nazneen would like Razia to become the old Razia once again, who promised to help Nazneen. The value and strength of friendship being thwarted by troubles, the river of their relationship, once pouring powerfully into “the sea of their friendship”, now “had met a dam, built out of truth and knowledge and need. These things had stopped up their mouths” (Ali 394). Nazneen tells a story about Mumtaz auntie and the good jinni, which is another of many returns to the wonderful universe of childhood experience.
Nazneen’s own children’s childhood experience is totally different and even antagonistic to what is imposed on them if they move to Bangladesh, which can be seen in Shanana’s attitude: “your husband will keep you locked up in a little smelly room and make you weave carpets all day long” (Ali 395) or “[i]n Bangladesh, you’ll have to brush your teeth with a twig. They don’t have toothbrushes. (…) they don’t have toilet paper either. You’ll have to pour water on your bottom to clean it” (Ali 398). The issue of the departure for Dhaka is for Nazneen a matter of decision, and as the day approaches, Nazneen considers various alternatives, such as divorce and marrying Karim. The ferocity of her sexual intercourse with Karim is now equalled to the ferocity turning to anger concerning the decision to return or not to Bangladesh, which is likewise a source of ecstasy and sensual pleasure: the “burn was ﬁerce and it unleashed in her an equal ferocity. Suddenly her entire being lit up with anger. I will decide what to do. I will say what happens to me. I will be the one . A charge ran through her body and she cried out again, this time out of sheer exhilaration” (Ali 405). The tickets are bought, more suitcases are bought, a few days remain, and an action is to be taken. Nazneen does not know what action to take; contrary to her is Razia who has taken action against Tariq being addicted to drugs as she locked him in a room with an iron bar across the bottom of her door. Razia might be an example for Nazneen to act and not think what to do and how to do, to take action, or not to take any action, since so many things and especially people – Chanu, the girls, Karim – are involved. Nazneen dreams of Gouripur and her mother and of the story of how she was left to her fate. Now the situation is somehow similar and in her dream Nazneen is asking her mother for help: ‘What shall I do now, Amma?’ she said out loud. Amma walked through the door wearing her best sari. (…) ‘You modern girls. You’ll do what you like.’ (…) ‘But you should remember one thing at least.’ ‘What’s that?’ Nazneen closed her eyes. (…) ‘Your son. You seem to have forgotten him.’ (…) ‘When your son, your true blessing from God, was lying in that hospital I heard every word you said.’
‘You thought it was you who had the power. You thought you would keep him alive. You decided you would be the one to choose.’ (…) ‘When you stood between your son and his Fate, you robbed him of any chance.’ Amma walked towards her. She held her hands over her chest. The red spurted from between them. ‘Now say this to yourself, and say it out loud, “I killed my son. I killed my son.”’ ‘No!’ screamed Nazneen. ‘Say it. Say it.’ ‘No. No. No!’ (Ali 431-432) The dream explicates the issue of making a decision, of choosing and taking action, which is materialized in a nightmare that prompts the idea that your choice, not Fate, may lead to tragic consequences as it may also permit a resolution, a way out. Immediately following the dream is the short Chapter Nineteen, which consists only of a letter from Hasina dated October 2001. Monica Ali employs an interesting thematic approach by which Amma’s intervention into the issue of decision and choice is juxtaposed to Hasina’s memory from the letter of their mother stealing from aunt Mumtaz’s store room, which would imply that Amma is not a “saint”, not a perfect sample of existence, and henceforth the door for Nazneen to make decisions is open. Both the dream and the realization that Amma is not a “saint” represent the most important epiphany for Nazneen – as well as the source of her spiritual liberation – and become the driving force for the actual decision to be made and the actual action to be taken, meaning that the identity is to be asserted. Chapter Twenty is, in this respect, the resolution in the novel. Nazneen has made her decision with regard to the main issue of her life: the “plane left tomorrow and she would not be on it” (Ali 437). Also, Nazneen has to solve a couple of other issues representing the sources of her frustration and impediments to her assertion of identity. The ﬁrst issue regards Mrs Islam. Nazneen decides to visit her, but exactly at that moment Mrs Islam with her two sons come to collect the money. Nazneen, for the ﬁrst time, is no longer obedient and enters the confrontation; Nazneen’s words “I was coming to see you” (Ali 439) reveal her decision to confront and act despite “Son Number One” and “Son Number Two” staying behind the sofa, where rumours are that they are very
dangerous, own a pub, Son Number One has a white girlfriend and two children, and Son Number Two had been in prison for assault, or fraud, or both. Since Chanu, Nazneen and the girls are leaving tomorrow, Mrs Islam asks for two hundred pounds more to settle the debt, to which Nazneen replies that “we’ve paid it all back”, and to the sons’ intimidation and threat that sometimes they break things, as well as to Mrs Islam’s attempt at blackmailing in that there are “some things a wife does not want a husband to know”, with reference to Karim, Nazneen stands strong in will and refuses to pay: “[b]reak my arm. Break them both”, she tells to Son Number One; “[m]y husband (…) knows everything”, she tells to Mrs Islam, and also provokes her to swear on the Qur’an that she does not charge interest and is not a usurer. Nazneen won, Mrs Islam lost letting out “a cry, a low animal noise of despair. (…) another cry; shrill this time, as if she had been cut. (…) a sound in the back of her throat that Nazneen remembered for days” (Ali 445-446). The confrontation and emerging victorious lead to a new realization, a new epiphanic experience as “a thought began to form. God provided a way. Nazneen smiled. God provided a way, and I found it” (Ali 446), which would allow her to deal with the second issue regarding her relationship with Karim. On her way to see him, Nazneen passes through a change of attitude: ﬁrst, the response is purely sensual and passionate – “Two hours ago, she had dialled his number and felt her skin prickle at the sound of his voice. Since then, she wanted to knock down walls, banish distance, abolish time, to get to him” (Alib 447); second, a more rational approach arises when, on the platform, fascinated by the way a woman walked, Nazneen displays mimicry – “Nazneen watched her and stepped as she stepped. How much could it say? One step in front of the other. Could it say, I am this and I am not this? Could a walk tell lies? Could it change you?” – and becomes equal to the white woman – “[t]he woman reached the bench. Nazneen almost collided with her. ‘Sorry,’ said the woman. ‘Sorry,’ said Nazneen. They both sat down” (Ali 448) – which allows Nazneen to consider pragmatically her relationship with Karim. Unlike Nazneen, Karim possesses no identity, and she realizes it by moving from what she prefers to think of him to the understanding of what he really is: “He knew about the world and his place in the world. That was how she liked to remember him”, but it actually “was never so. (…) Karim had never even been to Bangladesh. Nazneen felt a stab of pity. Karim was born a foreigner. When
he spoke in Bengali, he stammered. (…) Karim did not have his place in the world. That was why he defended it” (Ali 448-449). Another understanding linked to Karim regards his present possibilities which are to become later his disappointments: Nazneen “had looked at him and seen only his possibilities. Now she looked again and saw that the disappointments of his life, which would shape him, had yet to happen. It gave her pain. She almost changed her mind” (Ali 449), but she has made a decision about their relationship and she does not want another Chanu. Therefore, her decision is “I don’t want to marry you” and “I think we had better stop now”. Her decision seems to have “lightened his load” and Karim even stopped stammering because he stopped being nervous. Nazneen’s decision to terminate the relationship is based on her understanding that they made each other up, the understanding of what Karim really is and what she really is. To his questions “What’s the real reason? Why do you not want me?” (Ali 453), Nazneen knows that the “real thing” for him was Nazneen, a “Bengali wife. A Bengali mother. An idea of home. An idea of himself that he found in her” (Ali 454), but she is not what he prefers her to be, she has developed a different identity. Karim explains their separation as impossibility to live with the sin: “If you were with me you’d never be able to forget what we did, when it all started. Technically, yeah, it was a sin . It bothered me too. So it’s for the best. Really” (Ali 454). But the real reason is in Nazneen’s explanation: she accepted the sin – “Oh Karim, that we have already done” – the problem is that their relationship is not a “real thing”: “I wasn’t me, and you weren’t you. From the very beginning to the very end, we didn’t see things. What we did – we made each other up” (Ali 454-455); the understanding of this represents for Nazneen another important epiphanic experience leading to identity formation. The most important issue is that of leaving England for Bangladesh. The issues concerning Mrs Islam and Karim having been solved, now Nazneen faces the most important decision, the decision to act concerning her staying with girls in London: the day has come, the ﬂight would be at two o’clock, Nazneen would tell him at nine to have time to talk things over and to say goodbye; Chanu “would go and the girls would stay with her” (Ali 457), this decision would represent the assertion of her identity. It would be “her big day”, the day of asserting identity, which is paralleled by Karim’s big day at the march, but a new problem arises: Shahana has run away.
Amid “disturbances”, as a policeman calls them, on the streets, Nazneen’s search for Shahana is a “brick Lane” experience, the words that give the title of the book being the most repeated words in the last chapter. Terriﬁed by the atmosphere, Nazneen yet moves on the streets of Brick Lane, meeting different people, including Karim, and ﬁnally ﬁnds Shahana hiding in a café. Back home, Chanu knew what Nazneen was going to say, and as if afraid to face it, he could not stop talking. The moment has come, however, despite Chanu interrupting her, as if attempting to postpone it, for Nazneen to say “I should have said it before” (Ali 477). Chanu still hopes they would go together: “Let us look forwards from now on. When we move to the bungalow, your sister will come to live with us. Would you like that? (…) Of course you would. Think of it! Reunited with Hasina, the girls with their aunt, holidays in Cox’s Bazaar, maybe the girls would like a little trip to the Sundarbans. They could see a real Bengal Tiger. Ha! Ha, ha. Nazneen? Ha!” (Ali 477), but Nazneen stood up and went to him and they were very close, there in the channel between the sofa and the armchair. She lifted her hand and placed it on his cheek. He pushed his face against her palm and kissed it with great and very grave tenderness. His neck began to wilt and inch by inch his head drooped lower. She held his face, hard, as if staunching a wound, and put her other arm around him. (Ali 477) Chanu experiences his own epiphany: “All these years I dreamed of going home a Big Man. Only now, when it’s nearly ﬁnished for me, I realized what is important. As long as I have my family with me, my wife, my daughters, I am as strong as any man alive” (Ali 477), to which Nazneen answers that other values are more important: “What is all this Strong Man? Do you think that is why I love you? Is that what there is in you, to be loved?” (Ali 477-478). In the novel, despite earlier instances of melodrama, often extended and exaggerated, the separation of Chanu from his family is a moment of genuine sentimentalism, an experience of Eastern soul that opens to reveal obedience and sadness: His tears scarred her hand. ‘You’re coming with me, then? You’ll come?’
‘No,’ she breathed. She lifted his head and looked into his face. It was dented and swollen, almost out of recognition. ‘I can’t go with you,’ she said. ‘I can’t stay,’ said Chanu, and they clung to each other inside a sadness that went beyond words and tears, beyond that place, those causes and consequences, and became a part of their breath, their marrow, to travel with them from now to wherever they went. Chanu leaves England and his last words show the voice of dignity, love and care that he is taking with him, whereas Nazneen and the girls remain to master their lives as the decision is all theirs: Nazneen “took more rice. She took more dal. She offered more to her daughters. ‘We’ll talk about it tomorrow, or later, and we’ll decide what to do. Staying or going, it’s up to us three.’” (Ali 480). The novel ends in March 2002, and we learn that Razia turns a businesswoman in cloth design with Hanufa, Jorina, and Nazneen working for her. Karim disappeared and Nazneen had no contact for the factory, but Razia provides Nazneen with work and means to support the children and even send money to Hasina. Brick Lane has restored its normal course of life, and there “were no visible scars”; Nazneen, however, is a different person, different from what “was before I knew what I could do” (Ali 486). Chanu would write every week, sometimes talk on the phone, revealing that his work is in soap business, with a Big Boss either “encouraging” or “encouraging but cautious”; he embarked on an exercise regime; also, from him Nazneen learns that Hasina is “unbroken” and then that she has vanished, running away together with the cook, which Nazneen explains as “she isn’t going to give up” (Ali 490). The last scene in the novel occurs with Razia, Shahana and Bibi having prepared a surprise for Nazneen: with her eyes closed she could hear music and smell food, air and furniture, and, opening the eyes, she found herself at an ice skating complex, where to get “on the ice physically – it hardly seemed to matter. In her mind she was already there”, and she would do that even in a sari, since, says Razia, “[t]his is England (…). You can do whatever you like” (Ali 492); skating is a symbol of Nazneen being able to achieve formation, possess and assert identity. Brick Lane is a postcolonial novel which embodies the theoretical ideas of hybridity and celebration of cultural heterogeneity with its protagonist
Nazneen’s rejection of going back to Bangladesh and gaining her true identity, multiple vision and perspective, and economic freedom in multicultural British society. She realizes that cultural and traditional norms of her own country which are “monolithic” and ﬁxed constructions, entrap her and prevent her to develop her identity, especially as a woman. The novel is also a postcolonial and multicultural Bildungsroman by presenting Nazneen’s character development and transformation from her passive and undiscovered self to a self-conscious and powerful woman as she gets older, at the same time experiencing the difﬁculties of being a Bangladeshi migrant in Britain. Her process of “becoming” will be in a continuous progress, because living in a multicultural society means to be in a constant ﬂux, within never-ending experiences and a diversity of perspectives. Concluding Reﬂections In order to consider a particular novel to be a Bildungsroman, we need the thematic element of formation, along with change, understanding (epiphany), formative experience as a process of biological and intellectual growth; the biological development is not a must but it should contain certain components thematized as childhood experience (involving family, a provincial setting, a conﬂict, and others), education and larger society (involving professional and sentimental experiences), and above all a very important event in the formative experience (such as Jane Eyre discovering that Rochester is married) which would lead to epiphany in turn prompting change signifying formation which could be successful or not, depending on protagonist’s epiphany and change as well as on his or her accomplishment on both personal and social levels. In Brick Lane , the crucial element in Nazneen’s formative experience – which is also part of her migration experience – is her decision not to go to Bangladesh with her husband but stay in England for the sake of her children; unlike other thoughts and wishes, this decision is fully verbalized and materialized by the heroine to convey the success of her formation in both constructing and asserting a self, a personal identity. We would consider such crucial moments and such epiphanic experiences in the process of development as premises for character formation and insist on the principle of formation (Bildung ) to be the central distinguishable feature and the essential element in the
Bildungsroman literary system. Formation imparts speciﬁcity and uniqueness to this particular type of novel. In this we are supported by Bakhtin’s description, which we subscribe to, of the three novelistic kinds (the “travel novel”, the “novel of ordeal”, and the “biographical novel”) culminating in a fourth one, which is the Bildungsroman. We also agree to his argument that the “ready-made ” character identiﬁed in the ﬁrst three types of novel is replaced in the Bildungsroman by a hero that is “the image of man in the process of becoming ” (19). Thus, the Bildungsroman reveals its essential hybridity since it would form its literary system by preserving and modifying, for its own thematic and narrative purposes, many of the elements of the previous three types of novel, as well as others derived from other kinds of ﬁction, even other different genres, or from other literary periods and movements, in which some of these elements receive a dominant, deﬁning status. Such elements include the form of a ﬁctitious biography or autobiography , the motif of ordeal , the motif of journey as either externally determined or as a selfimposed exile (inherited from romanticism), the “recognition-inheritance pattern” (Moretti 205), the chronotope of the city (London in English Bildungsromane), “the metropolis, the theatre of ﬂuctuating and changing identities” (Moretti 203), as inherited from the eighteenth-century novel (as in Tom Jones ), and other elements and thematic aspects. The migration experience of Nazneen is, actually, her formative experience; in other words, the formative process of Nazneen represents migration which provides the heroine with various other sub-experiences involving the cultural clash of Bangladesh and England, the conﬂict with Mrs Islam with the regard to the issue of money, and, on personal level, her relationships with Chanu, Karim, and Razia, and, above all, the issue of leaving London for Dhaka. Facing and, where necessary, ﬁghting these experiences would lead to building identity, and overcoming them would signify the assertion of identity, meaning the success of formation on personal level and on social level. Such experiences in Nazneen’s life are reminiscent of Victorian formative experiences as determining the process of formation, which would allow us to consider Monica Ali’s novel a pastiche on Victorian realist Bildungsroman.
Nazneen’s process of identity formation, as textualized in Monica Ali’s Bildungsroman, encompasses the thematic perspectives of love, death, and meaning: her life begins with death and, with Karim, she experiences love which brings death again, where Eros and Thanatos combine to act in order to determine her to discover meaning and assert her identity. This binary opposition of love and death is paralleled by Nazneen’s own split identity which is revealed in acceptance of destiny versus assertion of a rising identity. For instance, she accepts to be a wife and is seemingly not interested in seeing the photograph of her future husband, but later, and somehow, she “just happened to see it” (Ali 17). Another example, she accepts her physical characterization by Chanu but immediately reacts, yet remaining silent, in an ironic way thinking of his rolls of fat. This is how Nazneen’s formative experience begins, a formative experience encompassing ﬁrst building of an identity followed by the assertion of this identity, both phases necessary for identity formation. Going retrospectively to the start of her existence, Nazneen’s life begins with death, which grants to her the status of an object, an “other”, later a wife given to a man. Now, and within the newly conferred to the heroine migration background, which is within East End immigrant community of Brick Lane neighbourhood, Nazneen begins to live, to challenge her status as object-wife, and the ﬁrst outcome of this experience is her split identity consisting of the existing “other” versus the emerging “self”. Similarly to a typical formative process in the Bildungsroman (which includes thematic perspectives such as childhood, family relations, education, professional experience, love, a crucial event, understanding, change, and necessarily formation), Nazneen embarks on identity building through various formative experiences of her own, namely migration, death of son, love for Karim, love for her two daughters, refusal to be obedient to fate, obliteration of the “saintliness” myth of her mother, and others that determine inner change and the acquiring of a philosophy of life. Among such experiences, love and death are regulatory principles for identity formation: Nazneen’s life represents “death” (acquired at birth) until it is replaced by “love” (for and with Karim) which leads and is equalled to “death” (her mental and physical breakdown in Chapter Fifteen, “collapse”, in narrator’s words, or the result of “nervous exhaustion”, as Chanu says). Passing through this experience of “death”, a kind of katabasis (descent into the underworld) combined with resignatio ad
infernum (willingness to be damned) – and necessarily involving the value of initiation – Nazneen is reborn, lives anew, supported by her love for children, and in this new life she acquires a new meaning of existence, experiences epiphanies, attains and assumes new believes and values. Nazneen’s experience resembles that of a hero of a monomyth, in which the psychological dimension corresponding to the self-discovery process is obvious: the “hero’s journey to the underworld not only resembles both ancient, widespread initiation rites and a natural, probably almost universal human psychic experience, it satisﬁes a human need” (Lowry 121), since the heroine emerges greatly transformed after this experience, learning the ultimate knowledge for the humans, which is that of death and rebirth. In myth and literature, this supreme knowledge provides the psychic wholeness that the protagonist has sought during his or her long and demanding quest. For Nazneen, this quest is a process of development ending at the “age of thirty-four, after she had been given three children and had one taken away, when she had a futile husband and had been fated a young and demanding lover” (Ali 16). The identity building complete, now, at the age of thirty-four, the future must be made for herself and by herself, and not to wait for the future to be revealed, or destiny to decide, which means that the next step is identity assertion – reiﬁed in her professional success, confrontation with Mrs Islam, refusal to marry Karim, decision to remain with her girls in England, rejection of the power of fate – where both identity building and identity assertion are successfully achieved in order to proclaim Nazneen’s successful identity formation. The way in which the narrative unfolds in the text, Nazneen’s process of identity formation is the main but seemingly not the only Bildungsroman, as we should necessarily add Hasina; also, Bibi and Shanan are heroines of their own Bildungsroman, and, to a certain extent, with regard to the issue of identity, Chanu reveals his own process of development. Nazneen versus Chanu, Nazneen versus Hasina, and Nazneen versus Karim: these and other dichotomies in character representation strategies reveal how Monica Ali employs, like her great Victorian predecessors, the method of binary opposition to better and clearer emphasize the full potential of the protagonist’s emerging personality.
Like other characters, Nazneen is socially subjected, culturally constructed, but, unlike them, builds and asserts an identity. She does so not through difference and speciﬁcity, as it is the case of her contemporary Sophie Fevvers, for example, but similarly to the Victorian protagonists, through her confrontation with society, culture, immigrant status, self, and fate. Bound to islamic radicalism that remains largely on the level of intention, Karim’s experience of life is a failure, as he possesses no clear identity and reveals no fulﬁlment. Concerning the Bildung of Hasina, her letters represent a parallel narrative line, or rather, a kind of epistolary narrative within the general and overall narrative in the text. The consistent presence of the letters makes the novel a kind of double Bildungsroman about the process of growth and development of two sisters, Nazneen and Hasina, but, where Nazneen’s story is closer to the essence of the Bildungsroman by its alliance to the pursuit of an identity formation and assertion, Hasina, as revealed in her letters, is more an el picara , a heroine of a picaresque tale, closer to Moll Flanders in her developmental process. Hasina also reveals failure of an individual without identity and achievement in life; she remains subjected to animal drives, passion and instinct, while eager and even obsessed to feel the protection and safety of an “inside”, to possess a “room”, to have “walls”, “solid walls” (Ali 177). As for Chanu, his Bildung is also a failure; in his condition of split personality, hybridity and mimicry, Chanu builds no identity, and, out of the two promises (confessed in Chapter Two), to “be a success” is not fulﬁlled, only to “go back home” is accomplished. The novel, in its alliance to the tradition of the Bildungsroman, can be viewed as (1) a pastiche on Victorian Bildungsroman with its sentimental, comic, and moral modes of narration; in particular, a pastiche on Dickens’s ﬁction with its employment of melodrama, idealization, and exaggeration, as in David Copperﬁeld . Chanu can be compared to Mr Micawber with regard to his failures in life as well as various comic overtones, such as when Chanu would often tell Nazneen that it is “lucky for you that you married an educated man”; however, this statement takes a serious tone at the end of the novel when he had seemingly “shrunk” saying that “I haven’t been what you could call a perfect-type husband (…). Nor a perfect-type father. (…) But I haven’t been a bad husband. Would you say? Not bad” –
to this Nazneen declares that “It was lucky for me (…) that my father chose an educated man” (Ali 459), which made Chanu grew a little. The novel can be also viewed as (2) a parody on contemporary postcolonial ﬁction, as a subversion of this ﬁctional tradition, where Chanu, in particular, is a caricature of mimicry, hybridity, a sample of double consciousness, unable to ﬁt and embraces escapism, where his life in Britain remains to have been an ironic act of mimicry. The ﬁrst feature of the novel regards the protagonist Nazneen and her formative process; the second involves Chanu, Dr Azad, Karim, and other migrants. Monica Ali achieves a kind of artiﬁcialization of both Bildungsroman and postcolonial traditions with regard to far-fetched and extended sentimentalism in the ﬁrst case, and, in the second, split personality, hybridity, mimicry, and other thematic elements pertinent to a postcolonial type of narrative. Both the Bildungsroman and postcolonial ﬁction are linked in the novel by the focus on and treatment of the issue of identity, and, despite its exaggerations, melodrama and heavy sentimentalism, the novel on the whole revives and follows the realist techniques directed with its verisimilitude on historical, social, religious, family, moral, cultural aspects of two countries. Brick Lane is ultimately a novel about migration, which is thematized as a process by means of the Bildungsroman literary system whose elements are structured to render the process of character development which would culminate in identity formation, the centre and origin of the system. The author adheres to the Bildungsroman tradition and involves Nazneen in a migration process which actually represents for the protagonist her overall experience of identity formation and which involves in turn other four aspects of her formative experience, which necessitate resolution in order to proclaim identity formation: (1) relationship with Karim; (2) relationship with Mrs Islam; (3) relationship with Razia; (4) returning to Dhaka. “You are nothing. You are nothing”, these words are repeated in the novel, these are the words that Nazneen would tell to herself, but at the end, all four issues having been successfully solved, Nazneen remains in England with her children and getting on the ice physically at the end of the novel means that the dream is reiﬁed in reality, the migration has come to its end, Nazneen has found herself and a place in the world, became an
individual subject with the awareness of possessing a self, which means in turn that her developmental process has ended and the identity formation has been successfully achieved. The assertion of the refusal to leave England reveals also that the acquired identity has been asserted – a “girl from the village” has become the “real thing” – which places Nazneen in the line of such famous literary characters as David Copperﬁeld and Jane Eyre, and discloses that she has acquired a place in the “Third Space”. References Ali, Monica (2004). Brick Lane . London: Black Swan. Argyle, Gisela (2002). Germany as Model and Monster: Allusions in English Fiction, 1830s-1930s. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. Bakhtin, M.M. (1981). “Epic and Novel”. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays . Ed. Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press. Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). “The Bildungsroman and Its Signiﬁcance in the History of Realism: Toward a Historical Typology of the Novel”. In: Speech Genres and Other Late Essays . Ed. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press, pp.10-59. Bhabha, Homi K. (1994). The Location of Culture . New York: Routledge. Giddens, Anthony (1991). Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age . Cambridge: Polity Press. Lowry, Shirley Park (1982). Familiar Mysteries: The Truth in Myth . Oxford: Oxford University Press. Moretti, Franco (2000). The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture. London: Verso. Moslund, Sten Pultz (2010). Migration Literature and Hybridity: The Different Speeds of Transcultural Change. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Upstone, Sarah (2007). “Same Old, Same Old”. Journal of Postcolonial Writing , 43:3, pp.336-349. Weedon, Chris (2008). “Migration, Identity, and Belonging in British Black and South Asian Women’s Writing”. Contemporary Women’s Writing , 2:1, pp.17-35
CHAPTER 2 THE MIGRANT FEMALE WRITER, ORIGINALLY FROM MUSLIM COUNTRY IN THE LITERARY FIELD: A SOCIOLOGICAL APPROACH Francesco Bellinzis  To understand how many narratives have been concealed by a dominant narrative which nulliﬁes others, it is important to reopen the archives of European contemporary literature through the critical voice of a migrant female writer, originally from a Muslim country. The literary production of female migrants originally from Muslim countries does not allow for the creation of an objective scientiﬁc analysis of the social condition of this subject, however, it allows understanding of the different products of cultural representations of her. In the literary landscape, a novel is a fundamental space in which to draw symbolic boundaries. As Spivak afﬁrms: “the role of literature in the production of cultural representation should not be ignored” (Spivak, 1988, p. 243). We can use novels written by migrant writers originally from Muslim countries to rethink which boundaries, political and cultural, this subject could cut or cross in her artistic representation. The production of novels written by Muslim women is the furthest point of otherness for the watchful eye of the "fortress Europe" (Sassen, 2013). That is why, for a sociological approach to these literary productions, it is important to consider the different degrees of otherness and strangeness that are constructed in the literary ﬁeld (Bourdieu, 1993; Alcalde, 2011). This article argues that in order to understand the symbolic relations, between a migrant background of a female writer and a cultural production, circulation, and perception, it is appropriated, don’t leave the producer aside, considering the speciﬁcity of this subject and also don’t ignore the speciﬁcity of the social universes (literary ﬁeld) where she is positioned (Bourdieu,1993; Sapiro,2012). The
symbolic and power relations between a migrant background and a cultural production remains underexplored in the approach of the sociology of migration and sociology of art. If, in the past, the European publishing industry used to ignore and silence the views and ideas of migrant women, in later years it markets these voices and creates a new position in the ﬁeld for these kinds of writers (Brouillette, 2007; Eagleton, 2010). In a different national ﬁeld, such as in the English, French, Spanish and Italian context, it is possible to observe the signiﬁcant presence of these authors. Armando Gnisci (2003) analyses from his comparative approach how the literary productions of migrant writers have introduced in the European literature, new languages and styles. The number of migrant female writers is signiﬁcant in migrant literature, especially in recent years. For example, in Italy more than 40% of migrant literature production, it is written by women (Comberiati, 2007; Sabelli, 2007; Mengozzi, 2013). A speciﬁc segment of publishing industry has allowed to the migrant female writer to ﬁnd a space that in other segments of this industry is more difﬁcult to achieve (Gnisci, 1998). Although these writers have found new opportunities to speak in the contemporary literary ﬁeld, there are external constraints that limit their representations. The question that I would propose with regard to this kind of writer is “how does the subaltern (as a migrant female writer) achieve a space of representation in the literary ﬁeld?” This question is connected to the provocative Spivak request (1988) “Can the Subaltern speak?”, but it adds three important points: Firstly, the speciﬁc ﬁeld where this subaltern tries to have a voice, that is, the literary ﬁeld; secondly, which effort she makes to obtain a position, that is, to be a writer; and ﬁnally which tool she uses, that is a novel. Extending the term of Grasmci’s “subaltern” (1985) we can attribute it to a disempowered group, expressed in terms of class, age, generation and gender (Chambers, 2006). On the one hand, the focus of this approach is to understand which kind of subalternity these writers suffer from, we could consider them as women, migrants, or as Muslims. On the other hand, it is important to understand how these different marginalities are connected with a speciﬁc space, the literary ﬁeld. In other words, I am looking for an interdisciplinary dialogue between literature and sociology. As Spivak (1988) points out, artistic representation - as found in the genre of the novel
- could be an alternative counter-narrative to resist and deconstruct the colonial archive. These subaltern writers, as migrant women, have many boundaries to cross that allow them to exist in the literary space and to be heard. If with a postcolonial approach, we can understand the importance of postcolonial literature as a counter-narrative that can challenge the dominant discourse and the colonial archive, with Bourdieu’s ﬁeld theory we can understand the way in which this counter-narrative could be produced and in which force and struggle they need to exist (Bourdieu, 1993; Boschetti, 2012). Thanks to Bourdieu’s literary ﬁeld theory, sociologists have achieved scientiﬁc tools to understand literature as a social universe, having its own laws of functioning (Sapiro, 2014). Using novels written by migrant female writer as sociological laboratory, this article develops a sociological approach by studying two related phenomena: on the one hand, the external demands (political, economic, familial and religious) that do not allow a migrant female writers to maintain a degree of autonomous cultural production, on the other hand, the social conditions of migrant female writers in the literary ﬁeld related to questions of gender, social class, race and culture. This special issue will be examined focusing on ﬁeld theory, postcolonial and gender studies. Rethink the concept of literary ﬁeld and the autonomy of cultural production by migrant female writer I will begin with the methodological and theoretical beneﬁts which have brought literary ﬁeld theory and look at the drawbacks. I can summarise two theoretical and methodological contributions from this theory: 1. The literary ﬁeld theory considers literature as a separate social universe that has its own laws of functioning. 2. The literary ﬁeld theory considers that the writer’s position in the ﬁeld is related to two counterpoised poles: autonomous and heteronomous. Bourdieu (1993) deﬁnes the literary ﬁeld as a separate social universe that has its own law of functioning, however, it is constantly related to the ﬁeld of power, political and economic. Bourdieu uses the concepts of autonomous and heteronomous poles in order to understand these speciﬁc relations of power. The key concept of autonomous cultural production is referred to a condition for freedom of creation, moreover, it is the writer’s ability to resist or ignore external demands, such as religious, familial,
political and economic (Bourdieu, 1993; Sapiro, 2012). Although the literary ﬁeld has its own law of functioning and it is a separate social universe, any writers could become ‘heteronomous’ when they follow inﬂuences, norms, or standards external to the ﬁeld (Bourdieu, 1995; Speller, 2011; Sapiro, 2012). According to Bourdieu (1995), a writer needs a speciﬁc capital (economic and cultural) and a speciﬁc struggle to resist external demands, such as market forces, and the imposition of political power, but these impositions could assume different and speciﬁc characteristics in the case of migrant women. For instance, the deﬁcit of Bourdieu’s theory is that it does not consider literature, dominated also by colonial and patriarchal powers. I suggest the novel of a migrant female writer as a sociological laboratory to rethink Bourdieu’s ﬁeld theory. I would like to show three speciﬁc heteronomous principles that can subjugate this kind of writers and can limit their autonomous representation. Table 1 . Heteronomous principle
The ﬁrst one is related to an imposition of laws prevailing in the economic ﬁeld, where success is measured by indices such as book sales (Bourdieu, 1995). In recent years, migrant women have proﬁted from their marginalities, to mark themselves positively with their stigmatization, from a particular interest from the publishing industry and the academic ﬁeld to the production of novels written by migrant women (Eagleton, 2010). It is important to break the fake image of creator uncreated, so we have to highlight that market interests and academic interests shape and offer a ghettoized position for these kinds of authors (Bourdieu, 1993). As Huggan
(2002) has pointed out, the market for the exotic is a representational process that markets the margin and produces cultural voyeurism and literary tourism. According to Cazenave (2003), I consider that this marketing of margins in the literary production of a migrant is related to the desire of the European audience for exoticism, but this desire is different to postcolonial literature because it is an exoticism internal to European culture. This internal exoticism is particularly evident in the second generation migrant. For instance, the Italian writer originally from Somalia, Igiaba Scego (2016), was the ﬁrst Italian writer with a migrant background that denounced the essentialist and homogenous label of a migrant writer in the Italian literature. She also denounced the imposition of the publishing industry into a homogenous representation. Igiaba Scego (2016) was ﬁnally able to reject the publisher’s imposition in the novel Adua (Scego, 2015) to use her image in the book’s cover. Many novels or no ﬁction books written by migrants or exiled women show in the cover the writer’s face as a brand of an exotic book. From Scego’ novels to Guène’s novels, using the writer’s face in the cover distinguishes the exotic trend that the publishing industry has prepared for these kinds of authors. The second heteronomous principle is related to the political demands that construct a forced identity regarding migrant women, speciﬁcally if they are originally from a Muslim country. As Dasetto (2005) points out, another relevant issue is that western culture has been constructed in the essentialist and dominant discourse in opposition to Muslim culture, and Muslim culture in a fundamentalist and essentialist discourse has been constructed in opposition to Western Culture. Identity narratives in this political process divide the world into “us” and “them”. The construction of a Muslim woman in Europe is related to the ethnic racist dominant discourse. The dominant stereotype about minority women ignores differences of culture generation and class and reinforces the homogenization of culture (Yuval Davis, 1997). Fighting against the construction of boundaries that uses the woman as the bearer and burden of difference, is one of the most important challenges for minority women writers. Related to these issues, I remember one interesting episode during the festival of contemporary Arab culture, Shubbak in London: someone from the audience asked the Omani author Jokha al-Harthi if she felt herself to be representative of women in her culture and she answered “I’m not a minister of tourism or a minister of women of my country, I would like to
represent only myself”. This answer is very emblematic and it is useful to rethink the struggles and cultural capital that minority female writers need to overcome forced identities. Moreover, in order to understand these issues we have to connect forced identities with a racist and political discourse but also with the publishing industry and literary ﬁeld in general that impose speciﬁc identities to minority women writers. According to Meizoz (2010) we can use the term literary identity for an identity shaped by the author and by the horizon of reception of his books. Migrant female writers are associated with a speciﬁc bearer of literary identity, for example, Jokha alHarthi with Arab women or Igiaba Scego with Black women. This association produced in the literary ﬁeld can ghettoize these writers in an uncomfortable position, and also does not allow them to represent themselves in a more autonomous way. The European literary ﬁeld offers a space of representation of Muslim women but in this space, there are colonial powers that reinforce the difference between “us” and “them”. The third heteronomous principle is related to the controversy within family and migrant community. Marta Segarra (2010), considers that the female writer’s silence, considering silence in both aspects, material and symbolic, is associated with the role of a woman as the guardian of honour and decency. Publishing a book is not accorded with respect to this role as guardians of decency. Moreover, their representation of a Muslim woman in the novel, can provoked controversy within the migrant community. The condition for freedom of creativity, for a migrant female writer is also limited by the community migrant control. For instance, the English writer, Monica Ali, in order to achieve autonomy and freedom, has faced the Bangladeshi community in Britain. In her novel, Brik Lane (Ali, 2003), she had freely portrayed people from her community migrant, that is why, she had provoked outrage and controversy. The Catalan writer, Najat El Hachmi, originally from Morocco, in the novel The Last Patriarch (2008), had portrayed the patriarchal relations in a Moroccan family, after and before migration. This novel was a taboo for her family, and in order to achieve more freedom and autonomy to portray the patriarchal power in her culture, she had used a foreign language (Catalan) in her country of origin (Morocco) and a language that her parents were not able to read (Bellinzis, 2018). According to the Algerian writer Lamri (2002), on the one hand, if the mother tongue protects, the foreign language releases. It is very detrimental to migrant women, writing and being positioned between a
racist hegemonic discourse and also a patriarchal discourse, however, an autonomous process of creation offers different strategies to ﬁght against these powers. One of these strategies is the power of tales that I will analyse in the next section, considering the social condition of the migrant female writer. Social conditions of migrant female writers in the literary ﬁeld: questions of gender, social class, race and culture Starting from the famous Arab book, One thousand and one nights , the imaginary solution to destroy the patriarchal system for women is related to the power of tales. Telling stories or writing novels could still be powerful for migrant women ﬁghting against colonial and patriarchal domination, but it is important to understand if the capital necessary to obtain this power could be assigned in an inequitable way. According to Virginia Woolf (1989), the marginality of female writers is not only related to the patriarchal literary norms but also to an inequality in the educational system. For this reason, it is important to understand how cultural capital is distributed in the ﬁeld, and how the migrant female writer can obtain it. The condition of entry in the ﬁeld is related not only to the social class of a female writer but also to her ethnic origin and culture. Recently, in literary critique, the cultural has colonized the social, but the sociological analysis cannot omit other markers. I have introduced in this analysis this kind of female writer, for the interconnection of culture and social class presented in their literary trajectories. For instance, I can mention two important migrant writers originally from Muslim country: Najat El Hachmi and Igiaba Scego. La mia casa è dove sono by Scego, and The Last Patriarch by Najat El Hachmi are emblematic literary cases because in their novels the important topic of migration is related to the cultural conﬂict in Europe about Muslim people. These writers are migrant but from Muslim countries and they offer a useful case study. To begin with this important issue, and with my ﬁrst research’s question, it is important to explain some important points of two counter-opposed approaches. First of all, I would like to rethink the marginality of the writer as women originally from Muslim countries and highlight the limits of western feminist theory to address these interconnections. Western feminist produces a unitary category of woman, for this reason, it is not able to incorporate the marginality that migrant women in Europe
can suffer from (Mohanty, 2010). The most evident problem of western feminism is the difﬁculty in accounting for difference and diversity (Yuval Davis and Floya Anthias, 1992). The limit of this approach is highlighted by black feminism and postcolonial feminism and it is related to the ethnocentric notion of womanhood produced in western society. Mohanty (2010) considers that in some recent western feminist theory, the third world woman is produced as a monolithic subject. This point of view is presented also in Spivak’s postcolonial critique (1988), where in her study of the subaltern, the Indian author points out that the third woman is so complex that she cannot be understood by the terms and categories of western critical theory. Moreover, Black feminism considers that white feminism omits the anti-racist struggle, for example with regard to the black woman being oppressed not only by men but also by white women (YuvalDavis, N. y Anthias, F., 1992). Although Black feminism is appropriate to understand Eurocentric limitations of white feminism, Yuval Davis and Floya Anthias (1992, p.100), according to the intersectionality approach consider, black feminism unsatisfactory because “it treats forms of subordination and oppression through race and sex cumulative rather than as articulating or intersecting together to produce speciﬁc effects”. Margaret L. Andersen and Patricia Hill Collins (1995, p. 65) two of the most important authors of the intersectionality approach, mentioned that “all people of colour encounter institutional racism but their actual experiences with racism might vary depending on social class, gender, age, sexuality and other marks of social position”. In fact, ‘Intersectionality’ focuses on the idea that the subject is situated in multiple frameworks and the intersection with social category produces multifaceted impact on the subject (Andersen, M. y Hill Collins, P., 1995). Even though the theory of literary ﬁeld and the intersectionality approach are two theories produced in very different contexts, I can point out that to ﬁnd out the position of the female writer in the ﬁeld, it is important to consider multiple frameworks and to intersect different social categories. In order to understand the mechanism by which different forms of exclusion and subordination operate in a speciﬁc space as a literary ﬁeld, we have to substitute the ahistorical category of woman with an historical category that incorporates ethnicity, gender, and class. For instance, the speciﬁc effect produced by a kind of oppression, such as the challenges of being a Muslim writer in Europe, cannot be cumulated with another kind of oppression such as being
a migrant or working class, because every kind of oppression could produce different effects (Anthias, F. y Lazaridis, G., 1999). Instead, it is necessary to articulate and interconnect these marginalities. Pascale Casanova (2001) highlights an issue that Bourdieu (1995) has only mentioned about the cultural and economic capital, which is that a beginner writer needs ﬁrst to move in the dominant position, as unequal conditions separate not only writers from working class to upper class but also foreign to a native writer. Which kind of effects are produced in the ﬁeld if a female writer is a migrant from a Muslim country but also from a working class? For instance, Faïza Guène is a French writer but also a second generation working-class migrant, this social condition not only determined her position in the ﬁeld but also her point of view of the French ﬁeld, totally different from that of an exiled intellectual with a high cultural capital like Assia Djebar. To start with this approach, it is important to show that the marginality of the migrant writer is not static but plural and the migrant’s condition must be demonstrated in other multifaceted categories (Lahire, 1998). Some consecrated female writers from Muslim countries, such as Djebar or Mernissi have transformed their marginality as Arab woman into a new literary value, in order to ﬁnd a position in the European literary ﬁeld (Bellinzis, 2015). They have introduced into the ﬁeld a new form of literary capital related to their cultural traditions. First of all, I would like to mention the literary canon of Arab literature that with the Shahrazad narrative tradition brings the oral narrative form into writing, and also shows that the female Arab writer/narrator uses the power of tales against the patriarchal system. Shahrazad is a model and a template and a common theme in the way European literature will perceive female writers originally from Muslim countries, this theme is the patriarchal system. But this important relation between novels and women who ﬁght the patriarchal system with the power of tales, cannot be understood without considering the ﬁeld and habitus of the writer. The literary ﬁeld is also a game where, as Bourdieu (1993, p. 146) said, the triumph card is the habitus, the embodied assimilated properties, such as language. Bourdieu’s ﬁeld theory helps us to understand not how these female writers come to be what they are but rather which position they occupy and which kinds of habitus (as a social condition) allow them to possess a literary capital or to transform it.
In the case of Djebar, she participated in the transformation of the literary capital in French, introducing new consecrated narrative form from the Arab world. If for a writer like Assia Djebar her stigmatization was to be an Algerian woman writing in French for Faïza Guène it is to be a working-class writer born in the Banlieue from an Algerian family. Djebar uses a triumph card (or embodied assimilated properties) from her culture to change and transform her oppression, and negotiate her culture to produce a new literary capital that has redeﬁned possibilities inherent to the ﬁeld. Instead, Guène cannot use these assimilated properties because there are not inherent in her social class and in her cultural capital, for this reason, she needs to negotiate another marginality, such as being a working-class woman. For instance, in the novel Kiffe Kiffe demain (Guène, 1996) she uses the slang of Banlieue as an element of originality (Mehta, J., 2010). We have to mention the cultural heritage that shapes a speciﬁc habitus, but at the same time we have to notice how through her habitus, a foreign writer can also change the literary capital and become able to occupy a visible position (Bourdieu, 1988; Casanova, 2001). The most important issue is not to understand which social categories represent these kinds of writer, instead it is necessary to ﬁnd out how they use and negotiate their social categories, as Muslim or migrant or woman to ﬁnd a position in the ﬁeld, or how they are able to deconstruct a forced identity that the literary ﬁeld forced onto them. For this reason, the sociological approach to these novels and writers has to reconsider the essentialist categories such as Muslim, Arab, migrant and the form of reaction to them. The marginality of the migrant writer is not only related to her social condition as a migrant but also to the ethnic construction in political discourse that produces a category of markers on the margins, such as the construction of Black literature in the English literary ﬁeld or even Black women’s literature. With ethnicity reduced to culture and culture reduced to a ﬁxed, essentialist category, a dominated position for minority women in the ﬁeld is produced. The ﬁxed category of black or blackness is a stereotype and ignores the variability within this position. The theory of borders has contested this ﬁxed category, for instance, Avtar Brah (2010) uses the concepts of diaspora and borders in a conceptual grid for historicised analysis of contemporary transnational movements of people and cultures. This focus of borders is mentioned in the famous book Borderlands, where Gloria Anzaldua (1999) constructs her deconstruction
with a tolerance for contradiction and a tolerance for ambiguity: “She learns to be an Indian in Mexican culture, to be a Mexican from an Anglo point of view” (Anzaldua, 1999, p. 78). The second generation of migrant writers has played an important role in deconstructing boundaries. For instance, in the Catalan case, the writer originally from Morocco, Najat El Hachmi, identiﬁes herself as a member of a border generation in “Jo tambe só catalana” (2004), because she lives as a migrant in constant relationships with the border, both physical and symbolic: Sóc un esgraó intermedi, formo part del que jo anomenaria generació de frontera, altrament mal dita segona generació (El Hachmi, 2004, p. 45). I am an in-between step, I belong to the border’s generation that is wrongly said second generation (My translation). El Hachmi in her second novel, The last Patriarch (2008), has overcome the linguistic boundaries between her mother tongue and the language learnt in the host country. Africa Vidal Claromonte (2012, p.249) points out that El Hachmi, in her novels translates one culture to another, and according to Cronin (2006) she live, as migrant writer, a condition of a being translated. Déu meu, fes que el pare torni al bon camí, però ho deia en la llengua de la capital de comarca perqué en la llengua dels musumlans jo no hauria sabut com dir-ho (El Hachmi, 2008, p. 226). My god, help my father to come back to the right path, but I said that in the language of the capital of Catalonia, because I forgot how to say that in the Muslim language (My translation). In this quote, it is possible to observe how the writer portrays the conditions of migrant as a being translated, a human being that lives in constantly relation to translations (Cronin, 2006). The main character started to pray in Catalan because she had forgotten how to do that in her mother tongue. It is possible to observe this condition of a migrant that lives in constantly relation to different cultures and languages in the novel of the Italian writer, Igiaba Scego. The novelist originally from Somalia, in La mia casa è dove sono (2010), asks herself who she is: black, migrant, second generation, black and Italian or Afro Italian:
Sono cosa? Sono chi? Sono nera e italiana. Ma sono anche somala e nera. Allora sono afroitaliana? Italoafricana? Seconda generazione? Incerta generazione? Meel kale? (Scego,2010, p. 23). Who I am? I am black and Italian. But I am also Somalian and black. So am I Afro-Italian? Italian-Afro? Second Generation? Undeﬁned generation? Meel Kale? (My traslation) . According to Camilotti (2014) Scego in her novel, relates a linguistic and an identity spaces, re-building the colonial history between Italy and Somalia. The Italian novelist mixes Italian and Somalian and she also mixes different narrative forms, orality and writing. This attempt to deconstruct a homogenous identity is also present in the novel Kiffe Kiffe demain by Guène (2006). The author has faced the forced identity that the French elites confer to Banlieue’s people. She describes these elites as people that: “They didn’t understand anything about social diversity or the mixing of cultures” (Guène, 2006, p. 90). The French writer has used this suburb as symbolic and metaphorical space to represent cultural diversity and heterogeneity: On the side facing the projects, there are lots of tags, drawings and posters for concerts and different oriental soirées, there’s grafﬁti praising Saddam Hussein or Che Guevara, some patriotic signs, “Viva Tunisia”, “Senegal represent,” and even phrases from rap songs with philosophical undertones (Guène, 2006, p. 90). Guène (2006) has overcome the binaries opposition national/immigrant, using a language that pretends to remix “the French of Moliere” and valorise the Banlieue’s slang (Mehta, 2010). According to Carnes (2013) this remix of languages started in the title of the novel: Even the title of the novel is a remix of sorts, taken from a moment when Doria is deciding to change her tune on life. The phrase “kif-kif” is taken from Arabic and has entered familiar French, often couple with the word “demain” (tomorrow) to mean something to the effect of “same old, same old (Carnes, 2013, p.44). According to Yildiz (2012, p.169) migrations produce multilingual communities and practices that challenge the use of a language as right of inheritance. These kinds of writers, such as Guène, Scego, El Hachmi, have challenge the European literature introducing multilingual practice and
transcultural narratives. Women writers play a strategic role in cultural representation, as Yuval Davis (1997) points out, women are the border guards of identity. Cultural production as novels is an important tool to ﬁnd out which kind of colonial and patriarchal gaze controls women’s construction as a symbol of collectivism. Therefore a novel in its autonomous pole, it is also an important tool to ﬁght against homogeneous, essentialist and assigned identity. Postcolonial (Spivak, 1990), comparative (Casanova, 2001, Gnisci, 2003, Camilotti, 2014) and translation studies (Vidal Claromonte, 2012; Yildiz, 2012), have pointed out the importance of postcolonial and migrant literature, as a tool to face a homogenous and essentialist representation of minorities, migrants and women. A sociological approach to this cultural and literary phenomenon, on the one hand, introduces in the analysis the power relations between the literary ﬁeld and the ﬁeld of power (economic and political). On the other hand, a sociological approach needs to incorporate in the analysis, the social condition of a migrant female writer, intersecting social class, race, gender and culture. Conclusions If we ﬁnd books of migrant women in plain sight on a shelf of a bookshop, we might think that it is a good step for the publishing industry. In contrast, if these writers are condemned to stay only on the same shelf forever, as a literary enclave, there are colonial and patriarchal powers that we have to overcome. On the whole, in this paper, I have rethought about the theoretical tolls that allow to observe and analyse the agency of a migrant female writer: which capitals she needs to obtain a condition for freedom of creation and which external demands can limit their autonomous representation. In order to understand sociologically these issues, it is necessary to observe the laws of functioning in the world of literature (Boschetti, 2012). Bourdieu’s theory helps us in this observation, articulated in different points. The novel written by a migrant woman is a sociological laboratory, also useful to rethink the literary ﬁeld. For instance, the writers that I have mentioned during this paper, such as the ﬁrst generation of a female writer from Muslim country in the European literary ﬁeld, Assia Djebar and Fatema Mernissi, and the second generation migrant, Faïza Guène, Igiaba Scego, and Najat El Hachmi, are some important case studies. The sociology of literature should not ignore these authors and their novels, because they are a strategic and sociological
laboratory. These forms of writing show us that it is necessary to rethink the theory of ﬁeld with an awareness of postcolonial and gender relations. To be a migrant female writer means that conditions and opportunities to speak are offered onto the word of literature and this world controls them. There are colonial and patriarchal powers hidden in the cultural ﬁelds and they need to be incorporated in the analysis of these new case studies, with an awareness of the speciﬁcs of each text and context. To sum up, a migrant female writer in many cases could be connected to a speciﬁc genre, autobiography or auto-ﬁction. The book market imposes on them rigorous roles such as writing novels only about migration or producing a kind of exoticism for the European audience; however, the female writer can react or negotiate against these roles. For this reason, it is important to understand the role of these forms of reactions and negotiations as powerful tools to deconstruct forced identities. In addition to this, the social condition as migrant women and subaltern needs to be deconstructed and analysed with different markers such as social class, generation, ethnicity, and religion. Intersecionality approach helps the researcher to situate in multiple frameworks the migrant female writer’s production and to understand how different social category can produce multifaceted impacts on her literary trajectory. These speciﬁc impacts are necessarily connected to the symbolic relations, between the migrant background and the roles and mechanism of the literary ﬁeld. That is why only an approach that relates postcolonial and gender studies with the theory of the literary ﬁeld, will allow us to understand sociologically the challenges of these literary cases. References Alcalde, R. (2011). “De los outsiders de Norbert Elias y de otros extraños en el campo de la sociología de las migraciones”. Papers, 96 (2): 375-387. Ali, M. (2003). Brick Lane. London: Doubleday. Andersen, M. y Hill Collins, P. (1995). Race, class, and gender: an anthology . 3er ed. Belmont:Wadsworth publishing. Anthias, F. y Lazaridis, G. (1999). Into the margins: migration and exclusion in Southern Europe. Aldershot: Ashgate Anzaldúa, G. (1999). Borderlands/La frontera: the new mestiza . San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books. Bellinzis, F. (2015). “Rescribir la gramática de la alteridad a través de la voz literaria de Fatema Mernissi”. In Verdet, I. and Onghena, Y. (Eds.) Tránsito: voces, acciones y
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CHAPTER 3 MIGRATION, INTEGRATION AND POWER. THE IMAGE OF “THE DUMB SWEDE” IN SWEDE HOLLOW AND THE IMAGE OF CONTEMPORARY NEW SWEDES IN ONE EYE RED AND SHE IS NOT ME Maria Bäcke Introduction Immigrant voices rarely get their time in the spotlight in mainstream media and therefore their stories rarely get the reception needed for the general public to understand what it is like to be an immigrant or a refugee, but this literary analysis of three novels—Ola Larsmo’s Swede Hollow (2016), Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s Ett Öga Rött [One Eye Red, my transl. ] (2003) and Golnaz Hashemzadeh’s She Is Not Me (2015)—shows how literature can provide precisely that perspective. Swede Hollow maps a time of Swedish late 19th century and early 20th century immigration into the United States. Extensively researched and based on authentic, contemporary sources, Larsmo highlights the characters’ toil and hardships in the new country, but he also shows their paths to becoming established U.S. citizens. The two latter novels are written by authors who themselves are well acquainted with contemporary migration and integration issues and processes in Sweden. Khemiri is of Swedish-Tunisian origin and his novel portrays immigrant life in a Swedish multi-ethnic suburb of Stockholm with a 15-year-old boy, Halim, as its main character. The Hashemzadeh family’s country of origin is Iran and Golnaz Hashemzadeh arrived in Sweden at the age of three. Her semi-autobiographical novel She Is Not Me portrays “the Girl’s” journey growing up in Swedish almost exclusively white and
middle-class Gustavsberg, and her ambition as she was accepted at the most prestigious universities in Sweden, but also the costs for her personally. The use of Gilles Deleuze’s and Felìx Guattari’s concept of smooth and striate space will help map the structures and shifts in power, agency and societal hierarchies. This paper addresses the costs as well as the beneﬁts of migration and adapting to the majority culture in fín de siècle United States and contemporary Sweden respectively, how the characters (attempt to) build a bridge between the old culture and the new and how they carve out new identities and create possibilities for themselves while navigating more or less visible social structures and hierarchies. With this as a backdrop, my aim for this paper is to draw parallels between the tale of Swedish emigration into the U.S. in Swede Hollow to more current literary images of immigration into Sweden as shown in One Eye Red and She Is Not Me , particularly with regard to agency, the acceptance or resistance to the majority culture and the negotiation of power. Theoretical Framework This section explores the need for a glimpse of “immigrant reality” in mainstream Swedish society and media and the dangers of a racialised identity for immigrant/second generation authors, as well as the concepts of smooth and striated as means to illustrate the need for constant negotiations for many migrants in a new cultural context. The blind spot in media: immigrant vs. “ethnically Swedish” experience For a long time, many Swedes, especially those who embrace normative society, have regarded Swedish society as rather homogeneous—almost exclusively white, middle class (hence not viewing working class experience as normative), and progressive. In the 1990s, this self-image began to change as the realisation sank in that a multitude of ethnicities now call Sweden their home. Calls came for a new type of literature, “immigrant literature,” that could mirror this shift, and for “immigrant authors,” who could deliver this (Nilsson, 2010, p. 27). On the same note, Gokieli deﬁnes “‘immigrant literature’ as a discourse where both ﬁctional and nonﬁctional texts build a circuit with a subversive quality to challenge rigid identity constructions” (2017, p. 267). In addition, Gokieli highlights the
problematic aspect that “immigrant literature is inextricably related to the racialized body of an immigrant author” (2017, p. 270). As such, by writing an “immigrant novel,” an “immigrant author” performs a subversive act in relation to normative society, where an “immigrant author” easily becomes judged on basis of his or her authenticity as an immigrant/second generation Swede with an immigrant background, especially in the media, which in Sweden are predominantly white and reproduces the norm and dominant narratives (Gokieli, 2017, p. 270). In an open letter and as an example of this, Jonas Hassen Khemiri, one of the most high-proﬁle “immigrant writers” in Sweden, suggests the following: “I am writing to you with a simple request, Beatrice Ask [former Swedish Minister of Justice]. I want us to trade our skins and our experiences. Come on. Let's just do it.” (Khemiri, 2013). Khemiri’s challenge for the minister “to walk through Stockholm’s streets in a nonwhite, non-Swedish stereotyped body of an ‘immigrant,’ was shared 120,000 times on Facebook and viewed more than 250,000 times on Dagens Nyheter within 24 hours of publication” (Gokieli, 2017, p. 266). Among other examples, Khemiri describes what it was like for him to begin school at the age of seven “and being given an introduction to society by a dad who was already, even then, terriﬁed that his outsiderness would be inherited by his children. He says, ‘When you look like we do, you must always be a thousand times better than everyone else if you don't want to be denied’” (Khemiri, 2013). Khemiri concludes: “it's impossible to be part of a community when Power continually assumes that you are an Other” (2013). Khemiri uses the term “the Other” in a manner close to Edward Said’s (1978, p. 2) distinction between “the Occident” (West) and “the Orient” (East), where the West intrinsically is viewed as the We/Us and the East as the Other/Them , hence establishing the skewed power relationship —West’s domination and preferential rights of interpretation over East—in a dichotomic worldview based on colonisation, imperialism and/or etnocentrism, which perpetuates the unequal power structures referred to by Khemiri (Said, 1978, 5). Over the years, many theorists in the ﬁeld of cultural studies have attempted to nuance the binary opposition between We/Us and Other/Them (Said, 1978; Bhabha, 1993; Hall, 1997). However, Khemiri plays along in this binary division and his account obediently establishes his authenticity as an “immigrant author.” By doing so he is in a position to offer his perspective, speaking from a minority
point of view, onto mainstream media and by doing so he may be able to inﬂuence or even subvert the normative view. Using the theoretical framework of Said, Bhabha and Hall, Gokieli highlights the intrinsic ”us” versus ”them” in the position of the ”immigrant author” and, following Ylva Brune, Gokieli argues that Swedes, the ”us,” are viewed as ”white, educated, progressive, liberal” whereas the non-Swedes are ”non-white, uneducated, regressive, patriarchal” etc. (2017, p. 270-71). Although a minority view such as Khemiri’s is welcomed by many and viewed as valuable input in the move towards seeing Sweden as a multiethnic country, it may be worth problematising this lens as Astrid Trotzig does as she points out that certain ethnicities are in focus, not ethnicity per se. She also argues that the ethnic lens, in itself, is discriminating, homogenising, creates stereotypical ﬁctions and is ultimately both racialising and racist (Trotzig, 2005, p. 107-110; iio-ii; Nilsson, 2010, p. 28). Hence, it can be argued that “immigrant novels” are a useful way to show a different type of “immigrant experience” than that of normative media, but it is also worth noting that the label “immigrant author” is slightly problematic. Gilles Deleuze’s and Felìx Guattari’s theory of negotiating power Deleuze and Guattari (1986) point to the possibility of inﬂuencing and changing power hierarchies, to ﬁnd ways of creating a smooth space, a level playing ﬁeld, in which individuals may create greater autonomy. In Foucault , Deleuze (1988) argues that power is in a continuous development of strategic positions and argues that it is not homogeneous but can be deﬁned only by the particular points through which it passes, in every spot where some type of negotiation – visible or invisible, spoken or unspoken – takes place (1988, p. 27-28). Spaces [or relationships] could be characterised as smooth or striated (Deleuze & Guattari, 1986, p. 34-36). Smooth space is open, anti-authoritarian, ﬂexible, but also sometimes regarded as uncontrollable and unsafe, whereas striate space is controlled, hierarchical, regulated, but also, at least for some people, too rigid and oppressive. A striate space resists change, whereas a smooth space relies on everything being possible to change. It can be argued that the binary opposition between We/Us and Other/Them has its roots in the urge to create and maintain striations, whereas the will to destabilise the same, brings the issue into a smooth context. Hence, Deleuze and Guattari stress that power is constantly being negotiated and discussed in a social space by various actors, i.e. that power [or the labels put upon individuals] is never
constant, never resides self-evidently or permanently in one particular person or organisation, but moves from one to the next as initiatives are taken, authoritative measures applied or subversive tools used. As a result, smooth and striated are in a continuous battle as striation aims to bring the smooth under its control (Deleuze & Guattari, 1986, p. 59), while the smooth uses its tools to subvert the same control (Deleuze & Guattari, 1986, p. 60). Paradoxically, the smooth contains the seed of the striated, as a society that is too unregulated tends to yearn for regulation, and people in a too regulated and/or hierarchical context tend to yearn for more freedom and ﬂexibility. Since the state (to use Deleuze’s and Guattari’s terminology) builds on striations, regulations, laws and (formal as well as informal) rules, minorities are often forced to make use of subversive techniques either to become a part of normative society or simply to be heard; to have a say in matters, especially in matters regarding themselves. Deleuze and Guattari point to “subordination, rioting, guerilla warfare or revolution as act” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1986, p. 60) in order to create a smooth platform from which to act. The more striate a state is, and as a result negative towards, or perhaps oblivious of, alternative viewpoints or perspectives, the more violent will the smoothing techniques have to be. If it, on the other hand, allows for diversity and differing viewpoints, the subversion will no doubt be more peaceful and inclusive. Analysis This section analyses how the novels highlight aspects power and authority, as well as the implementation and negotiation of power structures, in immigrant life in turn of the century (19th to 20th C.) United States and contemporary Sweden respectively. The only one of the three novels available in English is Hashemzadeh’s She is Not Me . The other two are currently (Sep. 2018) only available in Swedish. Ola Larsmo’s Swede Hollow Larsmo’s novel is ﬁctional but extensively researched and based on authentic, contemporary American sources, highlighting these from an immigrant, in this case Swedish, perspective. At its centre, we ﬁnd the Klar family, who has emigrated from Swedish Örebro to the U.S. In order not to be labelled “a dumb Swede,” the father of the Klar family, Gustav Klar, has made it a priority to improve his work skills, to thoroughly understand the
technology and how the mechanics work on the railway lines, where he ﬁnds work as a day labourer when the family relocates from New York to St. Paul, Minnesota (Larsmo, 2016, p. 112 & 376). His almost non-existent knowledge of English is a huge drawback, especially when the family arrives in “Newyork” in June 1897 (Larsmo, 2016, p. 49). Not knowing the language, or how to navigate several unknown languages, and not understanding cultural cues of the target country and its many minority groups easily brings stress and insecurity to any immigrant and ultimately leaves families on the brink of starvation. At the same time, and from the point of view of people who have lived in that country for generations and take their language proﬁciency for granted, an immigrant may appear backwards and stupid for those very reasons. It becomes clear that some of the striations in the U.S. society are based on dichotomies between knowledge and “non-knowledge.” Someone who has knowledge of the English language, and the cultural cues associated with this, is more powerful than someone who has not. Despite his mechanical skills, Gustav Klar ﬁnds himself in the position of a “dumb Swede.” This is a situation that tends to be altered from generation to generation, however. Although both Gustav Klar and his children have been born in Sweden, the latter beneﬁt from the schooling they receive upon arrival in St. Paul. They learn the language as well as how they can blend in among the Americans they encounter. For those born in the U.S. to immigrant parents, this is even more the case. Hence, there is a huge difference in the possibilities of improving one’s social standing for ﬁrst and second generation immigrants but also for those who arrive in the new country as adults and those who arrive as children. Ellen Klar, Gustav Klar’s daughter, is ambitious and yearns for an increased sense of agency. Although she has been born in Sweden, her English is quite good and the thought that revolves most prominently in her mind is “Take me away from here. Take me away from here” (Larsmo, 2016, p. 193, my transl. ). The slum-like conditions of Swede Hollow are offensive to her and she searches for ways out. Ellen Klar begins working as cleaning girl for more wealthy people in the vicinity and then lands a job as a seamstress, also in St. Paul. This is not enough for her, however, and one day she ﬁnds herself in downtown Minneapolis and she watches the typing girl as they pass by in their nice outﬁts. She decides that she wants to become one of them and covertly begins to teach herself how to type in the evenings when she is alone at
work on her employer’s type machine. She has also made mental notes of the typing girls’ appearance: ”A short jacket with a white blouse underneath. A dark skirt, ankle-length, a proper winter coat and high, modern winter shoes with buttons on the side. Many of them wore round hats that looked exactly the same” (Larsmo, 2016, p. 289, my transl. ). Ellen Klar realises that if she is to become one of them, she also has to look the part. Her next step is to secure the same type of clothes and, as a seamstress, she has the ability to adapt someone’s old clothes or get hold of fabric she can use to create the look for herself that is her target. She adapts to the ways of the majority culture and the position she aims for. Due to her diligence as well as her ability to play the part, she succeeds in becoming employed as a typing girl and joins the ranks of other typing girls looking just like her in downtown Minneapolis. She has successfully destabilised her assigned role as an immigrant and escaped the label “dumb Swede.” Ellen Klar’s commute is a long one, however, and she is constantly aware of the—real or imagined—lingering smell of Swede Hollow, which to her symbolises the smell of poverty. She scrubs herself vigorously with a ﬁne lavender soap nobody else in the family is allowed to touch before leaving for work (Larsmo, 2016, p. 311). Her family does not complain about her waking them up far too early in the mornings with her thorough washing routine and her coming home exhausted and far too late in the evenings, since her pay check is far above that of her father (Larsmo, 2016, p. 302). Simultaneously, they also watch as Ellen becomes more and more American. Ultimately, she is courted by the son of the owner of the typing ﬁrm where she works. She marries him and exchanges the insecurity and poverty of Swede Hollow for the security and an Anglo-American lifestyle on the far side of Minneapolis. They couple settles down and they have children. There is a price to be paid, however. Ellen Klar’s children never get to know their Swedish grandparents and if they were to meet them, they would not speak the same language or share the same cultural references (Larsmo, 2016, p. 376 & 405). Ellen has climbed the social ladder, transformed herself in accordance with the American norm and gained an increased sense of agency in the American society, in order to get away from her position as the Other, but in doing so, she becomes the Other to the SwedeAmericans. As her father suddenly dies from a heart condition (Larsmo, 2016, p. 388), his body completely exhausted by the manual labour he has
performed his entire working life, Ellen has barely any connections at all to Swede Hollow or to the Swedish-speaking community (Larsmo, 2016, p. 395-96). Golnaz Hashemzadeh’s She Is Not Me Hashemzadeh is a Swedish author of Iranian origin. As indicated previously, she was three years old when she arrived in Sweden in the 1980s, ﬁrmly establishing herself as a credible “immigrant author.” Her family settled in white, middle-class Gustavsberg, the novel’s “Factory Town,” with its roughly 40.000 inhabitants. Her novel, which is the only one of the three that has been translated into English, can be characterised as semi-autobiographical and the main character is only referred to as “the Girl.” The Girl’s father works as a bus driver (Hashemzadeh, 2015, p. 47) and her mother studies to become a doctor (Hashemzadeh, 2015, p. 51), but is forced to reconsider and becomes a nurse: “‘Being a nurse is a good profession,’ Mama reminded them. Mama reminded them over and over again” (Hashemzadeh, 2015, p. 91), showing her profound disappointment with the outcome. Early on, the Girl realises it is up to her to succeed in their new Swedish context, to make her parents proud and to show she is just as good, if not better, than the blond, blue-eyed Swedes she measures herself against. Her father stresses that Sweden is the land of opportunity and the she must “work hard for the future” (Hashemzadeh, 2015, p. 31). The Girl afﬁrms his view and points out that “she wasn’t planning on being second best” (Hashemzadeh, 2015, p. 31). At a very young age, the Girl has thus internalised the expectations and, just like Ellen Klar, she has no intention of becoming a second-class citizen in the new country or to be viewed as a “dumb immigrant.” Despite the Girl’s ambitions, her journey is not straightforward, as one of her teachers makes a point of highlighting the power structures and striations the Girl is up against. At a parent-teacher meeting, the teacher stresses: ”I think we all know what I’m talking about. In the real world a homework assignment here or there doesn’t make a difference. There is an order that can’t be played with. Everyone has their place” ( Hashemzadeh, 2015, p. 97). As an immigrant, the Girl or her parents, for that matter, are not supposed to succeed. Similar to the position of Ellen Klar and her father Gustav in Swede Hollow , the Girl and her father have been cast in the roles of the “dumb immigrants” by a member of the Swedish establishment and
the striations in the Swedish society become abundantly clear. Not all teachers share this particular teacher’s view, however, and the Girl gets encouragement from other sources. She succeeds in getting very high grades, which eventually become her ticket from her social context as an immigrant, “Blatte- land,” into normative society. Like the rest of the young immigrant girls in the suburbs, she hangs out with people who resemble her in appearance and she has few friends who are ethnic Swedes. Blatte is, in Swedish, a derogatory term for primarily an Arab or Muslim immigrant, explored in Lacatus (2007, p. 80). Several people point out to the Girl that she ought to aim higher and get away from Blatte-land. She receives similar signals from her own mother: “I haven’t raised a daughter to run around with Turks and Arabs. Do you understand? I expect more [from] you” (Hashemzadeh, 2015, p. 172). Around the same time, her father ﬁnds the “elite school” to which he is adamant that she apply, the Stockholm School of Economics. She is not particularly interested in economy or business, but she trusts her father, applies and gets in. On introduction day as she meets her new classmates, she realises that the dress code is quite different from what she is used to and in a very short time her high heels have disappeared and she has changed her appearance dramatically: [T]he golden hoops from Blatte -land have been replaced with small white pearls…. her hair has been cut in a bob and relaxed [hanging] softly and perfectly straight…. ﬂat-soled shoes, a cheaper version of [a friend’s] loafers, white with gold clips…. a baby-pink cardigan, a bag with the Gucci logo… purchased on a side street. Her bag looks almost real. (Hashemzadeh, 2015, p. 257) The Girl is very aware of the fact that her appearance lacks the authenticity of that of her fellow students: “She’s afraid that someone will notice that it’s fake… that all of her is fake” (Hashemzadeh, 2015, p. 257). She feels like an impostor playing the role of the “successful-girlunhindered-by-her-immigrant-background,” but nobody sees through her performance and, echoing the transformation successfully pulled off by Ellen Klar, the Girl is elected chair of the student union and graduates with top grades. She even becomes employed by a high-proﬁle company in Stockholm. She has used the smoothing tools at the best of her abilities and has managed to get to a point where she is considered very successful in any type of Swedish context. She has successfully adapted to the majority
culture, is considered “one of us” and has subsequently escaped the othering mechanisms usually applied to im migrants. Still, Ellen Klar had to pay a price for this type of social climb and so does the Girl. In the Girl’s case the price is primarily psychological. She develops anorexia, cuts her own wrists regularly before she ﬁnally experiences a nervous breakdown. In addition, she works so many late nights that she almost loses contact with her family and her friends. Purchased with her mother’s savings, her apartment is situated in one of the posh areas of central Stockholm, but she has no time or energy to make it into a home. She does not feel that she belongs there, but she also fails to feel at home in Gustavsberg where she grew up. Her context is not Blatteland, but it is not self-evident that she will be welcome in contexts usually reserved for ethnic Swedes. The Girl ﬁnds herself in between in a smooth space of her own making, but the space is not inhabited by anyone but her and in the outside world she has to live with the striations in society, striations that still, at times, exclude her simply because of her origin. Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s Ett Öga Rött [One Eye Red] The third and last author featured in this paper is the above mentioned Jonas Hassen Khemiri. As indicated, he is of Swedish-Tunisian origin and in his novel he portrays immigrant life in a Swedish multi-ethnic suburb of Stockholm with a 15-year-old boy, Halim, as the Swedish-born main character. Halim is openly negative and suspicious towards Swedish society. He encounters, and puts forward, several theories of how the Swedish society attempts to inﬂuence immigrants to become “Swediﬁed,” i.e. conform according to the striations, in the sneakiest of ways. He strongly opposes what he labels the ”integration scheme” — ”As I snuck into a lot of new toilets and painted the walls and the mirrors with stars and moons, I swore that I’d always ﬁght Swediﬁcation” (Khemiri, 2003, p. 55). In his own way, Halim actively resists normative Swedish society and chooses not to listen: ”I pressed the mute button in my brain and Alex knew he had lost” (Khemiri, 2003, p. 23). He proudly wears a red fez to school one day, but decides to take it off when one of his classmates says it resembles his grandmother’s hat (Khemiri, 2003, p. 67 & 90). Throughout most of the novel, he views the resistance towards anything Swedish as necessary and thinks about his role as a second generation immigrant: ”today I’ve realised that there is a third type of blatte that is completely free
and is the one the Swedes hate the most: the revolution blatte , the thought sultan. The one who sees through all lies and who never allows himself to be fooled” (Khemiri, 2003, p. 38). Lacatus elaborates on Khemiri’s concept of the thought sultan and states: the concept acquires a new meaning contextualized in contemporary Sweden, designating an immigrant with intellectual preoccupations and an uncanny ability to identify manifestations of assimilationist subversiveness in the political, public and personal spheres dominated by Swedes. The kind of power Halim attributes to a thought sultan is exercised subversively in the name of the anti-Swedish revolution rather than the religion of the Koran, and confers this special kind of blatte a higher status among its non-heritage Swedish peers due to his critical cunning. (Lacatus, 2007, p. 85) In this subversive manner, Halim can be said to live and breathe resistance to the majority culture and he is preoccupied with demanding respect and securing his place at the top of the social hierarchy. If he does not view himself as ”a dumb immigrant” nobody else can either. Although Halim does not know much about the Arab culture from his parents, he is very curious as an older woman, Dalanda, whom his father labels ”a fundamentalist madwoman” (Khemiri, 2003, p. 64), teaches him about the greatness of it. Many of her teachings are factually incorrect (Khemiri, 2003, p. 11), but Halim does not know that. Dalanda’s assertions makes him even more adamant not to get fooled by Swedish authorities, but it also makes his father, Otman, ironically question his newfound “knowledge:” But tell me, Halim. What do you remember from [Morocco], really? I’m really curious. Tell me about West Sahara. Or… tell me about the police’s interrogation methods. It would be interesting to know. And you might be able to tell me something about Hassan’s politics regarding poverty since you’re at it? Yes? What do you think about the luxury of the Casablanca mosque? (Khemiri, 2003, p. 97, my transl. ) As a result of this interaction, Halim runs out in search of Dalanda, but, when he fails to locate her, he sits crying on a park bench instead (Khemiri, 2003, p. 100) having experienced how some of his notions about Arab culture shatters. Otman and his friend, Lebanese Nourdine, continue to question Halim’s belief in Dalanda (Khemiri, 2003, p. 222), who responds in a very physical manner: “inside him [his heart] pounded and corrosive
acid was in his stomach and [he] concentrated on ﬁnding answers and playing cool but still his voice sounded mufﬂed as it came out. ‘How would I know?’” (Khemiri, 2003, p. 222). Yes, how would he know? Otman and Nourdine look guilty as they realise that they ought to have discussed matters with Halim, made him understand what they had to ﬂee from and how the political climate in their previous home countries had made it impossible for them to remain there. Immigrant life is not easy and education is paramount, which Otman stresses in the strongest terms to his son as he encourages him to become a part of the majority culture rather than remaining on the fringe, refusing to speak proper Swedish (Khemiri, 2003, p. 215). Otman was in his last semester at university when the coup failed in Morocco (Khemiri, 2003, p. 215) and he and Halim’s mother, Leyla, were forced to ﬂee. Otman has never been able to continue his education and this has landed him only lowlevel jobs in Sweden; currently he owns a small shop selling knick-knacks —or “rubbish” as he labels it (Khemiri, 2003, p. 216), thereby risking the epithet ”a dumb immigrant.” In addition, also Nourdine tells Halim about the cost of remaining outside of society: “But you don’t understand, Halim… [w]hat happens to a person who goes without a job month after month, year after year. One dwindles. One rots like old fruit. One amounts to nothing and then… then you die’” (Khemiri, 2003, p. 51, my transl. ). As Halim realises the truth in this, he also understands that he has to try to work with the system, the striations, rather than act as if they do not exist or are irrelevant. Painting the stars and the moons are a part of his subversive, smoothing tactics, but it is also an expensive one which may cost Alex, the extra teaching resource, his job, a fact that makes Halim reconsider his actions and attitude (Khemiri, 2003, p. 207). He begins to bond with new friends, who are less confrontational vis-à-vis the Swedish society. He gets a passing grade in all subjects. He helps introduce a more ethnically diverse menu in school. In addition, he discovers that his father is pretty cool even if his attitude towards the Sweden is more nuanced and less confrontational than Halim would have liked, and gets happy when Alex, whom he has strongly opposed, belittled and tried to shut out, is to come back after the holidays—but he does try to keep his cool (Khemiri, 2003, p. 228-252). As Nilsson suggests, throughout the novel, “Otman tries to convince Halim of the importance of assimilation into the Swedish culture while Dalanda encourages him to adopt an Arabic/Muslim identity. Both also argue that
these positions are mutually exclusive” (Nilsson, 2010, p. 29). Although Halim ﬁnds it difﬁcult to merge his two worlds, as Lacatus indicates—“the entire narrative is the representation of Halim’s struggle to combine the two worlds he likes to inhabit, namely contemporary Sweden and an imaginary diasporic land of thought sultans” (2007, p. 86)—Halim nevertheless begins to understand, in a more realistic manner, and be proud of his family’s Moroccan background, and he also seems more inclined to accept that he was born in Sweden and therefore is a product of both countries and both cultural spheres. Conclusion Although the plot in Swede Hollow is set roughly a hundred years apart from Ett Öga Rött and She Is Not Me , there are similarities between the main characters’ ways of tackling the effects of being migrants. At the centre of their novels, Ellen Klar, Halim and the Girl provide perspectives on the immigrant experience as they transition from their birth cultures to a majority, target culture. In ﬁctional or semi-ﬁctional form, Ola Larsmo’s Swede Hollow , Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s Ett Öga Rött and Golnaz Hashemzadeh’s She Is Not Me allow the voices of immigrants to have their say, but it also allows the three authors to provide alternative views of the various minority cultures not usually provided by the media, thus attempting to bridge the Us/We and Them/Other divide and, by doing so, they may be able to subvert the striate notions of mainstream culture in an almost activist manner. Ellen Klar, the Girl and Halim all try to navigate the landscape of initially unknown striations. They manage to form identities that more or less successfully manage to navigate the intricacies of the majority culture in the U.S. and Sweden respectively. They break the language barriers, the dress and cultural codes, and are eventually not viewed as “dumb immigrants” anymore. As a result, Ellen and the Girl gain access to jobs as well as social and educational opportunities usually not available to immigrants. These tools facilitate the climb on hierarchical ladders, provide a certain amount of agency not usually allowed in their roles as Others , and help them gain more power as individuals. Both of the young women show the importance of dressing the part. Their clothes become tools to create a way to belong, where they can gain entry to the more rigid, striate structures of the majority culture and they can help facilitate shifts in power, agency
and societal hierarchies. Clothes, symbolised by the red fez, are equally important to Halim, but instead of viewing it as a means to get into Swedish society, he initially uses it to maintain a distance to the same, a distance, which he ultimately realises is a false dichotomy. In any case, the clothes the three main characters decide to wear allow them a sense of agency and a feeling of belonging—either in the minority or the norm culture. The role of education and enhanced skills as a tool towards a smooth space is highlighted in all three novels. With education, especially the mastery of the majority language, comes agency and the power to negotiate a future that is less on the fringe than that of their parents and further away from the image of the “dumb immigrant.” For a young immigrant woman in early 20th century United States, higher education is not an option, but Ellen Klar teaches herself the skills needed to climb in society. Marrying an American man of Anglo-American ancestry allows her a ﬁnancial and social security she did not have in her identity as an immigrant Swedish girl. This puts her in a completely different situation than that of her father, who only has his body as an asset in the manual labour he is given. Similarly, the Girl is supposed to get a better education than that of her parents and to be visibly successful in her work. She complies. Her record as a student is outstanding and she lands a job most people, even with her expertise, would only dream of. Halim is younger than Ellen Klar and the Girl, but, at ﬁfteen, he also begins to feel the pressure of succeeding in the Swedish society, where his father has managed to navigate and make a living, but never truly successfully so; always risking being labelled as ”a dumb immigrant.” Living in a society, in which you have not grown up, means learning how to navigate the striations of the same society and to learn where leeway, a smooth space, can be created as well as what tools to use—if not, you remain an Other, not a part of the inclusive ”we.” Two of the characters in these novels are female and the third one is male. Although the basis is small, it may be worth noting that both Ellen Klar and the Girl generally act in accordance with the striations of the majority culture and use the accepted means of climbing the hierarchies. They adapt, alter their appearance and ways of being in order to ﬁt in and seem like everyone else, even if they transform themselves almost beyond recognition. Halim, on the other hand, decides not to adapt. He does not want to become Swedish, although he was born in the country and is a Swedish citizen. Do we see the differing strategies simply because males
and females tackle other-hood in different ways or does society treat men and women differently as a result of differing expectations? Are females seen as less threatening and therefore more easily included in the majority culture? Does someone like Halim get fewer chances simply because he is less accommodating and less eager to please, which could reinforce the vicious circle he as a young male of immigrant background often ﬁnds himself in? Halim has a tendency to root for the more violent solutions, i.e. “subordination, rioting, guerilla warfare or revolution” to use Deleuze’s and Guattari’s terms, which would prove more disruptive to the striations of the state, whereas both female characters in these two examples work with society’s striations. Regardless of the approach, there are costs as well as beneﬁts. The beneﬁts for Ellen Klar and the Girl are hierarchical climbs and ﬁnancial security, but the costs of adapting are almost too heavy. Ellen has very little contact with her family since she has become “American” and raises her children to be Americans rather than Swedish-Americans. The Girl has succeeded both academically and in her workplace, but she works far too much and is unhappy to the point of self-harm. The cost of adapting to the point of obliteration has taken its toll. Both have failed to build bridges between the old culture and the new. Both have closed the door on their “in between” backgrounds, to use another of Deleuze’s and Guattari’s terms. Being “in between” is that which is not allowed or possible in the striations of the state. Being “in between” challenges the state. As a result, both Ellen Klar and the Girl have been forced to leave their “in between-ness” behind and adopt new identities in line with the striations in the majority culture. They have assimilated, let go of the parts of themselves that do not ﬁt into the American or Swedish cultural narrative. Halim’s costs may lie in his future, depending on the path he chooses. His pride in the Moroccan heritage indicates that he will attempt to merge the Swedish and the Moroccan, but as readers, we do not know whether he will succeed. What both Ellen Klar and the Girl primarily wish is to be viewed as individuals, not representatives of their minority culture, but in doing so they risk losing their origin. Halim, on the other hand, does not want to lose his origin, but he instead risks losing his link to the Swedish society into which he was born. All three authors highlight the fact that immigration can be excruciatingly difﬁcult and all three indicate that there is always a price to pay—if only to use the smoothing tools to subvert taken-for-granted
hierarchical structures and show mainstream culture that the experiences of immigrants are more multi-faceted than they might think. Mainstream, normative, striated society’s effects on individuals cannot be overestimated. What happens to those who do not ﬁt the mould and ﬁnd it difﬁcult or even impossible to conform? What type of leeway can be found? Can normative society move in a direction where there is a larger tolerance of those who ﬁnd themselves in between or are simply different? Today, we see a reversed development as politics have become increasingly polarised, and some parties—as well as individuals—move further and further in a conservative direction. As a result, only the mainstream, or a version of the same, is viewed as acceptable and sanctions are being placed upon people who ﬁnd themselves as little as an inch outside of this, whatever the reason may be. As the stories of Ellen, the Girl and Halim indicate, as the accepted becomes more and more narrow, there is a risk the human costs will be severe. References Behschnitt, W., and T. Mohnike. (2007). “Interkulturelle Authentizität? Überlegungen zur 'anderen' Ästhetik der schwedischen 'invandrarliteratur.'" Über Grenzen: Grenzgänge der Skandinavistik. Eds. Wolfgang Behschnitt and Elisabeth Hermann. Würzburg: Ergon. 79-100. Benedictsen Blaagaard, B. (2006). “Relocating Whiteness in nordic Media discourse.” Rethinking Nordic Colonialism 5: 1–24.http://www.rethinking-nordic colonialism.org/ﬁles/pdf/act5/eSSaYS/Blaagaard.pdf. Bhabha, H. K. (1993). “The Postcolonial and the Postmodern: The Question of Agency.” The Cultural Studies Reader. Ed. Simon During. London: Routledge. 189-208. Brune, Ylva. (2002). “‘Invandrare’ i mediearkivets typgalleri.” in Maktens (o)lika förklädnader: kön, klass & etnicitet i det postkoloniala Sverige, edited by Paulina de los Reyes, Irene Molina, and Diana Mulinari, 150–79. Stockholm: Atlas. Deleuze, G. (1988). Foucault . Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1986). Nomadology: The war machine. New York, NY: Semiotext(e). Gokieli, N. (2017). “I want us to trade our skins and our experiences”: Swedish Whiteness and “Immigrant Literature.” Scandinavian Studies , Vol. 89, No. 2, Nordic Whiteness (Summer 2017). U of Illinois P. 266-286 Hall, S., Ed. (1997). Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices . London: Sage.
Hashemzadeh, G. (2015). She Is Not Me. London: World Editions. Khemiri, J. H. (2003). Ett Öga Rött . Stockholm: Norstedts. —-. (2013). “An Open Letter to Beatrice ask.” transl. R. Willson-Broyles. Asymptote , april. https://www.asymptotejournal.com/nonﬁction/jonas-hassen-khemiri-an-openletter-to-beatrice-ask/ (accessed Sep 28, 2018). Lacatus, C. (2007). “What is a blatte ? Migration and ethnic identity in contemporary Sweden.” Journal of Arab and Muslim Media Research, Volume 1 Number 1. UrbanaChampaign: U. of Illinois P. Larsmo, O. (2016). Swede Hollow . Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. Mohnike, T. (2006). "Doppelte Fremdheit: Zur Verschränkung und Konstitution von poetischer und kultureller Alterität in Alejandro Leiva Wengers Till vår ära und seiner Rezeption." Der Norden im Ausland—das Ausland im Norden: Formungen und Transformation von Konzepten und Bildern des Anderen vom Mittelalter bis heute. Ed. Sven Hakon Rössel. Wien: Praesens. 150-8. Nilsson, M. (2007). “Literature and Diversity." Paper presented at the conference INTER. The Advanced Cultural Studies Institute of Sweden (ACSIS). Norrköping 11-13 Jun. 2007. Linköping U. Electronic P. http://\vww.ep.liu./ecp/025. —-. (2008). “Litteratur, etnicitet och föreställningen om det mångkulturella samhället." Samlaren 129: 270-304. —-. (2010). “Swedish ‘Immigrant Literature’ and the Ethnic Lens: The Representation of Cultural Diversity in Jonas Hassen Khemiri's Ett öga rött and Marjaneh Bakhtiari's Kalla det vad fan du vill.” Scandinavian Studies 1:84. Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study . 27-58. Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. New York: Random House. Trotzig, A. (2005). "Makten över preﬁxen." Orientalism på svenska. Ed. Moa Matthis. Stock- holm: Ordfront. 104-27.
CHAPTER 4 COERCED MIGRATION, MIGRATING RHETORIC: THE ‘FORKED TONGUE’ OF NATIVE AMERICAN REMOVAL POLICY IN THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY UNITED STATES Estella Ciobanu Introduction Soon after his inauguration as President of the United States, on 23 March 1829 Andrew Jackson addressed the Creeks and their allies thus: Friends & Brothers, By permission of the Great Spirit above, and the voice of the people, I have been made a President of the United States, and now speak to you as your father and friend, and request you to listen. . . . Where you now are, you and my white children are too near to each other to live in harmony and peace. Your game is destroyed, and many of your people will not work and till the earth. Beyond the great River Mississippi, where a part of your nation has gone, your father has provided a country large enough for all of you, and he advises you to remove to it. There your white brothers will not trouble you; they will have no claim to the land, and you can live upon it you and all your children, as long as the grass grows or the water runs, in peace and plenty. It will be yours forever. For the improvements in the country where you now live, and for all the stock which you cannot take with you, your father will pay you a fair price. (112) It cannot be overstated how condescending the I/father–you/my children dichotomy sounds.  (Neither the ‘Friends & Brothers’ interpellation nor
the spurious ‘your father and friend’ self-identiﬁcation nor the euphemistic ‘advises’ can mitigate its hierarchical thrust.) Some modern readers may not ﬁnd such paternalism offensive, thanks to their regular congress with the clergy, whose discursive subject position is traditionally that of a (spiritual) father – the self-styled vicar (vicarius , ‘substitute’) of God the Father. President Jackson assumes here a comparable lordly position, yet one endorsed, he claims, from heaven (the deity) to earth (white male ballot). Claims to the natives’ land had long been sounded as an authority-related argumentum by verecundiam in appeals by European settlers to the charts issued by their monarchs as enforcers of Christianity, hence allegedly of God’s will. Granted that the differential governmental traditions and the European ruse – we have a chart to support our claim to your land; can you produce yours? – must have taken the natives by surprise. But did the ruse appear to them as the Great Spirit’s hand? Decidedly not.  President Jackson’s is but a ﬂimsy rhetoric of brotherhood, of family ties or perhaps (literally) blood ties, soon to reveal its deadly force through bloodshed and the shedding of tears. This paper studies two representational dimensions of the nineteenth-century Indian removal project. One concerns accounts of the Native Americans’ forced westward migration, examined respectively in the memoir of a sympathetic white soldier and a painting which celebrates white expansionism as the civilising drive of translatio imperii . The other dimension becomes apparent, I submit, in the rhetoric of both President Andrew Jackson and Native American chiefs, as suggested by occurrences of the ‘forked tongue’ metaphor respectively to disclaim and to impute the whites’ treacherousness in bilateral intercourse. The natives’ rhetoric, I argue, indicates a salient dimension of cultural contact: the capacity of discursive forms to migrate, i.e., to be appropriated by the disempowered so as to serve their own political ends. Not the respectively forced and triumphalist migration of the natives and settlers is represented here discursively, but a cultural form of translatio imperii . Nonetheless, grow as they may, through enculturation, a forked tongue able to expose the whites’ false dealings, the natives cannot stake a claim, with binding force, for their ancestral land; their rhetorical self-empowerment does not have the whites’ rhetoric’s (militarily backed up) legal force.
The Whites’ Representations of Westward Migration One of the soldiers who participated in the Cherokee Indian removal (1838–1839), private John G. Burnett, writes in his memoir: I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven at the bayonet point into the stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into six hundred and forty-ﬁve wagons and started toward the west. . . . On the morning of November the 17th we encountered a terriﬁc sleet and snow storm with freezing temperatures and from that day until we reached the end of the fateful journey on March the 26th 1839, the sufferings of the Cherokees were awful. The trail of the exiles was a trail of death. They had to sleep in the wagons and on the ground without ﬁre. And I have known as many as twenty-two of them to die in one night of pneumonia due to ill treatment, cold and exposure. . . . (143) At the time of writing, in December 1890, Burnett was celebrating his eightieth anniversary; at the time of Cherokee removal from the Smoky Mountain Country, he was a youthful mounted infantry soldier sent on this mission as an interpreter. On recollecting the ‘ 4,000 silent graves’ along the Trail of Tears, Burnett stresses that ‘covetousness [emphasis added] on the part of the white race was the cause of all that the Cherokees had to suffer’ (144): In the year 1828, a little Indian boy living on Ward creek had sold a gold nugget to a white trader, and that nugget sealed the doom of the Cherokees. In a short time the country was overrun with armed brigands claiming to be government agents, who paid no attention to the rights of the Indians who were the legal possessors of the country. Crimes were committed that were a disgrace to civilization. Men were shot in cold blood, lands were conﬁscated. Homes were burned and the inhabitants driven out by the gold-hungry brigands. (144) Burnett interprets history afresh. Neither willingly undertaken nor ﬁnancially driven, the Cherokees’ westward migration from Georgia to Oklahoma lacked any ties with civilisation. In fact, spurious arguments about ‘civilisation’ as the motor-force of migration referred not to the Cherokees (viz., one of the ‘Five Civilised Tribes’) – for whom it should
have been a motivational drive (viz., an aspiration) – but rather to the whites. The anti-covetousness Tenth Commandment (Exod. 20:17; Rom. 13:9, King James Version) meant nothing to the good white Christians of Georgia, whose civilised and humane veneer was but skin deep.  By 1890, moreover, Burnett complains, US history books had remained silent on the subject of Cherokee removal, with its atrocities vis-à-vis ‘a helpless race’ – ‘the blackest chapter on the pages of American history’ (145). Nonetheless, Burnett hopes that ‘future generations will read and condemn’ the ‘enormity of crime’ (145). Was Burnett’s retrospective understanding of the Cherokee case as ruthless depredation one shared by other whites regarding the Indian removal policy?  Or, rather, was the policy one wilfully (mis)construed as the progress of civilisation at war with native wildness? Or perhaps as a triumphalist expansionist march of the whites? In 1872 American painter and lithographer John Gast (1842–1896) proclaimed American progress already in the title of a painting  commissioned by George A. Crofutt. A glorious, deiﬁed ‘America’ – gold star gracing her head – hovers, larger than life, above the white trail-blazers riding, driving or walking westwards in the right three-fourths of the composition. Her majestic light-bathed (perhaps also light-emanating) body divides the canvas vertically to create an oppositional, if spatially unequal, east to west historical unfolding of the country. Her light conquers the space and separates (as well as inescapably merging) east from west; sunshine from clouds; rolling hills from rugged landscape; European settlers – who prospect the new territory (the foremost one of them weapon in hand), travel or till the land – from native buffalo hunters; trains, stagecoaches, covered wagons and ox-driven ploughs, as well as steamships in the distance, from wild horses and buffaloes. Brieﬂy, the composition delimits orderly onward march, however complex in its manifestation, from chaotic galloping, however stereotypically reduced. The ‘Indians’, like the buffaloes, ﬂee away from the order-imposing whites – from what Crofutt aptly dubbed the ‘Star of Empire’, by which he signiﬁed, contra historical fact, imperialism as a benign force equalling excellence. Ironically, the Euro-American left-to-right reading style poises the natives as wild resisters – rather than as defeated subject – to the sweeping east-to-west white settlement-aimed migration and/or north-to-south American expansionism through annexation of Mexican and other territories. Furthermore, the Euro-
American left-to-right and top-down reading style – which trains the eye how to ‘read’ images too – suggests what others, like John Winthrop, had done before Gast: legitimate American expansionism and colonisation as providential commission. Gast’s ‘America’ is the allegorised (and therefore necessarily female) dis/embodiment of the class of pioneers whose progression inland would prompt American presidents like Andrew Jackson to ﬁnd the natives always already unbearably close to white settlements. In even more abstract terms, Gast’s ‘America’ dis/embodies – if through a disavowed gender reversal – the Genesis 1 picture of the spirit of God creating the universe: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the ﬁrst day. (Gen. 1:1–5) The Genesis universe qua order emerges through successive divine ﬁats followed by further separation and classiﬁcation of the elements (Gen. 1:4, 1:6–7, 1:9, 1:14, 1:18). As in Genesis, so in Gast’s painting, whose biblical conceit did not get lost. In 1873, Crofutt printed Gast’s image, in chromolithograph form, in his magazine, Crofutt’s Western world; in 1878, the lithograph as frontispiece graced Crofutt’s new overland tourist and Paciﬁc coast guide (Greenberg 1, n. 2). My description above suggests little of the triumphalism that infuses Crofutt’s gloss on the reverse of the lithograph: This rich and wonderful country – the progress of which at the present time, is the wonder of the old world – was until recently, inhabited exclusively by the lurking savage and wild beasts of prey. If the rapid progress of the ‘Great West’ has surprised our people, what will those of other countries think of the ‘ Far West’ [original emphasis],
which was destined at an early day, to be the vast granary, as it is now the treasure chamber of our country?  . In the foreground, the central and principal ﬁgure, a beautiful and charming Female, is ﬂoating westward through the air bearing on her forehead the ‘Star of Empire’. On the right of the picture is a city, steamships, manufactories, schools and churches over which beams of light are streaming and ﬁlling the air – indicative of civilization. The general tone of the picture on the left declares darkness, waste and confusion. Fleeing from ‘Progress’ are Indians, buffaloes, wild horses, bears, and other game, moving Westward, ever Westward. .The ‘Star [of Empire]’ is too much for them [original emphasis] . What home, from the miner’s humble cabin to the stately marble mansion of the capitalist, should be without this Great National Picture, which illustrates in the most artistic manner all the gigantic results of American Brains and Hands! Who would not have such a beautiful token to remind them of the country’s grandeur and enterprise which have caused the mighty wilderness to blossom like the rose!!! (Crofutt cited in Conn 236) Crofutt’s civilisation vs. chaos rhetoric to explain Gast’s dichotomy recasts the Genesis idiom of making the universe into that of making ‘America’ through the white civilisation’s inroads into wilderness and wildness. Quite importantly, the American makeover, a mystiﬁcation for the expansionism undergirding it, is legitimated by being rendered visually – and discursively too – as, in Amy Greenberg’s terms, domestication (3). Crofutt’s self-congratulatory propaganda speaks to his contemporaries’ efforts to push the western frontier to the Paciﬁc.  Their self-assumed westward migration continued the early westward translatio imperii from Europe to the New Land. Furthermore, Gast and Crofutt bend the phrase – which denotes a transfer of political power – to connote the transfer of education and civilisation. In Gast, the textbook which ‘America’ holds in her right hand, in a gesture foreshadowing that of the Statue of Liberty, suggests a transfer of knowledge – indeed, power–knowledge – to the new country; its means of dissemination, the telegraph, is featured visibly as the wire which
‘America’ unwinds with her left hand to be hanged up on the poles behind her. Mystiﬁcation of colonisation as civilising accomplished! Both Gast and Crofutt trumpet the whites’ civilising role in the New World by appeal to a time-honoured European justiﬁcation of imagologies and expansionism alike, which others the colonised as primitives. Homi Bhabha (1994) rightly argues: ‘[t]he objective of colonial discourse is to construe the colonized as a population of degenerate types on the basis of racial origin, in order to justify conquest and to establish systems of administration and instruction’ (70). By imputing savagery to the ‘Indians’, the Europeans ‘monsterised’ them: the ‘technique of monsterization’, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (34) argues, enables conquerors as self-styled civilising heroes to legitimate their conquest and subsequently the natives’ annihilation through either bloodshed or social–cultural assimilation. Unsurprisingly, in view of colonial mentality, both Gast and Crofutt conveniently ignore that the southeastern Native American tribes had been dubbed civilised precisely for having adopted various white occupations. Thus, not only does translatio imperii operate indifferent to, indeed, by obliterating discursively, the natives’ progressive disowning and disempowerment in the process; the natives and their plight provide rather the foil for positing the whites’ uninterrupted onward march , an image redolent of the Enlightenment notion of progress. Forked-tongue Discourses, White and Red Let’s return to President Jackson’s 1829 speech, aimed to be delivered to the various native councils by specially appointed federal agents (Drake 110). (What would it have been like for the president to deliver the speech himself to the natives in several stations? A political form of telenvagelism before the invention of television? A speciously empathetic gesture?) Jackson (1829/2007) avers: the whites ‘will have no claim to the land [which I give you], and you can live upon it you and all your children, as long as the grass grows or the water runs, in peace and plenty. It will be yours forever’ (112). The excerpt, I argue, echoes the Promised Land rhetoric (Gen. 12:1–3; Gen. 15:18–21; Exod. 3:6–8) – and Yahweh is the prototype of good, caring father in JudaeoChristianity (woe to them who cross him!). Nonetheless, the early (spurious) promise that no one will ever claim the land freshly allotted
to the natives pre-empts their ready assimilation to a New Israel. Nor is Jackson an inconsiderate Yahweh-like provider of promised lands. Yahweh, we recall, keeps promising that Israel will own throughout the generations the land of milk and honey (Exod. 3:8; Deut. 11:9), which, however, is inhabited (Gen. 15:19–21; Exod. 3:8). What the president promises the natives west of the Mississippi River – the would-be ‘Indian Territory’, gradually reduced to Oklahoma – is part of the Louisiana Purchase and, whilst hardly uninhabited, it appears rather uninhabitable .  Nonetheless, the promise clearly elides Jackson with God, both self-entitled landlords who allot plots of land to those whom they proclaim their (elect) children. In the southeast, the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole, Cherokee and Creek had earned the ‘Five Civilised Tribes’ sobriquet by adopting many of the whites’ societal and governmental structures; enclosing lands to cultivate cotton; raising stock; and replacing the matrilineal, extended family system with the male-headed nuclear one where women became house-bound (Calloway 255–258).  Some of their (interracial) male members attended colleges; others emulated the white practice of slave holding and developed racial attitudes towards Africans (Calloway 256–257). These ﬁve ‘nations’ – now reduced to the status of ‘tribes’ in white parlance – would be suspected as resisters to the Indian removal policy which President Jackson pursued so ﬁercely.  To them would the presidential speech be addressed. Amongst the natives who listened horriﬁed to Jackson’s mystifying speech – delivered by proxy – was Cherokee Chief Speckled Snake, at the time aged one hundred or slightly over. Unlike the president, the chief addressed his people in person: Brothers! When the white man ﬁrst came to these shores, the Muscogees gave him land, and kindled him aﬁre to make him comfortable. And when the pale faces of the south [the Spanish] made war on him, their young men drew the tomahawk and protected his head from the scalping knife. But when the white man had warmed himself before the Indian’s ﬁre, and ﬁlled himself with the Indian’s hominy, he became very large. He stopped not for the mountain tops, and his feet covered the plains and the valleys. His hands grasped the eastern and western sea.
Then he became our great father. He loved his red children; but said, ‘You must move a little farther, lest I should by accident tread on you’. With one foot he pushed the red man over the Oconee, and with the other he trampled down the graves of his fathers. But our great father still loved his red children, and he soon made them another talk. He said much; but it all meant nothing, but ‘move a little farther; you are too near me’. I have heard a great many talks from our great father, and they all began and ended the same. Brothers! When he made us a talk on a former occasion, he said, ‘Get a little farther. Go beyond the Oconee and the Ocmulgee. There is a pleasant country.’ He also said, ‘It will be yours forever’. Now he says, ‘The land you live on is not yours. Go beyond the Mississippi. There is game. There you may remain while the grass grows or the water runs.’ Brothers! Will not our great father come there also? He loves his red children, and his tongue is not forked. (Speckled Snake cited in Drake 110) As one bearing the snake representation in his name, the chief knows exactly whose is a forked tongue and what such an instrument can do. Yet, I argue, Speckled Snake himself has a forked tongue, if in another sense than President Jackson has. Two aspects are noteworthy in this respect. First, the rhetorical force of the chief’s speech is as indubitable – and many have noticed it before me – as it is charming (this must be the snake again, reputed for its powers of fascination) through its sarcasm (and foresight). His rhetoric’s ethos (we, the natives, have helped the whites, yet look at their response) and pathos (‘Brothers!’ repeated in a crescendo) ‘speak to [the] ethical and emotional investment’ of his audience (Kastely 224).  Not only does Speckled Snake warn his native fellows against yielding to the president’s forked tongue, but he subtly persuades them to recall their own greatness – if obliquely, by allegorising the whites as helpless pygmies on their American landing – and act thereupon. Second, and more fascinating yet, whether or not snake-like, is the parable structure of Speckled Snake’s speech, which enhances the sarcasm (hence pathos ) of the astute chief, thus rendering his argument against white deceit ever more
persuasive. To refute President Jackson’s forked-tongue argument, the venerable chief deploys the paradigmatic teaching discourse of his white enemy’s religion, the parable as reputedly Christ’s discursive tool.  The chief can thus unpack rhetorically the forked truth of the ‘love’ and ‘promised land’ pseudo-religious argument of the US president. Love thy brother , Christianity teaches with Jesus.  But thy red brother? Or red child ? (Not taught.) The Seminole wars (1817–1818, 1835–1842, 1855–1858) were the last, and unsuccessful, attempt by a native group to stave off white forces and retain their lands (in Florida) rather than be relocated to Indian Territory. When Wild Cat, one of the Seminole chiefs, ﬁnally surrendered, he delivered a speech which includes a parable: When I was a boy, I saw the white man afar off, and was told that he was my enemy. I could not shoot him as I would a wolf or a bear, yet he came upon me. My horse in ﬁelds he took from me. He said he was my friend. He gave me his hand in friendship; I took it, he had a snake in the other; his tongue was forked; he lied and stung me. (Wild Cat cited in Langer 47, para.164) Wild Cat’s parable barely stands comparison to Speckled Snake’s in terms of rhetorical accomplishment. Nonetheless, it furnishes yet another instance of a Native American impugning the whites’ forked tongues, their deceit. Indeed, time and again did native chiefs complain that the whites spoke or acted with a forked tongue, as Samuel Gardner Drake’s The book of the Indians proves. The selfsame Book 4 from which Speckled Snake’s speech comes has gathered many other natives’ speeches, some of which deploy the ‘forked tongue’ metaphor to describe the whites’ duplicity. So does Mad-Dog, ‘an upper town Creek, of the Tuckaabatchees tribe’ (Drake 48), when he talks to the Indian agent, Colonel Hawkins, about Governor Folch’s attendance of the treaty meeting (as cited in Drake 48). According to Micanopee (or Micanopy), head chief of the Seminoles, ‘The white skins had forked tongues, and hawks’ ﬁngers’ (as cited in Drake 72) – deception and depredations work tongue in hand, so to speak. The elision of the snake with lying and treachery, ultimately with death, of Judaeo-Christian origin (Gen. 2, 3),
occurs, in Drake’s Book 5, in the speeches of Chief Little-Black, at the Four Lakes council (as cited in Drake 150), of Keocuck (as cited in Drake 174), and of Black-Hawk. When Black-Hawk surrendered himself to the agent at Pairie du Chien, he said: The white men despise the Indians, and drive them from their homes. But the Indians are not deceitful. The white men speak bad of the Indian, and look at him spitefully. But the Indian does not tell lies; Indians do not steal. An Indian, who is as bad as the white men, could not live in our nation; he would be put to death, and eat [ sic ] up by the wolves. The white men are bad schoolmasters; they carry false looks, and deal in false actions; they smile in the face of the poor Indian to cheat him; they shake them by the hand to gain their conﬁdence, to make them drunk, to deceive them, and ruin our wives [emphasis added]. We told them to let us alone, and keep away from us; but they followed on, and beset our paths, and they coiled themselves among us, like the snake . They poisoned us by their touch [emphasis added]. We were not safe. We lived in danger. We were becoming like them, hypocrites and liars [emphasis added], adulterers, lazy drones, all talkers, and no workers. (BlackHawk cited in Drake 161) Strangely, the internalisation of the whites’ model – as in other colonial contexts of the othering self-image – means, Black-Hawk argues, that the Native Americans have grown a forked tongue themselves. Yet theirs, in his description, is not a tongue like Speckled Snake’s, capable of making arguments boomerang on the whites, but rather one dabbling in (self-) deception. Strive as they might to grow a truly forked, cunning tongue, the Native Americans could never have surpassed President Andrew Jackson. Let’s place side by side one observation by Speckled Snake in his 1829 speech I have just quoted, with the president’s Second Annual Message to Congress on 6 December 1830  where it comments on Indian removal policy: When he made us a talk on a former occasion, he said, ‘Get a little farther. Go beyond the Oconee and the Ocmulgee. There is a pleasant
country.’ He also said, ‘It will be yours forever’. (Speckled Snake cited in Drake 110) It gives me pleasure  to announce the Congress that the benevolent policy of the government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching a happy consummation. The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual states, and to the Indians themselves . . . . It will relieve the whole state of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama of Indian occupancy, and enable those states to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power. It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the states; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way . (Jackson 25)  Speckled Snake is rightly distrustful, in 1829, of earlier promises made by the president, subsequently broken treacherously. Not only does President Jackson, in 1830, not refer to this history of gradual removal of the ‘Indians’ as the federal government’s breach of contract, but, ironically, he spuriously envisages their ‘freedom’ from state power to govern themselves. He does not – cannot – hail pluralism or peaceful coexistence, not in view of the lands the federal state can acquire and sell to the white settlers at an interest. Rather, his emphasis on a separation that is purportedly enabling for the Native Americans virtually anticipates, I suggest, the infamous ‘separate but equal’ legal doctrine of racial segregation legitimised by the US Supreme Court in 1896 (the Plessy vs. Ferguson case). Should we be surprised that Native American leaders begged to differ from the presidential point of view but especially suspected Jackson’s – and generally the whites’ – forked tongue? Conclusion Granted that we can see multiple forms of westward migration in the nineteenth-century Indian removal discourse and practice: the natives’ forced westward migration (through expropriation and exile) and the whites’ westward expansionism; and the rhetorical and generic migration of discursive strategies from the whites to (through appropriation by) the natives in response to arguments advanced by the former. Can we elide such
discourses with literature? If literature means ﬁction as the opposite of reality, the forked-tongue discourse of President Jackson indeed ranks as literature. If literature means ﬁction as aesthetically well-wrought discourse, the rhetorically forked-tongue (or rather cross-cultural) speech of Speckled Snake provides a ﬁne example indeed. If literature means ﬁction as the obliteration of certain discursive strands and textual evidence, then texts on the ‘whitening’ of Northern America which elide testimony such as (former) private Barnett’s or give pride of place to documents such as President Jackson’s Second Annual Message to Congress of 1830 are (bad) literature. However we deﬁne literature, ﬁction, historiography and other such discursive practices, the skilful, deliberate deployment of rhetoric to be persuasive, even if mystifyingly so, makes the particular discourse one worth studying also as literature, as an aesthetically accomplished text irrespective of the original communicative intentions and political agenda of speaker and audience. References Bhabha, H. K. The location of culture . New York: Routledge, 1994. Burnett, J. G. “Cherokee removal through eyes of a private soldier (December 11, 1890)”. Voices of a people’s history of the United States . Eds. H. Zinn & A. Arnove. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2004. 142–146. Calloway, C. G. First peoples: A documentary survey of American Indian history (5th ed.). Boston & New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016. Cerami, C. A. Jefferson’s great gamble: The remarkable story of Jefferson, Napoleon, and the men behind the Louisiana Purchase . Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2003. Cohen, J. J. Of giants: Sex, monsters, and the Middle Ages . Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1999. Conn, P. Literature in America: An illustrated history . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Denson, A. Demanding the Cherokee nation: Indian autonomy and American culture, 1830–1900 (Indians of the Southeast). Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. Drake, S. G. The book of the Indians, or, biography and history of the Indians of North America: From its ﬁrst discovery to the year 1841 (9th ed.). Boston: Benjamin B. Mussey, 1845. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/cihm_34854 Eden, K. “Analogies, parables, paradoxes. Get on down: Plato’s rhetoric of education in the Republic .” A companion to rhetoric and rhetorical criticism . Eds. W. Jost & W.
Olmsted. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 238–247. Greenberg, A. S. Manifest manhood and the antebellum American empire . New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Hine, R. V., & Faragher, J. M. Frontiers: A short history of the American west (Lamar series in Western history). New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007. Jackson, A. “Second annual message to Congress on December 6, 1830.” Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Vol. 24, pp. 9–33). Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 1830. Retrieved from https://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r? ammem/hlaw:@ﬁeld([email protected](hj0241)) Jackson, A. “To the Creek Indians”. The papers of Andrew Jackson. Volume 7, 1829 . Eds. Daniel Feller, H. D. Moser, L.-E. Moss, & T. Coens. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2007. 112–113. Jenkins, P. A history of the United States (3rd ed.). Houndmills, England & New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Kastely, J. L. “ Pathos : Rhetoric and emotion”. A companion to rhetoric and rhetorical criticism . Eds. W. Jost & W. Olmsted. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 221–237. Kennedy, R. G. Mr Jefferson’s lost cause: Land farmers, slavery and the Louisiana Purchase . New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Langer, H. J. (Ed.). American Indian quotations . Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996. Turner, F. J. The frontier in American history . New York: Henry Holt, 1921. Willson, M. American history; comprising historical sketches of the Indian tribes ... New York: Mark H. Newman, 1847. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/americanhistoryc00will Wilson, J. The earth shall weep: A history of native America . New York: Grove Press, 1999. Winthrop, J. “ A modell of Christian charity .” Winthrop papers 2: 1623–1630 . Ed. L. W. Labaree. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1931. 282–95.
CHAPTER 5 THE MIGRANT HERO’S BOUNDARIES OF MASCULINE HONOUR CODE IN ELIF SHAFAK’S HONOUR Tatiana Golban Introduction The contemporary literary and cultural studies emphasise primarily concerns such as mass migration, global movement, mass displacement, and other similar aspects of life which in our epoch assume a central position. Some historical and social conjunctions have brought to the creation of the phenomena of migration, which although not new, has accelerated greatly in the recent decades. The globalized ﬁnances and industries have led to the creation of international labour force, which has brought with itself the illegal immigration and its implicit acknowledged binary opposition between the developed and undeveloped areas of the world. The accelerated modes of transportation and communication have also contributed to the growth of mobility of people, commodities, information, capital, etc. Therefore, we witness an era of an unmatched movement, border crossing, and migration. This grand spectacle we behold includes tourists, frequent travellers, pilgrims, but also refugees, expatriates, immigrants and exiles, who in the moment of the border crossing confront with cultural, religious, social, ethnic and linguistic barriers. In this age, as Sten Pultz Moslund claims, “we are witnessing a massive international and transnational defeat of gravity, an immense uprooting of origin and belonging, an immense displacement of borders, with all the clashes, meetings, fusions and intermixings it entails, reshaping the cultural landscapes of the world’s countries and cities” (2010, p. 2). In the context of the displaced roots, nationality, birthplace and bloodlines, one wanders about the impact on individual’s identity, since the traditional identity markers do not apply any longer. The literature of
migration captures exactly these mobile identity formations, focusing on characters who are confronted with the experience of migration, with its implicit agony of the migratory world. Whether positive or negative, the consequences which are experienced by the displaced identities imply mobility, a growth or a transformation of the migrant individual. In fact, as Soren Frank puts in, the literature of migration focuses especially on “the rewriting of identities in order to evoke their impure and heterogeneous character” (2008, p. 19). This study focuses on Elif Shafak’s novel Honou r, a work which although reveals a strong emphasis on the experience of migration, mobile identity formations and the displaced identities that result from the ﬂuidity in the migratory world, remains surprisingly understudied. In an attempt to bring to scholarly attention the value of Shafak’s novel, this research aims to examine the ways in which the novelist rewrites and reinvents the displaced identities, and at the same time to reveal the novelist’s preoccupation with the boundaries of masculine honour code, which have validity in the homeland but do not correspond to the system of social regulations of the new world. In laying out the basis of the scholarship on the process of becoming of the migrant hero, this study will use the theoretical framework, which was deﬁned and used by Sten Pultz Moslund in his work Migration Literature and Hybridity , a framework extremely useful for our purpose, as it reﬂects Mikhail Bakhtin’s concepts of organic hybridity and intentional hybridity in relation to migrant hero, as well as Gilles Deleuze’s theoretical ideas which are related to movement, difference and rhizome, both approaches being relevant to reinforce the anxieties of Shafak’s protagonist. Alexander/Iskender, the migrant character of Elif Shafak’s novel, in his movement in time and space experiences various oscillations and transformations. This study further asserts that although destabilized by each of his movements, Alex/Iskender should be observed in the process of becoming, especially in the meaning of epistemological becoming, with the implicit transformation which is experienced by him when he moves away from the recognition of the world, the norms, the boundaries, the self and the other, from the perspective which has validity in his ﬁrst homeland, to a new re-cognition of the world, the norms, the boundaries, the self and the
other, by deterritorializing and reterritorializing anew, ready to emerge within the new lines of a new journey. The Migrant Hero in Relation to Bakhtin’s Concept of Hybridity The concern with the migrant hero in this study brings into attention the concept of hybridity, which originates in the philosophy of Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975). The Russian linguist and philosopher uses the term ‘hybridity’ in its philological sense, in order to describe the way in which language becomes double-voiced, even within the same utterance. Bakhtin delineates the ability of language to accommodate within the same sentence a voice that ironizes and unmasks the other. Hybridity is related to two pivotal concepts of Bakhtinian thought, which are ‘heteroglossia’ and ‘polyphony’. The former reveals the diversity of language within the same text, whereas the latter refers to different voices which are assumed by novelists such as Dostoyevsky (Burke, 2009, pp 50-1). In his work The Dialogic Imagination (1981), Bakhtin makes the essential distinction between two ways of linguistic hybridisation: ‘organic’ and ‘intentional’ hybridity. He explains hybridisation as a mixture of two languages, a confrontation between two distinct linguistic consciousnesses, subjected by simultaneous coexistence of cultural change and resistance to change (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 358). For Bakhtin, organic hybridity signiﬁes the unconscious, unintentional historical and cultural process in which everyday mixing and fusing, mimetic appropriations of various cultural elements takes place, as it happens in language. This process of exchange and unreﬂective borrowings of images, words, objects is inserted unconsciously into a culture or a language and it is far away from being disruptive or abusive. On the contrary, although “the mixture of linguistic world views in organic hybrids remains mute and opaque”, there are culturally productive effects of this encounter, since “they are pregnant with potential for new world views, with new “internal forms” for perceiving the world in words”, which serve as the foundation for future transformation (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 360). Intentional hybridity emerges from the use of the conscious contrasts and oppositions in an antagonistic confrontation, where, within a single statement, one voice is capable of unmasking the authoritative discourse. While referring to intentional hybridity, Bakhtin stresses that “[t]wo points of view are not mixed, but set against each other dialogically” (1981, p.
360). In relation to Bakhtin’s intentional hybridity, Pnina Werbner speaks of it as a form of “ironic double consciousness”, a deliberately created “collision between differing points of views on the world”, an artistic intervention which is “internally dialogical, fusing the unfusable” (Werbner, 2015, p. 5). Sten Pultz Moslund suggests that Bakhtin’s double form of hybridity is extremely useful when the dialectical model in the cultural interaction is considered. Organic hybridity is predisposed to fusion, as it arises from what Moslund calls “domestication of the foreign”, which takes place “through processes of appropriation that cause cultural difference to ﬁt more or less harmoniously with the dominant cultural economy” (2010, p. 38). Organic hybridity smoothly accommodates and domesticates the difference within the boundaries of the sameness. Moslund, relying on Bakhtin’s concepts of centripetal and centrifugal forces, insists that organic hybridity is a “variety of hybridity in which a strong centrifugal force of sameness is engaged in an asymmetrical dialectical process with a much weaker centripetal force of difference” (2010, p. 38). Out of this dialectical model a slow interaction and exchange of language, culture and epistemology emerges, a process which is perceived mostly as a continuity of the sameness . Intentional hybridity facilitates a contestatory activity, sets a politicised perspective of cultural difference in an antagonistic confrontation. It becomes a deliberate and “provocative aesthetic challenge to an implicit social order and identity”, its danger arising from the “monological, authoritative, unitary language”, which is experienced as mostly threatening by those in charge of the status quo (Werbner, 2015, p. 5). Moreover, intentional hybridity, asserts the difference from a different social, political or aesthetical position, and it might be seen, as Werbner claims, liberating, ‘revitalizing’ or even ’fun’, deliberately insisting on the visible markers of difference in order to avoid the disappearance or abolition of this difference as in the case of organic hybridity. It is fundamental to stress out that the intentional hybridity includes an intentionally oppositional discourse. Therefore, to return to Bakhtin’s metaphor, it decentralizes the verbal-ideological world and provides interaction, replacing the uncontestably authoritative unitary language with “an ocean of heteroglossia” (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 368). In a globalizing world
the dominant language and culture system becomes relativized by emphasising its ideology and ressentiment, at the same time depriving it “of its naive absence of conﬂict” which prevents the process of becoming (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 368). In fact, both organic and intentional hybridity, whether by fusion or conﬂicting, open to a ﬂuidity of language, culture and identity, replacing the former identities of stability and belonging with ﬂuid identities of heterogeneity which are examined in terms of perpetual becoming. The migrant hero, therefore, experiences simultaneously the organic and intentional hybridity, and in his collision with the dominance of the same and dominance of difference is never a ﬁxed, unchanging being, but rather someone who perpetually extends his boundaries in order to accommodate his epistemological becoming. In this context one thinks of what Homi Bhabha calls ‘newness’, i.e. “the constant state of contestation and ﬂux called by differential systems of social and cultural signiﬁcation” (Bhabha, 1994, p. 325). Bhabha’s ‘newness’ should be primarily understood in terms of dialectics of movement, of alteration of meaning and, simultaneously, as ways of perceiving the world, a concept which is related to Deleuze’s ontology, based on the concepts of change, becoming and multiplicity. Deleuze’s continual movement vs mythic quest for rootedness In the examination of the discourse on movement and travelling the famous Deleuzian concepts such as ‘lines of ﬂight’, ‘continual movement’, ‘nomad thought’ and ‘multiplicities’ come to attention, concepts that delineate mobility and migration, and, when related to the context of mobile identity formations, they bring to mind the emergence of a new human condition of restlessness and perpetual becoming that should be considered in our research. Deleuze’s philosophy revolves exactly around the inversion of the hierarchy of identity and difference, the celebration of the plurality of creation, the welcoming of the freedom of desires, accompanied by the liberation of differences. For Deleuze, difference, written at times with a capital ‘D’, is perceived as the factor which advances change or becoming. Actually, difference equals to change, since without it everything in the world would remain constant, ﬁxed, unchanging being and it would absolutely prevent becoming. As Deleuze explains,
[d]ifference carries with itself the genus and all the intermediary differences. The determination of species links difference with difference across the successive levels of division, like a transport of difference, a diaphora (difference) of diaphora , until a ﬁnal difference, that of the inﬁma species (lowest species), condenses in the chosen direction the entirety of the essence and its continued quality, gathers them under an intuitive concept and grounds them along with the term to be deﬁned, thereby becoming itself something unique and indivisible [ atomon , adiaphoron , eidos ]. (1968, p. 31) Deleuze stresses that the determination of species secures coherence and continuity in the comprehension of this phenomena. In his attempt to explain the signiﬁcance of difference, Deleuze relies on Bergson’s division of reality into virtual and actual. For him, difference exists in each of these states, primarily, as controlled difference in the dimension of the actual and as totally chaotic form of difference in the dimension of the virtual. Difference in the actual could be understood as the difference we perceive in the mundane world, which exists in our simple understanding of reality, as controlled, regulated and ordered form of difference. Difference in the actual is the only one we can perceive, measure, regulate and, therefore, control. He calls it ‘speciﬁc difference’, which is the difference between things, and depends strictly on the previous deﬁnition and identity of things themselves. As he says, the “difference 'between' two things is only empirical, and the corresponding determinations are only extrinsic” (Deleuze, 1968, p. 28). Hence, this form of difference becomes “subordinated by codes of space: categorizations and classiﬁcations [that] are acts of homogenisation, acts of subduing all the unruly difference of the world and the constantly changing nature of everything” (Moslund, 2010, p. 42). In contrast to ‘speciﬁc difference’, Deleuze places difference in the virtual, which he calls ‘difference-in-itself’, the free difference, described as a “state in which determination takes the form of unilateral distinction” (Deleuze, 1968, p. 28). The difference in the virtual is completely selfdiffering, is a ‘plane of immanence’ which cannot be measured, calculated or classiﬁed and all forms cease to coexist as harmonious determinations. Deleuze explains that
the rising ground is no longer below, it acquires autonomous existence; the form reﬂected in this ground is no longer a form but an abstract line acting directly upon the soul. When the ground rises to the surface, the human face decomposes in this mirror in which both determinations and the indeterminate combine in a single determination which 'makes' the difference (1968, p. 28). This decomposition denotes a realm which is not contaminated by any classiﬁcations, categorisations or codiﬁcations. On the contrary, everything in this amorphous state experiences a perpetual becoming, a perpetual difference. Difference in the virtual abandons any form of identity, any tendency toward homogeneity. The constant ﬂuidity discloses the unlimited heterogeneity. However, the difference in the actual and difference in the virtual should not be perceived as two distinct forms of existence. To Deleuze, the-difference-in-itself of the virtual represents pure intensity, shapeless and formless, and the valoriﬁcation and actualization of this intensity could be experienced only through matter and forms of the spatial actual. Therefore, the virtual and the actual, being both part of the real, coexist continuously and perpetuate the dynamics of movement, mutation, change and becoming. Deleuze relates these two modes of difference to his metaphor of trees and roots. Together with Felix Guattari, in the famous Introduction to A Thousand Plateaus (1987), Deleuze explains the difference between ‘arborescent’ and ‘rhizomatic’ multiplicities. Actual difference discloses the ‘arborescent multiplicities’, which is based on knowledge of totalizing, binary and dualistic meaning of being. Against this centralising root metaphor, with its implicit logic of uniﬁed principle of existence, Deleuze and Guattari propose the ‘rhizomatic multiplicities’, related to the virtual difference, since the rhizome, which operates with horizontal, nonhierarchical and trans-species connections, in its subterranean development deﬁes the organizational structure of the root-tree system and becomes uncountable, irreducible, decentred, maze-like web of roots. The rhizome conception is explained by Deleuze and Guattari as following: A rhizome may be broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines. You can never get rid of ants because they form an animal rhizome that can rebound time and again after most of it has been destroyed. Every rhizome contains lines
of segmentarity according to which it is stratiﬁed, territorialized, organized, signiﬁed, attributed, etc., as well as lines of deterritorialization down which it constantly ﬂees (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, p. 9). The rhizomic approach to culture, history, but also to identity, in the context of migration, is of great relevancy, since it reveals a subversive multiplicity, assemblages without any speciﬁc origin or genesis, which cross and disintegrate, and most importantly propagate and perennate. This metaphor of rhizome, without beginning or end, “always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo” is an image of thought that could be considered in the approach to identity, both collective and personal, since it’s neither ﬁxed, nor unique, but rather a steadily changing relational multiplicity which is successfully reﬂected in Elif Shafak’s characters, who, in the process of migration and their accommodation to new shifting social, cultural and linguistic environments, cross, disintegrate or resist to be appropriated by various dominant discourses, each time however, proving the capacity to survive the unfavourable season while incorporating, dialogizing and propagating their own difference (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, p. 12). Alex/Iskender’s Boundaries, Oscillations and Transformations Elif Shafak’s novels focus frequently on such issues as migration, hybridity, in a manner that unsettles the essentialized ideas of culture, nation, ethnicity and identity. Her novel Honour (2012), set in contemporary London, an earlier Istanbul and also in a village near the river Euphrates back in 1945 and forward, emphasizes the ﬂuid boundaries of culture, home, and foreign land and also the agony experienced by the migrant individual when confronted with the prescriptive traditions which are apparently abandoned in the homeland, but still are carried within in the new location. As the English title of the novel suggests, Shafak’s novel reﬂects some complex social and cultural implications related to gender and masculinity, offering a multi-perspectival circular debate on ways of ascribing honour in the past or present. Honour, in Turkish society, is frequently used as a name – Onur – for male children only. Although the signiﬁcance of the name may relate to the worth one has in his own eyes and in the eyes of the others, in
the Mediterranean region, it has mostly gained the connotations related to the boundaries of masculinity. Beyond the initial moral implication of the name, in an “honor culture” (van Osch et al. 2013) or a “culture high on honor” (Cihangir, 2012), the word, shaped by political, cultural and ideological interests, has grown to signify masculinity, with the hard implications of power, volition, achievement, action, violence, acting independently, but also the knowledge to rule over the others. Moreover, “[in] the traditional Mediterranean, honor is synonymous with never backing down when threatened, forcing others to back down by threatening violence, avenging insults and homicides, and, to a somewhat lesser degree, killing rather than being killed” (Fiske & Rai, 2015, p. 77). Elif Shafak tries to shatter such stereotypical representations, inviting the reader to a deeper and a more multi-perspectival philosophical reﬂection on honour and boundaries of masculinity in the contemporary migratory world, where everything is in a perpetual mutability and nothing is rooted anymore. Although the English title of Shafak’s novel is Honour , her protagonist does not bear this name. Instead, she names her character Askander – Iskender – Alexander – Alex, the Turkish translation of the novel’s title being Iskender . This ﬂuctuation of title and name of the main protagonist between various cultures and languages ﬁnds meaning in the desire of the novelist to emphasize how an individual’s personal worth is frequently related to the boundaries of honour which impose social esteem and social recognition, regardless the cultural codes the individual lives in. Born in an Eastern village near the river Euphrates to a Kurdish mother and Turkish father, Iskender, from his very birth generates ambiguous emotions which are stimulated by social and cultural implications of his parents’ background. Pembe, Iskender’s mother, is very proud and happy for being able to give birth to a son only at the age of 17, for this situation implies her empowerment, since in the narrow space of her environment a woman’s individual worth is achieved only by giving birth to an honourable son. At the same time, Pembe feels guilty and frightened, since her mother, Naze, wished desperately for her entire life to give birth to a son, dying eventually in a child labour, while delivering her eighth daughter. Although Pembe was a woman of reasonable thoughts, “she has turned superstitious abruptly, almost overnight: the night Iskender was born” (Shafak, 2012, p. 17).
Like in Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of an overcoded society, the superstitions, habits and ritual practices govern the world of the small village near the river Euphrates. Pembe, who acknowledges her identity in terms of rootedness and lineage of the family, succumbs to the principles of guilt and duty, which are transmitted through family, culture and religion. So scared is she by the nightmares she saw during her pregnancy, by “the wrath of Naze’s ghost, the vengeance of a mother djinni ”, as well as by Azrael, the Angel of Death, “that she refused to give her son a name” (Shafak, 2012, p. 21). Since in this society everything is structured in correspondence to ﬁxed codes of family and gender roles, Pembe complied to give her son a name eventually, when her son reached the age of ﬁve, but only after following some rituals which assign individuals with a speciﬁc place and function to include one in the communal structures. Thus, following the advice of the three village elders, Pembe should wait in front of a stream, together with her son, in order to await the ﬁrst one who crosses the waters to name the boy, “someone who knew nothing about the family and, by extension, Naze’s spectre” (Shafak, 2012, p. 22). Shafak mocks with Pembe’s stubborn desire to inscribe herself within the codes of rootedness and family lineage, while at the same time choosing someone to name her son that has no knowledge of her family bonds. The novelist also plays with the community’s logic of identity, since following the prophecy of an old woman who crossed the river ﬁrst and destines the late maturation and the harm he will bring to his mother later, when given the opportunity to choose between the name Saalim , one who should appreciate beauty and mercy, and Askender/Alexander, “a name worthy of a world leader”, having no qualms, Pembe chooses the second (Shafak, 2012, p. 25). In her willingness to submit to the pressure of the social and cultural codes, she picks a name that ﬁts within the boundaries of masculinity, with its implicit connotations of control, strength and power. Without any hesitations Pembe opts for the second prophecy, “the name of a great commander who always marched in front of his soldiers, fought like a tiger, won every battle, destroyed all his enemies, conquered land after land, united the East and the West, the sunrise and the sunset, and was still hungry for more” (Shafak, 2012, p. 25). Ironically, Pembe tries to inscribe her son’s identity within the ﬁxed codes of signiﬁcation, which will confer to him, as she imagines, perpetual sovereignty, and to her legitimate power. In her haste she totally omits the second prophecy made by the old woman:
“some children are like Euphrates, so fast, so rowdy. Their parents cannot catch up with them” (Shafak, 2012, p. 24). In her willingness to negotiate her own power provided by the possibility of having an inﬂuential son, Pembe ignores totally the principle of becoming, the oscillations and metamorphoses which take place with the movement in time and space of an individual. The prophecy of the old woman, related to the water of Euphrates, in a way suggests the impossibility of ﬁxity, of having a ﬁxed identity, and it is impossible to anyone to prevent the dialectical process through which an identity is formed. Although Pembe constructs the identity for her son, the one that will ﬁt his name, calling him ‘my sultan’, Iskender learns his ﬁrst lesson of manliness back in 1969 Istanbul, during the day of his circumcision. Despite his beautiful princely costume, Iskender cannot prevent his anxiety and perplexity he experiences once he must become a man. Shafak skilfully presents the event from the naïve point of view of the seven-year-old protagonist, who struggles to comprehend the mystery of manhood: “Iskender couldn’t understand for the life of him how he would become a man with one cut of a knife. It was a riddle hard to solve. With less you became more. Nor could he fathom why he was told not to cry, though it was clear he would be hurt” (Shafak, 2012, p. 27). In a childish manner, Iskender tries to escape from his fears, and he climbs an old oak-tree as high as he could, seeking protection among the branches of the old tree with its magnanimous roots, since everyone down there wanted him to become a man. The frustrated Pembe, embarrassed by her son’s cowardice, exclaims: “You spoiled brat! Come down this minute or I’ll break your bones! Don’t you want to be a man?!” (Shafak, 2012, p. 29). In this overcoded society ﬁxed codes of manliness function and it becomes impossible to extend the boundary line of the community’s mentality of inclusion or exclusion of a man. In the branches of the old tree Iskender reﬂects that “[he] had never been this high before and felt disappointed that there was no one to see his achievement” (Shafak, 2012, p. 28). The bewildered child cannot understand why no one appreciates his courage of climbing so high, since no other man in his community, no matter how hard he tried, could get as high as he did. Instead, his valour is measured in terms of ﬁxed codes to which one must abate. The privileges of masculinity are learned by the little Iskender by the price of betrayal. Deceived by his mother and slapped by her in front of
everyone for the ﬁrst time in his life, Iskender experiences a shock that will haunt him for the rest of his life. In the small community he lives with his family all the inhabitants are tied down by some habits and ritual practices that conﬁrm their rootedness. Any case of difference would destabilize their sedentary, tied down mentality and threaten the existing order of things. Any sign of difference, whenever occurring, should be subordinated even with the price of lies or betrayal. Subdued by the machinery of sameness, at such an early age, Iskender experiences his ﬁrst transformation into a man. Although everyone commends him for being brave during the circumcision, as he hadn’t shed a single tear during the medical procedure, he knew his performance had nothing to do with courage. Because he was still thinking about what his mother had done and why she had done it, he hadn’t fretted over the operation. Never had it occurred to him that you could deceive the person you held dear. Until that day, he hadn’t known that you could love someone with all your heart and yet be ready to hurt them. It was the ﬁrst lesson in the complexity of love (Shafak, 2012, p. 31). In his attempt to domesticate or control his difference, though a young boy, Iskender learns the meaning of aggression and assaultiveness, while at the same time he learns to stand proudly, defeating his own fears, regardless of circumstances. In the ﬂux of sameness, within the boundaries of masculine honour, Iskender, in the later years, learns never to fail, moreover, he makes a promise to himself to turn every situation to his own advantage as a way of assuming power and never let anyone oppress him. When Iskender Toprak moves to London with his family, he is still a child. In a place of international plurality like London, which gathers heterogeneous worldviews and cultures in its cosmopolitan landscapes, the organic form of hybridity, to use Bakhtin’s concept, is experienced unconsciously or semiconsciously by the restless types of migrant individuals. The long period of time spent by Iskender in London, especially during his years of coming of age, provide the integration of his foreignness and newness into the culture and language of the new space. Initially, he experiences a positive identiﬁcation with the new land, and in his effort to domesticate the contained difference, he chooses to be called Alexander or Alex at school by his friends, the other versions of his name being used only by his family eldests, as a reminder of his rootedness and
lineage. His preference of English over Turkish language can also serve as a sign of organic hybridization, which manages to incorporate the difference into an alleged sameness. However, as Moslund claims, “difference is translated by the dominant culture, appropriated, tamed and consumed whereby change is not eradicated but slowed down” (2010, p. 106). In this respect we can consider Alexander’s or Alex’s slow transformation within the new codes. Unlike his parents and uncle, who experience the traumatic loss of home, Alex is the product of the migrant environment, already the son of racial intermixture, a polyglot, who apparently can enjoy the freedom of detachment from any land and become the citizen of the world. Nevertheless, he is a young man of the in-between. At home, he is treated like a sultan by his mother, called by her frequently ‘Mulamin’, which in Kurdish signiﬁes ‘my house, my abode’; he is given unlimited freedom both in the house and outside it, and inhabits a personal room, though his other siblings do not enjoy such privileges. At the same time, he grows up as an inferior in London’s social relations, as a son of a migrant family for whom home was “no different than a one-star hotel where Mum washed the bed sheets instead of maids and where every morning the breakfasts would be the same” (Shafak, 2012, pp. 49-50). In the hierarchical structures that characterizes the State which is based on the logic of purity, Iskender and his family feel like outsiders, for no matter how much one would try to “ﬁll his pockets with pictures of the Queen and his car with gorgeous birds (…) we Topraks were only passers-by in this city – a half-Turkish, half-Kurdish family in the wrong end of London” (Shafak, 2012, p. 50). Therefore, for Iskender/Alexander, as he grows, the difference he represents, transforms from a threat to a possible way out of it. Growing aware of his hybrid in-betweenness, Alex delivers an image of himself, which rests on the reafﬁrmation of his hybrid identity. Shafak depicts his display of what Bakhtin calls intentional hybridity through the gaze of Katie Evans, the English girl who develops a crush on Iskender, almost despite herself: “Alex. Alexander. Whatever. Complete arsehole. Bloody full of himself. Always with his groupies, thinks he’s a gang leader. But he was a bit of a hunk, she had to admit, with his light olive complexion and those smouldering eyes” (Shafak, 2012, p. 125). Since intentional hybridity works as a deliberate confrontation between different worldviews, Alex exhibits his desire to confront the dominant point of view,
symbolically represented for him by the young Katie Evans. To her, and to all people like her, he emphasizes those qualities of himself that assert his difference: a cool looking young man, a boxer, a leader, his pride and selfconﬁdence manifested in the manner of his walking. He intentionally reveals his strength, his masculinity, and he is not disturbed by making Katie wait for him at the café for a couple of hours. The boldness he has acquired within the boundaries of masculinity is intended to suggest his freedom, since “he was free to meet her afterwords, if she so wanted ” (Shafak, 2012, p. 125). He provocatively makes Katie wait for him, as to him such moments represent a kind of challenge to an implicit social order or to an inherent idea of migrant identity. When he entered the café where Katie was waiting for him impassionately, he was “chewing gum and shouldering a gym bag, his hair still wet from the shower. She could see he had taken his time, combing his hair just so, in no rush for their meeting” (Shafak, 2012, p. 126). Any past difference experienced by Alex in the state of organic hybridity, which has been muted by him in his desire for sameness of homogenisation, is revived by him now, since his difference has never completely disappeared. As Deleuze considers, difference resists under the surface of sameness, but always is ready to release its full force of change at any time, like a volcano. This time is the moment when Alex conﬁrms his manliness in front of others that are not only the members of his family. The forgotten or repressed difference is also reactivated by the Orator. Although Alex insists on the freedom he can exert at any time and refuses to enter under anyone’s inﬂuence, as it will damage his illusion of sovereignty, he is impressed by Orator’s reaction at the way he is called by others: “Why does she call you Alex? (…) Alex is not short for Iskender (…) Think about it again brother. Are we going to have to change our names so that the Brits can pronounce them more easily? What else will we have to give up? It should be the other way round. Make everyone learn your full name and say it with respect” (Shafak, 2012, p. 217). This time the idea of identity is stated as intentionally oppositional, in a manner Young refers to as ‘politicised’ or ‘contestatory’ mode of hybridity (Young, 1995, p. 21). Young claims that “Bakhtin’s intentional hybrid has been transformed by Bhabha into an active moment of challenge and resistance against a dominant cultural power” (1995, p. 21). This moment marks the oscillation from “the idea of hybridity as an exemplary condition
to hybridity as a function ”; it gains the role of a counter-political discourse, where ressentiment is present in the discursive implications of the intentional hybrid (Moslund, 2010, p. 38). Iskender gradually transforms, as he moves away from the exceptional status conferred to him by his intentional hybridity, and starts using it as a function. He wants to make everyone learn and remember his name. In his desire to become memorable and honourable he acts with ressentiment. But his task is very difﬁcult, as he oscillates between two different cultures, between his different identities; he ﬂuctuates between the liberated, free man of the cosmopolitan environment, in love with an English girl and his image of himself, which is constructed in terms of difference and superiority of the male role of his own culture and hybrid in the new culture. Ironically, he wants to preserve control, and his sovereignty, in front of himself and the world around him, in order to discover only many years later that he holds a plural and transitional identity, provided by his liminal state, in-between, that prevents any form of control. Under pressure of Orator and of his uncle Tarik, he must exert his sovereignty, to prove the meaning of his name, of his identity, when his mother’s adultery is discovered. As a leader, as a strong man, he likes to take his own decisions, to act on his own. As he claims, “I like to ﬁght alone” (Shafak, 2012, p. 253.) The Orator tries to ﬂatter Iskender’s sense of independence and encourage his illusion of control. However, he is careful to touch on the feeling of honour, so valuable for Iskender at this time of his life: “You are your own man. I can see that. No strings attached. That’s the way you like it. But don’t forget that great ﬁghters are great inside and out. If you had stronger values you’d be invincible” (Shafak, 2012, p. 253). Destabilized by his movements and decisions, Alex/Iskender transforms, as he moves away from the recognition of the world he was used with, the boundaries of honour he was comfortable with and the image of the self he believed in. In a way his difference has been triggered, in Deleuze’s terms: “Difference may at last be expressed with a force of anger which is itself repetitive and capable of introducing the strangest selection, even if this is only a contraction here and there - in other words, a freedom for the end of a world” (Deleuze, 1968, 293). Now he extends his boundaries, as a guardian of honour of his family, of his house. In the case of the lack of decency of his mother, as he believes,
he is the one to preserve the dignity, the good reputation of his family. The Orator’s constant pressure is experienced by the sixteen-year old Iskender: “So you are the head of the family now. It must be tough. You’ve got to be strong. It’s good that you’re into boxing. But you also need moral fortitude” (Shafak, 2012, p. 226). Iskender ﬁnds himself in-between again, ﬂuctuating amid his personal sense of dignity, love, affection he has experienced so far for his mother and the new moral boundaries imposed upon him by the traditional role of a man of honour. In his anger, he perceives his moral obligations in terms of pursuit of vengeance against the one who insulted the virtue of the family, an act that should conﬁrm his freedom and his sovereignty. The naïve Iskender assumes that in his difference he might discover his freedom. He is not aware that the only difference he perceives now is only in the realm of the actual, to use Deleuze’s concept. His difference is recognized in the everyday world, with its verbal and ideological codiﬁcations of reality. This is the controlled difference, and as such, Iskender does not grasp that it can be counted, measured, categorized and classiﬁed. This difference offers only the illusion of freedom, when in fact, it imprisons by the boundaries of homogenization. The novel’s main metaphor, prison, stands for the imprisonment Iskender experiences, as he becomes more and more entrapped by the ideological concept of masculinity and by the codes of eastern culture. This metaphor is built upon the imagery of circle, extremely powerful in Turkish folklore, as circular evil eye, that may be interpreted in terms of protection or damnation. As Shafak claims in one of her interviews, one of vital messages she learned from her grandmother is “if you want to destroy something, surround it with thick walls, it will dry up inside” (TED Talks). Iskender, driven by the social pressures and codes, imprisons himself into an identity that dries him out completely. Both metaphorically and literally he builds thick walls around himself, out of which he sees no escape: “A 16-year-old boy of Turkish/Kurdish origin [who] stabbed his mother to death (…) in an act of honour-killing” (Shafak, 2012, p. 71). The freedom of detachment from such cultural codes as power, will, achievement, violence and masculinity Iskender discovers very late, during the last months of his 14-years imprisonment for the murder of his mother. In fact, Shafak projects the Suﬁ philosophy of Rumi’s poetry as the method for Iskender’s escape from his entrapment, dictated by the ideological
boundaries, as well as for the spiritual healing experienced by him while in prison. By the help of the new prison mate, Zeeshan, Iskender experiences a kind of spiritual awakening. Frequent references to Suﬁsm in Shafak’s other works conﬁrm her constant preoccupation with the quest for spirituality as a method of overcoming the intolerance and limitations of the global society. Her protagonist, Iskender, learns to discover the invalidity of objective certainties and truths and to acknowledge that all truths, values, virtues, categories and classiﬁcations, in fact reality itself, are constructed by us by the way we chose to look at the world. He experiences an epiphanic moment during his confrontation with the self, when asked “How many inside you?” and he slowly grasps the answer that comes from within, “I have no idea how many Iskenders I harbour within my soul” (Shafak, 2012, p. 204). Iskender undergoes another spiritual transformation, by recognising the origin of his pain and sadness, caused by social pressure related to his race, culture, and gender. The healing effect of spirituality is obvious in the message transmitted by the awkward character Zeeshan: “Mystic someone who looks inside heart, thinks all people connected. Differences only on the outside, skin and clothes and passports. But human heart always the same. Everywhere” (Shafak, 2012, p. 207). The cyclical becoming of Iskender rests also on the mystical nature of circularity, which reminds of the mystical whirling of the dervishes with their circular movements, “which can be interpreted as their display of humility for the divine, and as their way of visualising the cycle of life from birth to entry into a realm of oneness with the divine” (Atayurt-Fenge, 2017, p. 288). The cyclical movement of his slow becoming may metaphorically suggest the healing effect he experiences, as he gradually recovers from fear, anger, depression, imprisonment, once he learns the value of love and harmony. In this respect, Elena Furlanetto claims that “By integrating the trope of therapeutic East in her novel, Shafak participates in this long tradition of instrumentalising the East in a manner that makes it useful to the West” (Furlanetto, 2013, p. 205). The circle can enmesh someone by its thick walls, but it may also have a therapeutic function, to heal the oppression and repression one feels within its boundaries.
The metaphorical roundness may also refer to the completion of Iskender’s identity, after his various oscillations and transformations. Shafak, through the cyclical becoming of her protagonist, presents the concept of identity as multiple, processual and transformational. Identity bears inevitably the mark of the ideological discourse, which – in the process of its continuous interactions and contradictions – changes, transforms, shapes and reshapes itself, and opens perpetually to various possibilities, which modify and re-inscribe it. This process implies the inevitable dynamic interaction between past and present, between self and the other. This trope of identity also overlaps with Deleuze’s and Guattari’s concept of ‘rhizomic universe’, whose multiple interrelated elements may be combined and re-combined endlessly. Iskender may also be regarded as the embodiment of a dynamic identity that is constantly deterritorialized and reterritorialized again, being like a rhizome, with no beginning and no end, always in the middle, ready to emerge anew: “Suddenly, it doesn’t look like a bad place to be, not bad at all. Alaska” (Shafak, 2012, p. 335). Although broken as a rhizome, battered and shattered by each of his movement, he will start again, on new lines, on new land. Conclusion In her novel Honour , Elif Shafak is preoccupied by the phenomenon of migration, as she aims to reimagine the stereotypical image of displaced identities of the migrant heroes. Her focus on Iskender/Alexander’s oscillations and his slow becoming is presented, since he is frequently destabilized by his hybridity and the difference which he represents. Enmeshed by the boundaries of masculine honour and the cultural codes which he embodies, Shafak’s protagonist is presented in his epistemological becoming, from his initial desire to act within the ﬁxed codes of rootedness, where the boundaries of masculine honour are clearly established, to a new awareness of who he is, with his plural and transitional identity. Surprisingly, Iskender/Alexander’s liminal, in-between state that confused and entrapped him within some cultural boundaries, allows him an unexpected dynamism. Like a rhizome, he transforms and adapts himself to a new land, to new possibilities, to new lines and recognises a new world with new values, the self and the other. Shafak’s protagonist may arguably
serve a political end, while unveiling and criticizing the implications of ideology, cultural codes, oppression and repression. References Atayurt Fenge, Z. (2017). This is a Worldof Spectacles: Cyclical Narratives and Circular Visionary Formations in Elif Shafak's The Gaze. Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, 58 (3), 287-299. Bakhtin, M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination. (C. Emerson, & M. Hosquist, Trans.) Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. Bhabha, H. (1994). The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge. Burke, P. (2009). Cultural Hybridity. Cambridge: Polity Press. Cihangir, S. (2012). Gender Speciﬁc Honor Codes and Cultural Change. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 16 (3), 319-333. Deleuze, G. (1968). Difference and Repetition. London and New York: Continuum. Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Fiske, A. P., & Rai, T. S. (2015). Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships. Cambridge University Press. Frank, S. (2008). Migration and Literature:Günter Grass,Milan Kundera, Salman Rushdie and Jan Kjærstad. New York: Palgrave. Furlanetto, E. (2013). The 'Rumi Phenomenon' Between Orientalism and Cosmopolitanism: The Case of Elif Shafak's The Forty Rules of Love. European Journal of English Studies , 201-213. Moslun, S. P. (2010). Migration Literature and Hybridity: The Different Speeds of Transcultural Change. London: Palgrave. Shafak, E. (2010). TED Talks. Oxford. Shafak, E. (2012). Honour. Penguin Books. van Osch, Y., Breugelmans, S. M., Zeelenberg, M., & Bölük, P. (2013). A Different Kind of Honor Culture: Fasmily Honor and Agression in Turks. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 16 (3), 334-344. Werbner, P. (2015). The Dialectics of Cultural Hybridity. P. Werbner, & T. Modood, Debating Cultural Hybridity: Multicultural Identities and the Politics of Anti-Racism (s. 1-26). London: Zed Books. Young, R. (1995). Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture, and Race. Routledge.
CHAPTER 6 LITERARY REPRESENTATIONS OF PROGRESSIVE ERA LITHUANIAN IMMIGRANTS IN THE UNITED STATES AND THE QUESTION OF GENRE: UPTON SINCLAIR’S THE JUNGLE (1906) Cansu Özge Özmen Introduction On August 4, 1904, American journalist Ernest Poole published a short account in Independent called “From Lithuania to the Chicago Stockyards, An Autobiography: Antanas Kaztauskis”. He had visited Chicago as a press agent for the workers’ union and sought to investigate the labour movement among the meatpacking workers. He stayed in Chicago for six weeks and conducted extensive interviews with workers who lived in what is called the “Back of the Yards” neighbourhood in the west and south of Packingtown, a residential area predominantly populated by immigrants. Although it was ostensibly an autobiographical account, Poole later revealed that Antanas Kaztauskis was a composite sketch of workers whom he had encountered during his investigation. When President Roosevelt asked to meet the immigrant worker in question, Poole admitted: “He’s not one man; he’s forty thousand. You’ll ﬁnd him all around the Yards” (1940, p. 95). What set out to be an expose of what later came to be known as the Great Meat Strike of 1904, evolved into a subject matter essentially untouched by literature or journalism to that date. Twenty three thousands packinghouse workers and seven thousand tradesmen went on strike asking for a minimum wage of twenty cents an hour. Mostly due to corrupt relations between labour and management, the strike failed to achieve its purpose. Another reason was that the country was going through economic depression and as it was depicted in Antanas’s account, the workers were
immediately replaceable, since every morning thousands of unemployed men waited in front of the slaughterhouse gates to be let in for work. Employers also brought in strikebreakers from other states which led to further clashes between locals and the new arrivals. Yet the journey gave Poole an opportunity to divulge to the public what was virtually unknown outside of the immigrant communities: who Lithuanians were and why they came to toil in America. Lithuanians had been immigrating to America since the seventeenth century for a wide variety of reasons. Some of them, Lithuanian Protestants and Mennonites ﬂed religious prosecution; some craftsmen as was true for other nationalities, came because their skills were required to build the new colonies and some escaped national strife (Budreckis, 1976, p. v). The wave of immigrants which Budreckis called the fourth, covering the period between 1868-1914 was mostly the wave Poole’s representation dealt with. One of the reasons why Lithuanians were not acknowledged as a separate national identity was because until 1899 according to Budreckis and until after 1918 according to Szlaużys, US Census did not register them as a separate ethnic group. Since they were a smaller group compared to other immigrant groups, they were more isolated and reticent about self assertion. As their numbers grew, so did their national awareness, also as a reaction to the policy of Russiﬁcation in their native land (Szlaużys, 2017, p. 119). Unlike in their homeland, because of bans by Russians, Lithuanians could freely speak and publish material in their own language and build their own churches in America. Many young male adults also ﬂed because they did not want to be conscripted for the Russian army. Although very few of them dealt with agriculture upon their arrival, majority of them were peasants or came from peasant families. As they coincided with the rapid industrialization and urbanization in the United States, most of them provided the physical resource “for the railway construction projects, the coal mines, slaughter houses, and the iron and steel mills and foundries” (Budreckis, 1976, p. vi). As with most immigrants, young Lithuanian men did not expect to stay in the new country indeﬁnitely. Yet it did not take them very long to realize, to their dismay, that it was not easy to accumulate enough money to subsist on, send back home and save in order to start a new life back in their native land. They planned to purchase land in Lithuania to return to the rural areas which they expressed longing for in industrialized America. The stark contrast between the rural scenery back
home and the ﬁlthy industrial districts were constantly expressed by Lithuanians in their letters home and their accounts of their life in the young republic. “By 1910 about half the workers in the steel industry in and around Pittsburgh, the meatpacking industry in Chicago, and anthracite coal mining in eastern Pennsylvania were…from eastern and southern Europe Poles, Lithuanians, Slovaks and others” (Rothbart, 1989, p. 268). Bachelors stayed with other immigrants in boardinghouses conditions of which were less than ideal; unsanitary, overcrowded, and with very few amenities. Those who arrived with their families usually entered the workforce as a family including the children and the elderly members of the family. It was seldom that the husband would be the sole provider for the family considering the low wages and the long working hours which caused the children to be deprived of proper ed ucation. Immigrants in the Progressive Era The new immigrants’ arrival did not only coincide with rapid industrialization, urbanization, technological innovation, specialized labor and pollution, however. It also coincided with what was known as the Progressive Era, covering the period between 1890s to 1920s. Rejecting Social Darwinism, Progressives tried to ameliorate the living conditions of the disadvantaged in the society. Changing production processes, destruction of the American countryside, laissez faire policies, income inequality, unsafe working conditions for the lower classes, child labor, lack of women’s rights, vivisection on animals all gained public attention thanks to Progressives’ struggles. It was by no means a monolithic movement yet the variety of campaigns gave the American public the conﬁdence to create enough pressure on the government for social and political reform. The freed slaves themselves began contrasting the promises made (and sometimes proclaimed as kept) and the reality that was eroding the ground won during Reconstruction. White women began joining organizations that campaigned for their legal and political rights; more illuminating for novelists, the bravest women announced that the genteel version of their character and desires hid the facts. Finally, immigration growing exponentially, ﬂooded in a melange of humankind whose values and behaviour shook WASP complacencies. Moreover, those immigrants who had believed democracy’s promises began resisting their mistreatment; a
few –numerous by comparison with homegrown reformers- imported a leftist critique of capitalism (Pizer, 1995, p. 35). Pioneered by the middle class, the Progressive movement also aimed at improving the living conditions of the immigrant working classes in neighbourhoods largely populated by immigrant families. A Congregational minister Graham Taylor and settlement house founder Jane Addams started a settlement and established Chicago Commons in the Back of the Yards neighbourhood and lived there in order to assist the workers’ families with daycare, education, acculturation and job training. To promote solidarity, the settlement house movement embraced all nationalities and ethnicities. Therefore, the organizational spirit that tried to uplift the working classes did not only come through unionization but also from philanthropy in line with the zeitgeist of the Progressive Era. Lithuanians also formed mutual aid societies in order to consolidate cooperation among labourers of their own ethnic background. These nativist methods were quite common in all immigrant groups in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries partly because of distrust of other ethnic groups and partly to maintain and strengthen cultural ties while encouraging patriotism. “With the rise of Lithuanian national consciousness…Poles and their former partners in the old Polish-Lithuanian state soon became rivals both at home and in Chicago…in B ridgeport, a neighbourhood near Chicago's Union Stock Yards, both groups cooperated until about the time of World War One when nationalism drove them apart” (Pacyga, 1996, p. 61). Editor of various Lithuanian newspapers, Reverend Jonas Zilinskas, regarding such societies, would write in 1899: Thus, a member would pay 50 cents a month in dues to the society, and if he became sick he would receive a sickness beneﬁt (ligoj paszelpa) of ﬁve dollars a week. The member who becomes severely ill is visited and cared for, day and night, by two fellow members. When a member dies, in addition to paying for the burial expenses, the other members would contribute a dollar apiece to help the deceased member’s widow, children and parents. Mutual beneﬁt societies are important charitable organizations. The majority of Lithuanians join two and even three of such societies (Budreckis, 1976, p. 88).
Poole’s Antanas, the quintessential everyman of immigrants or speciﬁcally Lithuanians, when historical accounts are taken into consideration, seems to disclose an accurate description of the conditions which drive young Lithuanians to America. The account begins with a cozy, domestic setting indicative of maternal love and protection. A traveling shoemaker tells the family of his son who works in Chicago and encourages the young son of the family to emigrate as well. Kaztauskis family had already lost one son to the Russian army, and if our narrator, the young son stays, he has to serve in three years’ time. Fascinated by the main principles of the American Declaration of Independence, the shoemaker urges the young men to break away from his chains in Lithuania and enjoy the freedom to read and write in his own language and practice his religion. He also expresses his awareness of the monopolies of the robber barons in America who continuously exploit the workforce yet all the hardships are compensated by the rights Lithuanians can enjoy which they lack at home due to Russian oppression. Tsarist Russia had banned publication of Lithuanian texts in Latin script after the Polish and Lithuanian uprising of 1863 and the ban had not been lifted until 1905. And even then, censorship on the content of the press continued (Senn&Eidintas, 1987, p. 7). Antanas’s ﬁrst impression of America is similar to millions of other immigrants’. Everything is bigger and faster. Those who can keep up and conform survive, those who are too naïve and slow are cheated or quickly replaced by others. Individual worth is overshadowed by efﬁciency. Lithuanian everyman essentially becomes no man. Antanas, also like millions of others quickly realizes that freedom comes at a great cost and the immigrant worker barely has time or resources to enjoy the freedom he is supposed to have. Idiosyncrasies of industrial towns, as depicted in various ﬁctional works seem to be smoke, a foul smell, ﬁlth, and crowds. We were tired out when we reached the stockyards, so we stopped on the bridge and looked into the river out there. It was so full of grease and dirt and sticks and boxes that it looked like a big, wide, dirty street, except in some places, where it boiled up. It made me sick to look at it. When I looked away, I could see on one side some big ﬁelds full of holes, and these were the city dumps. On the other side were the stockyards, with twenty tall slaughter house chimneys. The wind blew a big smell from them to us. Then we walked on between the yards and the dumps and all the houses looked bad and poor. In our house, my room was in the basement. I lay
down on the ﬂoor with three other men and the air was rotten. I did not go to sleep for a long time. I knew then that money was everything I needed. (Poole, 1904). Luckily for Antanas, he joins the Cattle Butchers’ Union, an honest organization negotiating with employers on behalf of the workers to save them from nineteenth century wage slavery. His wages are raised, his working hours are cut down, he feels more conﬁdent and independent through the solidarity in the labour movement. Not all immigrants’ experiences eventually turned out to be positive like Antanas’s however. Poole’s is an example of literary journalism perceived as ﬁction by a public unaware of the experiences of the new tide of Eastern European immigrants to the United States. Progressive Era journalism also relied heavily on muckraking which was the method of investigative journalism based on exposing scandals, corruption, and narration of facts of vital interest to the public that are usually disguised by the government or the industrial corporations. Muckraking was a natural extension of the social and political reformist ideologies prevalent in the era. Muckraking journalism aimed at shocking the public into creating enough pressure on the government to make policy changes in favour of public interests. Literary Repercussions One of the muckrakers who actually made a difference in the Back of the Yards neighbourhood of Chicago, albeit inadvertently and by his account not about what he aimed at, was Upton Sinclair. Having written ninety works in his ninety years of life, Sinclair was the son of a Puritanical mother from an aristocratic Southern family and an alcoholic father, a salesman who could not consistently provide for his family. He experienced the economic gap between different classes at a young age comparing the life they lived in cheap New York boardinghouses and the life the maternal side of the family lived in their luxurious houses in Baltimore. After receiving a college education, dissatisﬁed with the educational institutions in dealing with socioeconomic problems the common people were facing, he “would conclude that societal ﬂaws were economic origin, and therefore curable, rather than rooted in unchanging human nature” (Arthur, 2006, p. 5). Class consciousness he attained did not result from a literal sense of belonging to the working classes but from his insight into the economic discrepancy and injustice in the society. It was no surprise then that when
he was introduced to socialism, he readily embraced it as the ultimate solution for all of society’s ills. He joined the Socialist Party in 1903, established by Eugene V. Debs in 1901, a trade unionist who led the Pullman strike and boycott of 1894. Sinclair attempted to reconcile his ideas of democratic socialism and a peaceful revolution with religion and found various common grounds between Jesus’s teachings and socialist ideology. This all culminated in Sinclair’s writing the novel The Jungle which another Progressive, socialist author Jack London called the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin of wage slavery”. Sinclair began to write for the Appeal to Reason , the weekly socialist newspaper and was commissioned by it to start a novel about the immigrants’ life after the 1904 Meat Strike against the meatpacking oligopoly in Chicago. His novel was initially published as a serial in the pages of the newspaper during 1905. Sinclair met Poole, the author of Antanas’s autobiography in Chicago, and took his advice on writing about immigrants. He stayed in Packingtown for seven weeks during which time he conducted in depth interviews with the residents of the Back of the Yards neighbourhood and observed the lives of workers. He also visited the places which would constitute the setting of his novel. By his own account, his aesthetic considerations for his ﬁctional work was secondary at best. He wanted The Jungle to be a radically realistic representation of life in Packingtown in order to urge the middle class readers to action by his very overt prescription of socialism. He would answer questions about the accuracy of his account in 1906, in the pages of the Independent : I intend The Jungle to be an exact and faithful picture of conditions as they exist in Packingtown. I mean it to be true, not merely in substance, but in detail, and in the smallest detail. It is as true as it should be if it were not a work of ﬁction at all, but a study by a sociologist; it is so true that students may go to it, as they would to a work of reference. I have exercised none of the privileges of the writer of ﬁction. I have imagined nothing; I have embellished nothing; I have simply dramatized and interpreted (p. 1129) Judging by his claim about accuracy, it might seem easy for a literary critic to place his novel as one inspired by the realist movement, for a journalist to categorize it as literary journalism or muckraking, for a
Progressivist to perceive it as a novel of reform. The Jungle was indeed all of them and more, and one of the reasons why it was harshly criticized was its resistance to classiﬁcation. Sinclair was inspired by both British Romantics and the scientiﬁc naturalism of Emile Zola. Considered to be the founding father of French naturalism, Zola had a very speciﬁc prescription on how to write a social novel. In his essay, “The Experimental Novel,” he bases his prescription on the renowned French physiologist Claude Bernard’s An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine , he deﬁnes the novelist as a searcher of truth who observes human relations, afﬁrms or refutes his preconceptions, takes the impact of the surroundings into consideration and determines how human beings affect the social conditions and how social conditions affect them. (1894, p. 11-12). His arguments also paved the way for scientiﬁc determinism and speciﬁcally Social Darwinism to be applied to literature. This extreme form of literary realism provided the ideal method for Sinclair in dealing with his subject matter. Lives of immigrant workers were largely determined by external forces which they found impossible to control due to lack of education, language skills and resources. They all went through more or less similar experiences which almost seemed predetermined before their arrival to America. Narration of these formulaic experiences according to the naturalist tradition requires objectivity, the author remaining merely as an observer to facts; pessimism, with the inclusion of poverty, destitution and desperation as inescapable facts of life; and determinism represented in the characters’ inability to change their fate. American naturalism also regarded itself sincere by aiming at a paradoxical agenda of converging romanticism with realism. “Realistic elements enhanced the professionals' claim to expertise and experience, while romance lifted their writing above mere journalism” (Wilson, 1982, p. 517). Naturalist “writers were skeptical towards, or downright hostile to, the notions of bourgeois individualism that characterized realist novels about middle-class life” (Zhang, 2010, p. 197). This clearly embodied Sinclair’s ideological stance. According to norm, American naturalists also eliminated Victorian propriety from their works which they did not consider ﬁtting when dealing with the harsh realities of working class lives. Therefore, the proletarian immigrant novel of the early twentieth century would be a mimetic genre aspiring for vraisemblance ,
driven by pessimistic, material determinism. The immigrant novel had an immigrant protagonist “representing an ethnic world view,” who comes “to America with great expectations, and through a series of trials is led to reconsider them in terms of his ﬁnal status” (Boelhower, 1981, pp. 4-5). Typically, it consisted of the categories of journey, folklore, language of the immigrant, native rituals, customs, religion, marriage, death, memories, acquisition, and loss (p. 7). The naturalist plot of decline should also be distinguished from the plot of decline intrinsic to classical tragedy where “the protagonist chooses an action that may lead to his downfall because he has the power to do so…Naturalism, in contrast, presents characters whose reasoning abilities and hence choices are hampered by unfortunate hereditary traits and a limited environment” (Campbell, 2011, p. 504). These, we ﬁnd in The Jungle without an exception. However, there is a legitimate reason why literary critics could not conveniently classify the novel as belonging to a single genre or movement. Sinclair could not resist an intrusive and didactic omniscient narrator with limited insight into various characters’ minds which was not in line with the objective strand of naturalism. He also, for reasons he later admits in his autobiography (lack of ﬁnancial resources, motivation and his inability to return to Chicago to gather more material), divided the work into personal and political sections, the second of which read like a political tract rather than a convincing ideological epiphany experienced by the protagonist. Moreover, Jurgis, his protagonist, towards the end of the novel, exerts free will and survives despite not being ﬁt enough, while remaining an underdog determined to ﬁght his way through systemic exploitation. Instead of the plot of decline common to naturalistic novels, he follows “a plot of socialist rebirth that assumes the power of the informed human will to change the world. The Jungle …concludes with the protagonist’s material and emotional fulﬁlment and the Socialist Party’s unprecedented electoral gains” (Taylor, 2007, p. 69). When the ﬁrst part of the novel follows the Rudkus family from Lithuania to the Chicago stockyards, the second part focuses on Jurgis Rudkus’s introduction to socialism via various gospel-like speeches by the socialist intelligentsia. So, the narrative shifts its centre from the familial predicaments of immigrant working classes to a call to revolutionary action addressed to American white middle class. Niang, in a comparative analysis of The Jungle and Emile Zola’s Germinal points to a Marxist framing of both novels in their plot structure in a tripartite division:
The ﬁrst is the introduction of the solitary individual into a preexisting, selfcontained society. The second, which necessarily constitutes the bulk of the novels, is the individual’s evolution and gradual incorporation into his milieu. The third and ﬁnal section describes the individual’s inability and refusal to function within accepted norms in the society as it is presently constituted. In Marxist terms these three stages are deﬁned as (1) complete ignorance of, or apathy to, the proletariat’s plight; (2) a gradual growing awareness; and ﬁnally, (3) a totally aware individual with either the ability or presumed potential ability to modify the society (2001, p. 47). The Jungle had not only been criticized for pushing generic boundaries, or rather its inability to conform to the rules of one, but also for its alleged inaccuracy of the lives in the stockyards, and the condition of the workers. James R. Barrett, the author of Work and Community in the Jungle: Chicago’s Packinghouse Workers,1894-1922 (1987) was particularly adamant about the immigrant workers being active agents of their lives rather than passive victims of systemic exploitation as Sinclair depicts them. Unionization in the workplace (through the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen, the Stockyards Labor Council, and the Chicago Federation of Labor) and the solidarity in the community (according to Budreckis, there were 15 Lithuanian churches and 200 societies in the United States by 1894) enabled them to ameliorate and take charge of their lives. Sinclair’s Rudkus family, however, ﬂoated freely from one disaster to another with no safety net. One reason for his choice of plot of decline in the ﬁrst part of the novel was that the Rudkus family represented the socioeconomic class they belonged to rather than representing a single family. Therefore, all that could befall on a whole class befalls on them. In four years’ time, the family is cheated out of a house that they buy immediately after their arrival, Dede Antanas, Jurgis’s father dies of a disease he contracts as a result of the conditions in the pickle rooms where he works; Jurgis’s young wife Ona is threatened by her boss into having sex with him, she later dies during the birth of her second child, a stillborn; their ﬁrst child Antanas drowns in a slime puddle in front of their house, another disabled child of the family is poisoned by smoked sausage; yet another is eaten by rats while drunk and locked in the factory; Jurgis’s sister in law is forced into prostitution; he goes to jail twice for
beating up Ona’s seducer, he becomes a vagabond, a criminal, is blacklisted therefore can no longer work at the stockyards and ends up a homeless beggar. Although the narrative starts out quite similarly to Antanas’s ﬁctional autobiography by Poole, a series of misfortunes prevent the Rudkus family from achieving the American dream Antanas partially realizes. The tripartite plot structure Niang formulates in a Marxist framework is realized through the characterization of Jurgis Rudkus as a Bildungsheld in the novel. As a young man who immigrates to Chicago with his and his ﬁance’s family, he goes through a formative journey of self-discovery. The initial stage occurs when he encounters the idea of a union for the ﬁrst time and he lashes out at the Irish delegate for trying “to scare him” into becoming unionized (Sinclair, 1906, p. 68). At the time, Jurgis’s response to any hardship he comes across is declaring that he would work harder. He relies on his physical strength which indeed sets him apart from the crowds and he stands out enough to get a job on the ﬁrst day he gets in line for one. He condescends others whom he deems not ﬁt enough to survive. Only after the winter hits with its freezing cold, Jurgis’s father dies and they cannot even give him a decent burial, Jurgis cannot provide enough for the family even when he works all day debilitating circumstances does he realize that individual struggle is not sufﬁcient to overcome a systemic problem. “…too many catastrophes happen to Jurgis and his family to allow the reader to identify with them fully. Sinclair clearly telescoped all the woes he had witnessed in many workingmen’s families into the lot of a single family, with little regard for credibility” (Bloom, 2002, p. 119). Yet the whole family continues working, “they would go out to another day of toil, a little weaker, a little nearer to the time when it would be their turn to be shaken from the tree” (Sinclair, 1906, p. 98). So, by the time the butcher helpers’ union delegate arrives for the second time, Jurgis is more than ready to ﬁght against the packers and even convert other Lithuanian workers starting from his own family. Un ionization provides them with conﬁdence and a sense of belonging that they had not experienced since their arrival to the stockyards. To Jurgis, solidarity and a common goal replace religion and divine illumination. For a man deﬁned essentially by his masculinity, spirituality is rendered a feminine realm.
Jurgis had sworn to trust no man, except in his own family; but here he discovered that he had brothers in afﬂiction and allies. Their one chance for life was in the union, and so the struggle became a kind of crusade. Jurgis had always been a member of the church because it was the right thing to be, but the church had never touched him, he left all that for the women. Here, however, was a new religion one that did touch him, that took hold of every ﬁbre of him; and with all the zeal and fury of a convert he went out as a missionary (p. 107). Although unionization marks Jurgis’s gradual awareness of his individual predicament as well as the shared destiny of the working classes, it cannot prevent the various misfortunes mentioned above. The third stage of his development will be realized through yet another epiphany. He will come to accept that American dream indeed exists but it cannot be fulﬁlled on an individual basis; survival is only possible through a communal struggle. And he will have to maintain his missionary zeal even when he has nothing left to sacriﬁce but himself, in order to modify the societal structure most of his family could not ﬁt in. The epiphany takes place as a result of accidental circumstances when Jurgis walks into a hall to rest, where he hears a political speech that excites the audience to such a degree that he is forced to listen as well. Speech is given by a socialist leader with the charisma of a prophet and his effect is no less than one of performing miracles. Jurgis is instantly converted to the cause. “With the voice of humanity, calling for deliverance! Of the everlasting soul of Man, arising from the dust; breaking its way out of its prison rending the bands of oppression and ignorance groping its way to the light!” (p. 306). From this point on, the narrative shifts to what we previously called the political section of the novel. Jurgis’s recently attained free will melts into discussions and monologues of socialism since the ignorant immigrant is not a convincing enough voice to allay the fears of American middle class about democratic socialism. The reader has to be educated and the voice of truth should come from within. That is ideally a white male American. “That character, because of his social, cultural, and economic background, does not ﬁt into the polite society of the Socialist movement, so Sinclair dropped him” (Bloom, 2002, p. 43). Most immigrant and minority groups have faced positive and negative stereotyping tailored by the host society according to the sociohistorical
context, particularly reinforced by ﬁctionalized accounts of native authors who depict them in preconceived patterns. Embedded in the public consciousness, these patterns also in turn determined the way the host society treated the immigrants and minorities. Slavic immigrants, along with the Irish, Italians, Jews, Chinese and other immigrants of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries did not escape this process of othering. Karel D. Bicha talks about the image of the male Slavic immigrant as the “hunky” which was used to disregard the individuality – like all stereotypes- of a Slavic, Hungarian or a Lithuanian worker. “The word implied a combination of physical strength and mental insufﬁciency” (1982, p. 19). Other characteristics assigned to Slavic and Eastern European immigrants were that they lived in unsanitary conditions, they were extremely materialistic, they could only undertake unskilled labour, they were alcoholics, prone to violence, they mistreated the women in their household, they had too many children, they forced their children to work instead of sending them to school. The remedy for all these assigned ills was naturally considered to be Americanization. The ones who did not exhibit stereotypical patterns were considered to be assimilated. Some of the positive traits Slavic immigrants were thought to have were being hardworking, relatively law-abiding, and self-sufﬁcient. Like most stereotypes, which were hardly realistic representations of the group, they depended on how large the population of the immigrant group was and how much of a threat they were perceived to be to the native culture. They were also contradictory in nature. “It was surely contradictory to caricature Slavs as slow-witted, stolid and docile, but also as violent, undisciplined and anarchic…as hygienic defectives who preferred to dwell in ﬁlthy hovels, and concomitantly to assert that they valued cleanliness and often achieved it” (p. 34). Although Sinclair encouraged a sympathetic perception of Lithuanian immigrants and working classes as a whole, he could not escape some of the stereotyping regarding them and even racism in his representation of African Americans who were used as strikebreakers in the stockyards. “At his worst, Sinclair could shift from condescension to contempt—even to vulgar racist and national chauvinist contumely of the working class”
(Bloom, 2002, p. 44). Jurgis is not characterized as slow witted, but he certainly is extremely naïve to assume his physical strength and prowess will help him overcome any difﬁculty he might face at the stockyards, causing him to ignore the unsustainability of physical labour with no job security and long working hours. His evolution from a “hunky” to a selfsufﬁcient Lithuanian-American is only realized when he gains awareness of the collective condition working class is in. The genres and movements Sinclair borrowed from in the construction of his documentary ﬁction each served him to accurately depict immigrant, working class lives. In order to achieve it, he had to stretch the boundaries of each of the genres his novel intersected with. Nevertheless, it can still be classiﬁed as exemplary literature, an advanced form of the classical exemplum or a moral anecdote that the reader cannot mistake its lesson for anything other than what it purports to be. Christopher Taylor reminds us that The Jungle actually resembles the French roman à thèse, deﬁned by Susan Rubin Suleiman as “a novel written in the realistic mode (that is based on an aesthetic of verisimilitude and representation), which signals itself to the reader as primarily didactic in intent, seeking to demonstrate the validity of a political, philosophical, or religious doctrine” (1993, p. 7). Acknowledging that Sinclair sacriﬁced various narrative possibilities to render his ideological message clear, we might safely assume that his characters were not individuals but classes; his immigrants not only Lithuanians, but the victims of the capitalist system, and his work, an ideological novel. References Arthur, A. (2006). The radical innocent: Upton Sinclair . New York: Random House. Bicha, K. D. (1982). Hunkies: stereotyping the Slavic immigrants, 1890-1920. Journal of American Ethnic History , 2 (1), 16-38. Bloom, H. ed. (2002). Bloom’s modern critical interpretations: the jungle . New York: Chelsea House Publishers. Boelhower, W. Q. (1981). The immigrant novel as genre. MELUS , 8 (1), 3-13. Budreckis, A. M. ed. (1976). The Lithuanians in America, 1651-1975: a chronology and factbook. New York: Oceana Publications. Campbell, D. (2011). American literary naturalism: critical perspectives. Literature Compass , 8 (8), 499–513.
Niang, M. A. (2001). A comparative analysis of Upton Sinclair’s the jungle and Emile Zola’s germinal . Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 102. http://dc.etsu.edu/etd/102 . Pacyga, D. A. (1996). To live amongst others: poles and their neighbors in industrial chicago, 1865-1930. Journal of American Ethnic History , 16 (1), 55-73. Pizer, D. (1995). The Cambridge companion to American realism and naturalism from Howells to London. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Poole, E. (1940). The bridge: my own story . New York: The Macmillan Company. Rothbart, R. (1989). “Homes are what any strike is about”: immigrant labor and the family wage. Journal of Social History , 23 (2), 267-284. Senn, A. E.&Eidintas A. (1987). Lithuanian immigrants in America and the Lithuanian national movement before 1914. Journal of American Ethnic History , 6 (2), 5-19. Sinclair, U. (1906). Is “the jungle” true? Independent , May 17, 1120-1133. Sinclair, U. (1906). The jungle . New York: Grosset&Dunlap Publishers. Suleiman, S. R. (1993). Authoritarian ﬁctions: the ideological novel as a literary genre . New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Szlaużys, P. (2017). Lithuanians in the united states at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Białostockie Teki Historyczne , 15 , 119-139. Taylor, C. (2007). “Inescapably propaganda”: re-classifying Upton Sinclair outside the naturalist tradition. Studies in American Naturalism , 2 (2), 166-178. Wilson, C. P. (1982). American naturalism and the problem of sincerity. American Literature , 54 (4), 511-527. Zhang, X. (2010). On the inﬂuence of naturalism on American literature. English Language Teaching , 3 (2), 195-198. Zola, E. (1894). The experimental novel, and other essays . New York: The Cassell Publishing C.
CHAPTER 7 MIGRATION, MATURATION AND IDENTITY CRISIS IN ABANI’S SELECT NOVELS: A POSTCOLONIAL READING Bernard Dickson and Chinyere Egbuta Introduction Migration, displacement, maturative dislocation and identity crisis constitute themes for literary discourse in the twenty-ﬁrst century, especially as fall-outs of colonialism and globalization. The Nigerian literature of the twenty-ﬁrst century reveals the preponderance by writers, some of who live abroad, to confront the notions of migration, dislocation and identity crisis, through their literary works. They portray varying prevalent social realities, especially as they affect people of the Third World. It is not uncommon, therefore, to encounter the child-protagonist as he/she grapples with the vicissitudes of daily existence, maturation and identity formation in a dystopian environment. For example, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie uses the characters of Kambili and Jaja (Purple Hibiscus); Ugwu (Half of a Yellow Sun) and Ifemelu, Obinze, Emenike etc (Americanah) to explore the growing-up motif as a tool for exposing the maturational processes of the child-protagonist who struggles towards identity formation in a seemingly hostile environment. Also, Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo in Trafﬁcked; Chika Unigwe in On Black Sisters’ Street; Ifeoma Chinwuba in Merchants of Flesh; Tina Okpara’s memoir, My Life Has a Price, Amma Darko in Beyond the Horizon; Bisi Ojediran in A Daughter for Sale etc all explore the issue of migration and organized syndicate of international sex trade. All of them document the “socio-psychological progress of the central character[s] from an early stage of physical and/or emotional development to other life phases” (Onyerionwu, 2010, p. 143). Indeed, both migration and international sex trade, or better still, human trafﬁcking, constitute a part of
the major concerns of the twenty-ﬁrst century literary discourse. According to Bill Ashcroft, G. Grifﬁth and H. Tifﬁn (2002) in The Empire Writes Back, “More than three quarters of the people living in the world today have had their lives shaped by the experience of colonialism” (1). They go further to assert that “Literature offers one of the most important ways in which these new perceptions are expressed and it is in their writing, and through other arts … that the day-to-day realities experienced by colonized people have been most powerfully encoded …” (1). It is instructive to observe that Nigerians are among the “more than three quarters” which Ashcroft et al refer to. Truly, Nigerian literature of the postcolonial era is a potpourri of diverse experiential realities of a colonized people. Postcolonial Nigerian literature provides a panorama of postcolonial realities as they affect Nigerians, and by extension, people of the third world whose lives have been shaped or re-shaped by the event of colonialism. The indigenous political leaders who emerged after independence on 1st October, 1960, instead of steering the new-born nation to socio-economic prosperity and political stability orchestrated a system that engendered massive poverty and instability through their leadership ineptitude. Consequently, disillusionment loomed large against the renewed hopes and aspirations of the masses. Allwell Abalogu Onukaogu and Ezechi Onyerionwu (2009) capture the post-independence disillusionment, frustration and political instability thus: A nation that should be heaving a huge sigh of relief, having disentangled itself from the vice-like grip of colonial domination, soon found out that her troubles were far, far from being over. First, came the realization that our indigenous politicians lacked what was needed to steer the ship of the complex mosaic of a country to the much anticipated paradise. Next, came a series of unfortunate incidents which exposed the socio-political frailties and vulnerabilities of the young nation: the pogrom, political unrests, the ill-fated census, the coup and the counter-coup etc, and inevitably, the nation was plunged into a brutal civil war … (56 -57). Nigeria is basically a society in transition. The post-independence frustration and disillusionment have transformed into varying existential
realities as the people grapple with the challenges of daily living in a stiﬂing environment. Migration, maturative dislocation, identity crisis, political instability, what Sita Maria Kattanek calls “Commodiﬁcation of the body” (428) etc are some of the issues engendered by frustration, disenchantment and the struggle to survive in an inclement socio-political and economic milieu. However, this paper sets out to explore migration, maturation and identity crisis out of the many issues which Nigeria’s socio-political conditions have engineered. An Explication of Key Concepts: Migration Migration is one concept that can hardly be deﬁned in straitjacket terms. This is because human migration basically means movement and involves people who move for different reasons across different spaces. Therefore, a person who moves to another city or town within a nation, a refugee who crosses an international border to escape religious or political persecution, a jobseeker who moves to another country for better economic opportunities, a slave who is forcibly moved or a person displaced by war or natural disaster, or a scholar attending a conference automatically becomes a migrant. Many scholars and demographers have deﬁned migration in various terms, but this study adopts migration as deﬁned by Jeffrey G. Williamson and Timothy J. Hatton (2005). For them: Migration is a process in which an individual or a group shifts their residence from one population (or place) to another. Apart from its spatial dimension, migration also implies the disruption of work, schooling, social life and other patterns. A migrant is [therefore] someone who breaks off activities and associations in one place and reorganizes their daily life in another place. A movement within the same area is considered mobility, not migration, because the mover can continue day-to-day life (keep the same job or school, shop at the same stores and socialize with the same people without signiﬁcant disruption (family.jrank.org/pages1173/migration.html). From the deﬁnition above, two important factors are signiﬁcant in deﬁning migration or in determining who a migrant is. One, there is a shift (movement) from a sender population to a receiver population. By implication, migration must have a demographic effect on both places
involved. Two, there is a disruption of a pattern of living. By this, travellers and commuters are excluded from migration studies because their movement is on temporary basis and does not generally cause a major change in any population. Identity Crisis The migrants who move across national and international boundaries ﬁnd themselves in environments outside their usual places of abode; outside their cultural areas. While some move with members of their families, others move alone. Whatever the case, the migrants usually experience an erosion of a valid sense of identity either due to their wilful or coercive removal from their homeland through migration or through cultural derogation by a presumably superior culture. The implication of the corrosion of an active and valid sense of self drives the migrant into a psycho-social condition of perplexity and role confusion and a pursuit of a clearer sense of self. Maturation One aspect of the exploration of the rich resources which society provides writers is the idea of maturation. In addition to migration and identity crisis explained above, maturation is one of the topical issues in literary discourse. Many Nigerian writers have deployed the medium of their writing to illustrate the delicate intricacies that characterize the developmental processes which a child-protagonist is born into and nurtured through in the course of his/her personality formation. The ‘novel of formation’, ‘coming-of-age’ or ‘growing-up motif’ otherwise known as bildungsroman explores “the development of the protagonist’s mind and character, in the passage from childhood through varied experiences and often through a spiritual crisis into maturity …” (Abrams, 201). Instructively, the bildungsroman is a literary genre which cuts across all literary cultures. It is supposedly of German origin and has been represented in the English literary culture by such writers as Charles Dickens in Great Expectations, Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Aurora Leigh, Sophocles in Oedipus Rex and its adaptations, The Gods Are Not To Blame (1968, drama text and 1971, novel) by the same author, Ola Rotimi) etc. It is therefore adopted in this study to explore the maturative process of the child-protagonist in the twenty-ﬁrst century Nigerian Literature as a continuation of an already
established sub-genre but now aligned to suit extant socio-political realities of postcolonial Nigeria. Theoretical Framework Postcolonial literary studies emerged in the wake of independence when colonized peoples agitated and eventually became free from their colonial masters. The term ‘postcolonial’ has remained a subject of spirited argument and controversy especially over what it should and does represent. At one level, postcolonial is used to refer to the period between colonization and right after independence only, while at another level, the periodization is stretched further down, beginning from the moment of colonization down to the present day. This is in view of the fact that the colonizers are still in remote control of the affairs of the colonized nations. In essence, this paper subscribes to the position of Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griﬁths and Helen Tifﬁn, in The Postcolonial Studies Reader (2007), that the term postcolonial: is best used to designate the totality of practices, in all their rich diversity, which characterize the societies of the postcolonial world from the moment of colonization to the present day, since colonialism does not cease with the mere fact of political independence and continues in a neo-colonial mode to be active in many societies (xv). The above implies that the term ‘postcolonial’ is used to refer to diverse practices which incorporate all the effects of colonization by imperial Europe both within the moment of colonization and afterwards . Furthermore, post-colonial studies which emerged from the varied experiences of colonized peoples wherever they are found in the world represent the expression of such colonial experiences. For Ashcroft, Grifﬁths and Tifﬁn; “… postcolonial studies are based in the ‘historical fact’ of European colonialism and the diverse material effects to which this phenomenon gave rise” (The Post-colonial Reader 2). One of the ‘diverse material effects’ of British colonization of Nigeria, for instance, is the denigration of the indigenous culture through the superimposition of western culture. The derogatory representation or stereotyping of the natives found expression in the colonial documentation or writing by colonial administrators, adventurers, sailors, researchers and missionaries.
In response, creative writers from the postcolonies like Africa have also produced literary works to counter the erroneous impressions of the image of Africa as construed by the foreigners. For example, Chinua Achebe berates the Polish-British sailor-writer, Joseph Conrad, who according to Achebe disparagingly describes Africa in his novella Heart of Darkness as “the other world, the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where a man’s vaunted intelligence and reﬁnement are ﬁnally mocked by triumphant bestiality” (“An Image” 120). And actually, such misrepresentations as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson inspired Achebe’s counter-response debut novel, Things Fall Apart. Postcolonial studies therefore emerged through the attempt by writers from postcolonial societies to initiate a means of expression that counters established imperial historiography on Africa. And just as earlier cited, literature remains one of the most readily available and important modes of expressing the existential realities prevalent in the postcolonial societies. Postcolonial theory therefore is “concerned with the world as it exists during and after the period of European imperial domination and the effects of this on contemporary literature” (The Empire Writes Back p.2) of colonized peoples wherever they are found in the world. Ashcroft, Grifﬁths and Tifﬁn (2002) further posit that: What each of these literatures has in common beyond their special and distinctive regional characteristics is that they emerge in their present form out of the experience of colonization and asserted themselves by foregrounding the tension with the imperial power, and by emphasizing their differences from the assumptions of the imperial centre. It is this which makes them distinctly post-colonial (The Empire… 2). Essentially, the experience of colonization is responsible for shaping and re-shaping the culture of colonized societies and by extension the writing that emerged from such societies out of the horror of imperial domination. The socio-economic and political realities that characterize colonized societies and their literature are products of the imperial process of colonization and its continuation in diverse forms in present times. Postcolonial practice therefore involves an attempt, a predilection to engage
in a public discourse of the effects of European colonization of native populations and supplanting and denigration of indigenous ways of knowing. Ashcroft et al (2007) summarize this view through their submission that the practice of postcolonial theorizing: involves discussion about experience of various kinds: migration, slavery, suppression, resistance, representation, difference, race, gender, place and responses to the inﬂuential master discourses of imperial Europe such as history, philosophy and linguistics, and the fundamental experiences of speaking and writing by which all these come into being. None of these is ‘essentially’ postcolonial, but put together they form the complex fabric of the ﬁeld (The Post-colonial Studies Reader… 2). The experiences – migration, maturative dislocation, identity crisis, suppression, gender, resistance, re-presentation, etc. constitute the material effects and reactions to colonialism. Instructively, the concept of postcolonial agency, as an offshoot of postcolonialism, has been developed to encompass the attempts by colonized peoples to initiate a process of decolonization. It aims at sociopolitical and cultural transformation of societies which are contending with the fall-outs of imperial domination. Postcolonial agency is used to elucidate the actual factors that inﬂuence the decisions made and actions undertaken by colonized peoples as a means of resisting derogatory colonial discourse in the postcolony. Ashcroft et al (2007) reveal that “Agency is particularly important in post-colonial theory because it refers to the ability of the postcolonial subjects to initiate action in engaging or resisting imperial power” (6). The historical development of postcolonial agency can possibly be linked to Frantz Fanon’s psychoanalytical study of the effects of imperial domination on both the colonized and the colonizer. Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks (1952) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961) provide useful insight on the psychic challenges of a decolonizing attempt; of freeing or liberating a colonized psyche and by implication, a colonized society. For instance in Black Skin White Masks, Fanon submits that, “There is a fact: white men consider themselves superior to black men. There is another fact: Black men want to prove to white men, at all costs, the richness of their thought, the equal value of their intellect” (3).
This is for Fanon, a vicious cycle in which the man of colour ﬁnds himself constantly negotiating and from which he needs to be emancipated. He therefore “proposes nothing short of the liberation of the man of colour from himself” (Black Skin 2), from the self-imposed constant slaving to prove the equality of his intellect to that of the white man. By implication, the material effects of European colonialism have alienated and denigrated the man of colour and he has accepted and internalised a feeling of inferiority, hence his continuous nearly habitual endeavours in demonstrating his humanity in relation to the white man. Fanon further asserts that the brutality of colonialism in all its diversity did not affect only the individual as a colonized being, but also affected the society (Black Skin … 4). This is in view of the fact that each society is made up of individuals. Therefore, the aftermaths of colonialism, by extension, affected the course of development of any society peopled by colonized persons. Any attempt at liberation by such individuals is at the level of liberating the self and the society. In this regard, Fanon avers that: […] the black man’s alienation is not an individual question. Beside phylogeny and ontogeny stands sociogeny. But society, unlike biochemical processes, cannot escape human inﬂuences. Man is what brings society into being…. The Black man must wage his war on both levels: since historically, they inﬂuence each other, any unilateral liberation is incomplete … (Black Skin … 4) Evidently, the agency of the black man in this war of liberation is required to secure his effective freedom. Indeed, ‘The black man must wage his war on both levels’, he must be the one to emancipate himself from the mental slavery which the colonial experience has imposed on him; he is the one to initiate and execute acts capable of his liberation; he must undertake certain socio-political activities as a colonized person living within a postcolonial society. Some postcolonial discourse theorists such as Homi K. Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak have raised the question of the possibility of subjectifying agency. Bhabha (1994) has drawn attention to colonial hybridity and the ambivalence which it engenders. This hybridity displaces the idea of the ‘original’ and the ‘uncontaminated’ both of which serve as loci that perpetuate and consolidate imperialism. Spivak on the other hand in “Can
the Subaltern speak?’ (1995) casts aspersions on the belief or assumption that colonized peoples can effectively take action of adequate representation of themselves against an already established and existing imperial discourse. While appraising the postcolonial theoretical postulations of Bhabha and Spivak especially in relation to the agency of the colonized peoples, Benita Parry (1995) surmises that: For Spivak, imperialism’s epistemic bellicosity decimated the old culture and left the colonized without the ground from which they could utter confrontational words; for Bhabha, the strategems and subterfuges to which the native resorted, destabilized the effectivity of the English book but did not write an alternative text (38). In a more recent study on postcolonial agency, David Jefferess (2008) and Simone Bignall (2010) opine that in the decolonization process, there is a need to transform the attitudes and mindsets of both the colonizer and the colonized in order to achieve better reconciliatory relationship. Their view is against the old model of decolonization deﬁned by binary opposition and sovereign domination. For them, the Hegelian dialectic philosophy that forms basis of argument in postcolonial studies should be replaced with a change in attitude and relationship between the two groups of people involved in the act of colonization. This is to achieve a genuinely postcolonial society. Signiﬁcantly, these theoretical positions attest to the diverse guises in which postcolonial studies and its bifurcations manifest and the reality of a varied and ever-changing social experience in postcolonial societies. Nevertheless, this paper approaches Chris Abani’s GraceLand and Becoming Abigail through the lens of postcolonial agency. It examines how, the extent to which colonialism and its fall-outs inﬂuence and affect colonized subjects’ ability to initiate and execute actions capable of engendering their liberation and well-being. Migration, Maturation and Identity Crisis in Abani’s GraceLand Chris Abani is one of the twenty-ﬁrst century Nigeria’s most creative and prodigious writers. The national and global critical reception of his novels attests to the general appeal and expansive nature of his vision. He currently has seven poetry collections and seven novels to his credit. Dave Eggers describes Abani in the following terms:
Chris Abani might be the most courageous writer working right now. There is no subject matter he ﬁnds daunting, no challenge he fears. Aside from that, he’s stunningly proliﬁc and writes like an angel. If you want to get at the molten heart of contemporary ﬁction, Abani is the starting point (“Praise for Chris Abani”). Evidently, Abani’s GraceLand (2004) represents an aspect of his courage in tackling diverse issues of the moment in a single volume. The novel is a beautiful polyphonous rendition of the socio-political and economic realities of postcolonial Nigeria in a neocolonial, multicultural and globalized milieu. Abani in GraceLand x-rays migration, maturation of the child-protagonist and identity crisis which emerge from a disordered psyche. The narrative opens in the slum-city of Maroko, a suburb aptly described as a “ the suspended city” (6) in Lagos, the “half slum, half paradise” capital of Nigeria. However, this is not where the action begins. It begins in Aﬁkpo, Elvis’s hometown. Hence Elvis, the child-protagonist is worried about the kind of life he is faced with as he struggles to survive in the slumcity of Maroko. He wonders how he and his father have come to live in abject poverty because “just two years ago they lived in a small town and his father had a good job and was on the cusp of winning an election. Now they lived in a slum in Lagos” (6). Apparently, they have migrated to Lagos from the ‘small town,’ of Aﬁkpo, his place of birth and where his family has lived till the death of his mother. Elvis is sixteen years old as the narrative begins but was“… fourteen when he arrived in Lagos two years before…”(8). This evidently places Elvis Oke and his father Sunday Oke as internal migrants who have left their ancestral or native home in search of better life. The Okes are internal migrants because their movement from Aﬁkpo to Lagos is within the boundaries of their country, Nigeria. Essentially, Abani’s stylistic narrative technique creates a plot which is developed by alternating the present and the past – Lagos in the present and Aﬁkpo in the past. Through this technique of juxtaposition, the narrator reveals the Okes before their migration to Lagos, when they have had a close-knit family. Life fared well for them until the double catastrophe of Beatrice’s death and Sunday’s loss of election. They serve as the catalysts that initiated the dystopia that followed. In fact, Sunday Oke ﬁnds it
impossible to cope with life after the death of Beatrice, his wife. His life begins to degenerate. Abani’s narrator explains that, “Sunday had not been the same since Beatrice died and he’d lost all interest in his son except to reprimand or punish him” (61) at the slightest provocation. Sunday’s estrangement from his only son is the physical manifestation of his traumatized psyche consequent upon his wife’s demise. Again, this ﬁlial severance is a major factor in the maturative dislocation Elvis eventually suffers. Sunday tells his son Elvis: […] Everything for us fell apart when your mother died. I blame the death that took her. Talk to you? How could you understand my pain? My shame? Do you think this is who Sunday Oke is? Wanted to be? Do you think this is how I planned my life? Get out of here, stupid, arrogant child. The day I talk to you is the day death claims me. Get lost! Go! (131). Abani deploys these rhetorical questions and vituperative tirade to attest to the fact that Beatrice’s death totally shatters her husband, makes him lose focus and outrightly severs him from Elvis, his only child. Worse still, Sunday is shamefully defeated in an election. Having won a seat before, “in de ﬁrst republic” (175), Sunday is hoodwinked into contesting in the elections that are supposed to usher in the second republic. But this turns out a misfortune because the result proves that: He should never have agreed to get involved in politics, he thought. Never listened to the supporters who had egged him on with promises of money and help, but who had disappeared leaving him with a heavy debt. He certainly should not have taken early retirement from his lucrative job as the district education inspector. The job had offered prestige and a good wage …(218). The implication of losing in the election and being steeped in huge debts is that what is left of Sunday after the death of his wife is driven into complete ruin. In an apostrophic explanation to his wife, Sunday Oke mutters “I mean, look at me, … Oh, Beatrice, look at me, reduced to dis. Now I have to sell off my father’s land and dis house to pay dose debts, and to survive. I have to take a job in Lagos, running away with my tail tucked between my legs” (218). He becomes an alcoholic and often hallucinates as
in the following, “What did you say …? Of course it was my ambition too. But I was stupid to let dem talk me – what? Don’t interrupt me, Beatrice. Just because you are dead does not mean I can’t slap your face” (219). The agency of Sunday Oke as a postcolonial subject is therefore made manifest in his migration out of his native land, Aﬁkpo, to Lagos where he supposedly is to get a job so as to survive the harsh realities of losing in an election in which the highest spender gets the highest number of votes. Evidently, this ‘money-politics’ is one of the aftermaths of British colonization of Nigeria which has contributed in engendering misappropriation and corruption in governance. According to Achebe (2012), political corruption in Nigeria was part of the colonial bequest as; it was discovered that a courageous English junior civil servant named Harold Smith had been selected by no other than Sir James Robertson to oversee the rigging of Nigeria’s ﬁrst election …. In a sense, Nigerian independence came with a British governor general in command, and, one might say, popular faith in genuine democracy was compromised from its birth (There Was a Country, 50-51). It is through the escapist migration to Lagos that Elvis ﬁnds himself struggling to survive in the slum-city of Maroko. It is signiﬁcant to note that migration to Lagos is responsible for the complete maturative dislocation which Elvis suffers. His maturation has started on a good note with a traditional act of initiation, his ﬁrst step to manhood as dictated by tradition” (18) when he is ﬁve years old. The climax of the ‘ﬁrst’ rite of passage which is when “Sunday picked Elvis up and held him close to the decaying birds” (21) is symbolic. The decaying birds represent death while the stench they emit represents the upheavals of life both of which must be faced by man. By implication, Elvis is being prepared so that he will have the courage to face the vicissitudes of adult life squarely. Furthermore, Elvis is not pre-informed about this initiation ceremony. He is taken unawares and this quite instructive as Elvis’s cousin, Innocent, transliterates and explains to him, “Dat’s how dese things are. De trials of dis world come as surprise, so you must have a warrior’s heart to withstand dem” (22). However, despite this attempt at preparing Elvis to withstand the challenges of adult life, his maturation is one characterized by varying
traumatic events which seemingly reﬂect the reality of postcolonial Nigeria. The novel’s temporal setting which alternates within the years between 1972 and 1983 is symbolic. The years following the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970 and up to 1985 when the military government of General Muhammadu Buhari was ousted were marked by socio-political and economic instability. The violence, turmoil and deprivation which Elvis suffers as he navigates the Lagos cityscape in his struggle for survival symbolise the strife, unrest and instability which characterize postcolonial Nigeria. The Elvis that grows up in such an environment is greatly inﬂuenced by the goings-on around him. The deprivation and violence he experiences toughen him as he ruthlessly pursues possible means of earning a living for himself having been abandoned by his alcoholic and unemployed father. Sita Maria Kattanek comments that “The degradation that Elvis experiences turns out to be the rule rather than the exception when he observes life in postcolonial Africa. Everywhere around him people try to eke out a living – laboring for the rich, thieving or selling their bodies” (428) and begging. Signiﬁcantly, these postcolonial subjects employ their agency so as to create a habitable space, whatever the form, for their survival in a truly hostile and strangulating environment. Elvis obviously has no other option than to join the unpleasant race for survival and “throughout his journey to manhood […] must contend with global concerns such as poverty and economic exploitation” (Kattanek 428) especially as they affect him and people around him. Such a ruptured socio-political and economic background from which Elvis grows up and which is responsible for his maturative dislocation also accounts for the identity crisis he faces in the course of growing up. His maturation within an Igbo society that has been fractured by colonialism, where “…. The Kola ritual has changed. Christian prayers have been added, and Jesus has replaced Obasi as the central deity” (291) reveals the ruptured identity which this elicits in the psyche of the colonized people. Therefore “Elvis grows up in surroundings where opposing cultural inﬂuences clash (Kattanek 427). As a consequence, Elvis ﬁnds himself in a continuous psychological state of disorientation, struggling to get a clear sense of himself and a proper role in his society. Elvis is confused about his role and the right thing
he should do and this results from the conﬂicting expectations of the people around him especially his friends - Redemption and Ceasar Augustus Anyanwu, popularly known as ‘De King of de Beggars’ and his father, Sunday Oke. Elvis ﬁnds himself torn between the ideals of his two friends who represent different principles. De King of de Beggars wants Elvis to become able to form his own opinion about important issues and to make his choice of the right thing to do, while Redemption proffers practical guide and lifeline which functions as a quick ﬁx to his ﬁnancial lack (p. 96). Elvis’s maturation in surroundings where opposing cultural inﬂuences clash, where Igbo recipes, western literature, movies and popular culture, etc cohabit, is therefore very unstable. He helplessly mimicks, imitates and appropriates a foreign culture through his impersonation of Elvis Presley, a feat he fails to achieve correctly. “With a defeated sigh, he turned to the small tin of talcum powder … and applied a thick layer, peering into the mirror. He was dissatisﬁed; this was not how white people looked” (p.11). “He doesn’t look like any Elvis I know” (p. 12) is the conclusion of one of the foreigners who he entertains as a means of raising some money. Indeed, Abani, in GraceLand seems to suggest through Elvis’ identity crisis that indigenous authenticity or exclusiveness has been eroded by colonization and what has emerged is a double consciousness “ﬁlled with abnormal complexes” (Rodney, 2005, p. 304). Torn between the indigenous and the foreign, unable to take a deﬁnite stand and “as naïve as Elvis was, he knew there was no way of going back to the ‘good old days,’ and wondered why the King didn’t speak about how to cope with these new and confusing times” (p. 155). And just as he wonders what his life would have been “If he had been born white, or even just American…” (p. 78), he instantly reprimands himself for stupidity and “… suffering from colonial mentality” (p. 78). In the end, as Elvis is about to migrate to the United States of America, he concludes that “Nothing [including his identity] is ever resolved …. It just changes” (320). This implies that identity crisis is a characteristic of the postcolonial subject and will remain so especially following the complicated and confused “complexity of contemporary problems in Nigeria within the context of a globalized world.” (Kattanek, 2011; p.432). Migration, Maturation and identity Crisis in Abani’s Becoming Abigail
There are some inter-textual features in both GraceLand (2004) and Becoming Abigail (2007) by Chris Abani. The features are the bildungsroman texture, migration and identity crisis of the childprotagonist, the death of a mother and its consequent effect of shattering a hitherto close-knit family, an alcoholic father shattered by the death of his wife, an alternating narrative structure between the past and the present, and time and space, and the trend of survival mentality which runs in the main characters – Elvis Oke and Abigail Tansi. Abigail migrates to London through the psychopathic Peter who is reputedly “a successful businessman in London and was very generous to the villagers when he came home… [and] he always takes one young relative back to London as well… “ (Becoming Abigail, 57-58). Abigail’s migration to London through the help of Peter is, however, against her will. She protests when Peter tells them that “Mary has asked that I bring Abigail back on this trip to come and live with us in London. She can ﬁnish school there” (63). But “Abigail’s father wanted her to go back with Peter” (63) because he believes, albeit erroneously that London will give her “a higher standard of education and living” (64). She migrates to London not because she wants to but because her father wants her to. As a migrant, Abigail faces maltreatment and dehumanization which Peter doles out to her in measured bits. After she resists the ﬁrst attempt by Peter at raping her, and turning her into a sex object, Abigail is gravely brutalized and dehumanized: Abigail struggled as he half-pushed her down the hall and out into the backyard… the ground was cold and wet with dew and frost and Abigail’s nightgown was streaked, dirty, by the time he stopped in front of the empty dog-house. He handcuffed her to the chain lying in front of it. She pulled against it. It was ﬁrmly embedded in the ground…. He spat at her and she ﬂinched. He turned to go, then stopped. Pulling his penis out, he peed all over her. Laughing as she thrashed about. ‘That’s my dirty dog,’ he said. ‘Dirty dog’ (86-87). Indeed, the dehumanization which Abigail suffers as a migrant in London is so severe that she gets toughened and cannibalized. Consequently, when “the slime of it threatened to obliterate the tattoos that made her. Abigail” (91), she becomes “unable to stand it anymore …. And with her teeth tore off Peter’s penis” (92). It is through this act of violent
resistance that Abigail gains her freedom from Peter. London fails to provide Abigail a better life as her father has projected. Abigail’s maturation is wrought with violent ruptures as she struggles towards self-discovery. These ruptures can possibly be attributed to the absence of her mother who died while giving birth to Abigail. The most signiﬁcant is the colossal physical and psychic shattering of Abigail’s father who ought to have been responsible and responsive to Abigail’s proper upbringing. Abigail’s father is so traumatised by his wife’s death that he neglects his responsibility of training the daughter who is an unmistakable replica of her mother, also called Abigail. For instance, Abigail’s father fails to give his daughter proper sex education or even provide the needed conducive atmosphere for a heart-toheart talk between a daughter and her father who happens to be the only parent ﬁgure and family in her life. Abani’s narrator states that “She tried to talk to her father about this need to see herself, but he couldn’t understand what she meant. Or maybe he just pretended not to” (38). This is more glaring in this interaction between Abigail and her father: Looking up, her father smiled. “Hey, baby, can I get you anything?” he asked. “No, Dad, I just wanted to talk.” “What about?” he asked, folding the newspaper he had been reading…. “About my period,” Abigail began. “About being a woman.” He looked away uncomfortably. “Abigail! How can you bring that up, eh! I was just about to ask you to make dinner.” “But Dad.” “Your mother would never have talked like this, you know? She knew the right way to conduct herself,” he said (39-40). Obviously, Abigail’s father lacks the understanding and parental ability to guide his daughter effectively through this singular deﬁnitive and difﬁcult stage of her maturation. The implication is that during the wedding between Mary, Abigail’s cousin, and Peter, when Abigail was twelve: Peter had cornered her in the bathroom. She didn’t shrink away like other girls her age might have at being surprised in the bathroom with
her underwear halfway down her legs and skirt of her dress gathered in a bunch as she squatted over the hole…. She just held her dress up and peed, not taking her eyes off his (56). Truly, Abigail’s maturation is maladjusted, hence the identity crisis she suffers throughout her life. Abigail lacks a true sense of herself or of her personal identity, right from the moment of her birth when she loses her mother in the process. Abani’s narrative voice reveals: Tall, thin, and dark, she, this Abigail, looked so much like the other that her father had named her the same. She was more ghost than her mother, … Even her laughter, at once wild and reigned in, was all Abigail…. So she was always Abigail. Yet not (37). She is torn between two identities of being (or becoming) and not being and through out her maturation she struggles to overcome this identity crisis. She tries to become Abigail. But the question is: “Which Abigail? The mother or the daughter?” Evidently, the identity crisis which characterizes Abigail’s maturation is portrayed in the title of the narrative. Abigail’s father wants her to become Abigail, the mother, whom she unmistakably resembles and this she tries to do through her recreation of her mother, through diverse horriﬁc and odd methods. The narrative persona avers that: […] Before she [Abigail] began burning herself she collected anecdotes about her mother and wrote them down in red ink on bits of paper which she stuck on her skin, wearing them under her clothes; all day. Chafﬁng. Becoming and chafﬁng, as though the friction from the paper would abrade any difference, smooth over any signs of the joining, until she became her mother and her mother her (27). It is when this process fails to permanently make her Abigail that she resorts to other tortuous means such as burning in order to recreate her past and truly become Abigail: Her early attempts were thick but ﬂat noodles burned into her skin by cashew sap. With time came ﬁner lines, from needles, marking an improvement. But there were also the ugly whip marks of cigarette tips.
Impatient. And the words: Not Abigail. My Abigail. Her Abigail? Ghosts. Death. Me. Me. Me. Not. Nobody…. (26-27). Essentially, Abigail’s act of self-cauterization is, according to Ashley Dawson (2010): “One of the primary ways in which Abigail grapples with the past […] through her body. She quite literally traces the absent presence of her mother on her own ﬂesh…… an attempt to inhabit her mother’s identity….” (185). However as Abigail grows into adolescent, she struggles to forge her own individual identity. Indeed “Her acts of self-signiﬁcation with ﬁre offer her a means of marking and mourning her lost mother on her body” (Dawson, p. 185) as much as they also offer her means of permanently embossing her personal identity on her body. And it is when “… the tattoos that made her. Abigail” (91) come under the threat of obliteration by Peter’s act of dehumanizing her; when her personal identity, her humanity is in danger of being eroded by Peter that she thoroughly becomes Abigail, both the mother and the daughter. Eventually, she becomes Abigail, the mother, especially by biting off Peter’s penis with her teeth (92). She also becomes Abigail, the daughter, who has her own unfair share of diverse forms of abuse and dehumanization yet is able to withstand them by initiating a direct action against Peter. Abigail’s self-signiﬁcation and assertion are symbolic of a head-on confrontation between the oppressed and the oppressor, through the agency of the oppressed which manifests in the form of self-assertion. Signiﬁcantly, Abigail’s greatest moment of self-assertion and identity formation is actualized through her relationship with Derek, the social worker who provides her with care, concern and perfect understanding and whom she obviously accepts for possibly being the ﬁrst person to see her as she really is, for herself. Derek becomes the ﬁrst person to see her for herself and for this, she falls completely in love with him (75). Abigail’s moment of self-awakening and assertion is underlined through the love making between her and Derek in which case “Abigail was giving. For the ﬁrst time, she wasn’t taken …. Abigail, this Abigail, only this Abigail, always this Abigail becoming, felt herself becoming…” (46 – 47). And to make this becoming, this self-assertion, this self-identiﬁcation permanent, Abigail:
stole into the kitchen and ﬁnding the needle Derek’s wife used to sew all her love into the turkey at Christmas, she held it over the naked ﬂame of the gas range. And in the cold reﬂection of the microwave’s window, she burned two points onto her breasts, one on each. Each one. One on one. Then one in the middle, the hard of her sternum pressing back against the needle. One on her stomach. On each thigh. Each knee. Several round each ankle until they were wearing a garland. Then in the blindness of faith, dots on the back of her thighs, running desperately up to the rise of her buttocks. (47). This cauterization of her body evidently represents a narrative of Abigail’s emerging self, “the map of her, the skin of her world, as she emerged in pointillism. Emerging in parts of a whole. Each. Every” (49). The irony, however, is that Abigail’s moment of identity formation and selfassertion is viewed by the society as victimization. The object through whom her self-assertion comes – “Derek was ﬁred from his job and brought up on charges for the abuse of a minor” (110) despite Abigail’s explanation that she made the choice. Conclusion Chris Abani’s GraceLand and Becoming Abigail are explorations of the existential and experiential realities that confront postcolonial subjects as they struggle through the course of daily living. The texts reveal the challenges of their child-protagonists – Elvis Oke and Abigail Tansi respectively, as they grapple with maturation and self-discovery. This study on migration, maturation and identity crisis in these texts reveals that psychological effects of the diverse experiences of the protagonists are responsible in shaping and conditioning their personality. Evidently, the dysfunctional system of the postcolony in which Elvis and Abigail ﬁnd themselves is an unavoidable preliminary condition which leads to the displacement, maturative dislocation and identity crisis which they suffer. Their determined struggles towards identity formation through their agency of resistance and self-assertion under the most strangulating living conditions in Nigeria and abroad propel the plot of the narratives. Abani’s novels under study reveal that the dystopian postcolonial nation of Nigeria and its prevalent adverse social realities provide the Nigerian
youth diverse means of survival which are in the most negative. It is therefore imperative to concur with Ashley Dawson (2010) that: Over the past thirty years, the unravelling of the developmental state in many post-colonial nations, the imposition of structural adjustment programs, free trade agreements, and the many other components of the neoliberal order that David Harrey terms ‘accumulation by dispossession’ have led to unparalleled deracination (181). Oppression, neo-colonialism and the consequent agency of the displaced and oppressed are geared towards resistance and self-assertion. GraceLand and Becoming Abigail are narratives of such displacement, oppression, maturative dislocation and identity crisis and the agency of the postcolonial subject in initiating and taking actions aimed at self-deﬁnition and liberation. References Abani, C. (2004). GraceLand. New York: Picador. (321 pgs). Print. ________ . (2007). Becoming Abigail. Lagos: Faraﬁna. (113 pgs). Print. Abrams, M. H. (2005). A Glossary of Literary Terms. Eight Edition. Boston: Thomas Wadson. (370 pgs). Print. Achebe, C. (1990). “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.” In Hammer, R. (Ed.) Joseph Conrad: Third World Perspectives. Washington DC: Three Continent Press. Pp 119-129. (273 pgs). Print. ________ . (2012). There Was a Country: A Persona History of Biafra. London: Penguin Books Limited. (333 pgs). Print. Ashcroft, B., Grifﬁths, G., and Tifﬁn, H. (2002). The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures. 2nd edition. London and New York: Routledge. (283 pgs). Print Ashcroft, B., Grifﬁths, G., and Tifﬁn, H. (2007). Post-Colonial Studies Reader: The Key Concepts. Second edition. London and New York: Routledge. (292 pgs). Print. Awuzie, S., and Lekwa, I. (2017). “Growing-up Motif in African Literature : A Study of Chukwuma Ibezute’s Time Will Tell.” In Hezekiah University Journal of Humanities: Vol 1, No. 1. Pp 89-97. (210 pgs). Print. Babawale, T. (2008). Africa and African Diaspora Relations: Challenges, Opportunities and Prospects. Lagos: Malthouse Press Limited. (54 pgs). Print. Bhabha, H. K. (1994). The Location of Culture. London and New York: Routledge. (285 pgs). Print. Bignall, S. (2010). Postcolonial Agency: Critique and Constructivism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. (272 pgs). Print. Dawson, A. (2010). “Cargo Culture: Literature in an Age of Mass Displacement.” In Women Studies Quarterly Vol. 38, No 1 & 2 (Spring / Summer 2010) 178 – 193. (http:///www.feministpress.org/.../cargo-culture). Accessed on 26/5/2018. web.
Eggers, D. (2014). “Praise for Chris Abani” Back cover of Abani’s The Secret History of Las Vegas. New York: Penguin Books. Fanon, F. (1952). Black Skin White Mask. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. France: Editions de Sevil (225 pgs). Print. Ichie, J. (2016). The Abroad Syndrome. Aba-Nigeria: Clearprint Publishing. (70 pgs). Print. Jefferess, D. (2008). Postcolonial Resistance: Culture, Liberation and Transformation. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. (255 pgs). Print. Jeffrey G. W. and Timothy, J. H. (2005) “Migration and the Global Economy.” (family.jrank.org/pages/1173/migration.html). Accessed on 20/7/2018. Web. Kattanek, S. M. (2011). “The Nigerian Coming-of-Age Novel as a Globalization Device: A Reading of Chris Abani’s GraceLand.” In Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities. Vol. 3, No 3. Pp 426 – 433. (http://rupkatha.com/v3/n3/07-Chris-AbaniGraceland.pdf). Accessed on 26/5/2018. Web. Nwahunanya, C. (2010). Literary Criticism, Critical Theory and Post colonial African Literature. Revised edition. Owerri: Springﬁeld Publishers. (388 pgs). Print. Oguine, Ike. (2000). A Squatter’s Tale. Essex: Heinemann Educational Publications. (201 pgs). Print. Oloko, P. “New’ Nigerian Poets, Poetry and the Burden of Tradition.” (http://www.academia.edu/Documents/in/contemporary_nigeria_poetry). Accessed on 20/7/18. Web. Onukaogu, A.A., and Onyerionwu, E. (2009). 21st Century Nigeria Literature: An Introductory Text. Ibadan: Kraft Books Limited. (300 pgs). Print. __________. (2010). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Aesthetics of Commitment and Narrative. Ibadan: Kraft Books Limited. (412 pgs) Print. Oyeniyi, B.A. (2013). Internal Migration in Nigeria: A Positive Contribution to Human Development. ACP Observatory on Migration. ACPOBS/2013/PUBOI Parry, B. (1995). “Problems in Current Theories of Colonial Discourse.” In Ashcroft, B., Grifﬁths, G., and Tifﬁn, H. (Ed.) The Post-colonial Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge. Pp 36-44. (526 pgs). Print. Rodney, W. (2005). How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Abuja: Panaf Press. (361 pgs). Print. Spivak, G. C. (1995). “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In Ashcroft, B., Grifﬁths, G., and Tifﬁn, H. (Ed.) The Postcolonial Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge. Pp. 24 – 28. (526 pgs). Print.
 I am grateful to Esperanza Bielsa, for challenging me to follow this sociological approach. I am indebted to Nora Moll for introducing me to the migrant literature in Italy. I am also indebted to Dora Carpenter Latiri and Yolanda Onghena for introducing me to the extraordinary world of Arabic literature and culture. 
President Jefferson used the same paternalistic tone in describing how he envisaged the
aftermath of the Louisiana Purchase (1803) as a likely re-organisation of the Union into two confederacies: ‘Those of the Western confederacy will be as much our children as those of the Eastern’ (as cited in Cerami 256). 
See Denson (16–19) on the pre-1830 history of Native American relations with the white
settlers within the latter’s ‘expansion with honour’ model. See also Kennedy (119–123) on mixedblood Scottish-Creek chief Alexander McGillivray: in 1776, McGillivray remonstrated that King George III ‘was never possessed by cession or purchase or by right of conquest . . . [of the] territories . . . the said treaty gives away’ (as cited on p. 120); in 1785, McGillivray challenged Congress with a counter-declaration of Indian independence against federal plans to act on the Treaty of Paris (1783) and divide Northern America. 
The infringement of the Tenth Commandment – ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house,
thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s’ (Exod. 20:17) – works in tandem, in the Cherokee removal, with the infringement of the Sixth and Eighth Commandments too, respectively ‘Thou shalt not kill’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ (Exod. 20:13, 20:15). The Protestant King James Bible was the American pioneers’ version. 
President Jackson ratiﬁed the Indian Removal Act on 28 May 1830. However, Indian
removals began under Thomas Jefferson, whose strategy was to ‘civilise’ them out of hunting – and into farming (which native women had always done) – and subsequently claim their lands, whether in exchange for the ‘necessaries’ brought to them by the whites or after defeat in battle (Calloway 266– 268). 
Oil on canvas; now in the Museum of the American West, Autry National Center, Los
Crofutt’s rhetorical question echoes John Winthrop’s belief that the British colonists of
America have the providentially mandated mission to make it God’s country, an enterprise which will be closely scrutinised by the world (Winthrop 294–295). Both authors speak to the whites’ self-image as an exceptional group; their notion is one encapsulated in the nineteenth-century ‘manifest destiny’ trope, part and parcel of the doctrine of American exceptionalism. 
Historian Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis – purportedly a scientiﬁc explanation of
the US continental expansion – was ﬁrst expounded in a paper delivered during the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago to the World Congress of Historians, which subsequently became
Chapter 1 of his The frontier in American history (1921). According to Turner, the ever-receding border ‘between savagery and civilization’ (3) closed in 1890, which ended the ‘ﬁrst period of American history’ (38). As Jenkins (164) argues, American expansionism in the 1880s was, with its distinctive ‘civilising mission’ battle cry, but another side of the imperialism practised by the Western European states. On the history of the American frontier, as well as its mythicising in the Western genre and in nineteenth-century narratives like James Fenimore Cooper’s, see Hine and Faragher (2007). 
Settled by the French, Louisiana boasted its fair share of Creoles (as French residents) and
after its 1762 cession to Spain, also Spaniards; by 1803, Charles Cerami (246) contends, its population appeared ‘so mingled and diversiﬁed that mixed race and mixed ethnicity was the order of the day’. Most Americans who lived there ‘work[ed] for commission houses’ opened by New York-, Philadelphia- and Baltimore-based companies (247). However, most of Louisiana ‘was remarkably empty at the time of the Purchase’ (250) – ‘Oklahoma barely touched double digits in population count’, whilst some other areas ‘were virtually empty, with only one or two persons per square mile’ (251); some parts ‘remain[ed] underpopulated’ for decades (257). In 1803, ‘[o]f the few white inhabitants, a considerable percentage were fur trappers’, who, as ‘active competitors’, never formed communities; nor did those who bred horses for sale to the Native Americans (251). ‘The relatively few settlers who had managed to build homes and to coexist with the Native Americans were clustered along the banks of rivers, such as the Arkansas River and the Red River’ (251); ‘[t]he Native Americans themselves had already dropped to an astonishingly small number’ (252). I have quoted Cerami to such extent to signal (not only) his evasiveness about the numbers of Louisiana Native Americans, which implicitly ranks them with the ‘Vanishing Indian’ of nineteenth-century white discourse. 
The Cherokees eagerly learned certain white lessons (Calloway 268–269): in 1821
Sequoyah devised a Cherokee syllabary; in 1828 Elias Boudinot established the bilingual newspaper Cherokee Phoenix ; in 1827 the Cherokees adopted a constitution, modelled on the US Constitution; an 1825 census showed their husbandry prowess. After their forced relocation to Oklahoma, the Cherokees ‘rebuilt their nation’ by re-establishing their political institutions and continuing African Cherokee slavery; they ‘established churches and Protestant seminaries for both men and women and provided free coeducation in their public schools’, and thereby became again ‘the vanguard of “[Indian] civilization”’ (Calloway 274). 
See also Wilson (1999) on the Indian response to this governmental policy.
On ethos and pathos as essential, not supplementary, modes of rhetorical persuasion for the
making of practical (or aesthetic) judgements, see Kastely (2004). 
The parable is one rhetorical strategy developed since antiquity (see Eden 2004), yet most
Euro-Americans associate it neither with Plato’s cave or writing parables and generally with his accounts of Socrates, nor with Aristotle’s theorisation of the parable, but with Jesus. Aristotle, in his
Rhetoric 2.20.7 (as cited in Eden 241–242), argues that the parable’s analogical structure makes this rhetorical strategy subject to philosophical and rhetorical training. 
Jesus teaches ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Matt. 22:39) as second only to the
command ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind’ (Matt. 22:37), in response to the temptation engineered by the Pharisees and articulated by a lawyer amongst them (Matt. 22:34–36). The scene belongs in a larger Matthean episode of temptation – a power game between unequal power wielders – through discursive means, in which Jesus answers in parables (Matt. 22:1 and ff.). 
The written message was transmitted to the Congress, but not read in person by the president
(Jackson 8). 
The turn of phrase is but formulaic in its diplomatic context. Its various occurrences in the
message by Jackson (1830) demonstrate that the phrase – as well as its alternatives ‘I am happy to…’ (9) or ‘Among the numerous causes of congratulations’ (28) – functions to signpost various topics, from (in the opening sentence) the resumption of Congress activity (9) to commercial negotiations with Great Britain (‘It gives me unfeigned pleasure to assure you…’, 12). However, the phrase has a particularly sinister ring with respect to the Indian removal policy (25–28), as also in the Mexican case (‘I am particularly gratiﬁed in being able to state that a decidedly favorable, and, as I hope, lasting change has been effected in our relations with the neighboring republic of Mexico’, 14). 
A similar line of thought had been pursued by President Monroe in 1825 (as cited in Wilson
164): in presenting the governmental policy of Indian removal as paving the way for Indian progress, Monroe spuriously identiﬁed removal as the better alternative to inevitable self-destruction through non-adherence to the values of (Anglo-American) civilisation.