Gendered Silence in Transnational Narratives

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    Postcolonial studies has conventionally privileged ways of reading that register historical and cultural significances, yet considerations of class and gender seem equally vital to understanding and differentiating diasporic experience. The novels of Kamila Shamsie and Monica Ali focus on the movement between locations of ‘home’ and multiple diasporic or cosmopolitan spaces in order to offer a critique of globalisation. These authors self-consciously use techniques of polyphony, letters and diaries to project a specifically gendered political voice, but more interestingly, to acknowledge silence, secrecy, and complicity within specific cultural and geographical locations. While feminist analyses focus on issues of voice and visibility, the scrutiny of silence in diasporic contexts can be informative. Drawing on theoretical frameworks in Latin American studies, useful questions can be brought to anglophone postcolonialism. Gabriela Basterra’s concept of autoheteronomy and her practice of ‘reading otherwise’ is used here to complicate understandings of the female subaltern. My analysis also draws on Gayatri Spivak’s notion of ‘fadeout’; a term frequently overlooked, but one which in fact acknowledges the possibility of voice and enables the recognition of conscious constructions of silence. To date, there is little critical work on how particular literary and cultural ‘acts of silence’ are staged, or indeed, how silence is interpreted within specific narratives. The conditions of cosmopolitanism and the diasporic, grounded on an imperial past, illuminate the paradox embedded in literary stagings of silence. Attention to the innovative use and currency of narrative strategies addresses an apparent antinomy between literary form and historical content.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationNew Directions in Diaspora Studies
    Subtitle of host publicationCultural and Literary Approaches
    EditorsSarah Ilott, Ana Cristina Mendes, Lucinda Newns
    PublisherRowman & Littlefield
    ISBN (Print)978-1-78660-516-0
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


    • 'transnational/ism'
    • 'silence'
    • 'speech/voice'
    • 'subaltern'
    • 'agency'
    • 'autonomy'


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