Female Pakistani Fiction. A Critical Approach

Scientific Essay, 2015

60 Pages


Table of Contents:

1. 'Pakistani Fiction' ̶ background information

2. 'Female Pakistani Writing'

3. 'Female Pakistani Fiction' and 'Postcolonial Writing'

4. Parameters for (female) 'Pakistani Writing'
a) Gender
b) Diaspora
c) Globalization

5. A short analysis of (female) 'Pakistani Fiction'
a) Bapsi Sidhwa's Ice Candy Man (1991)
b) Monica Ali’s Brick Lane (2003)

6. Outlook

7. Bibliography


This book is an introduction into (female) 'Pakistani Fiction'. It starts with some sort of background information on the catchphrase 'Pakistani Fiction' in order to place the female aspect into its literary background. A second step lies in a description of the position of this literary concept within 'Postcolonial Writing' which is marked and shaped by so many different cultural and religious elements.

The short analysis of two selected novels, Ice Candy Man (1991) by Bapsi Sidhwa and Brick Lane (2003) by Monica Ali should help to show how female Pakistani writers deal with female matters. This literary reflection will be supported by three parameters which can be found in many novels dealing with this subject. The talk is about gender, diaspora and globalization all of which are used to portray female characters.

The end will consist of some sort of outlook where 'Pakistani Fiction' stands at the moment and where its trends might go to.

This book is for two very special people.

It is first of all for my long gone brother Michael who never had the chance to see this world. Although he only lived for one day he left many traces in our family. I personally know that he is my guardian angel protecting me now as he would have done in real life.

This book is also for Diana a very special person, who opened my eyes for something which had gone astray for a long time in my life - true love!

You will always be close!

"Great fiction comes from the tension that produces those dramatic political developments. Pakistan has been going through really interesting times. As writers process that through their fiction, they're coming up with an art with a real urgency and political need."

Hamid Mohsin on Pakistan in 2011

1. 'Pakistani Fiction' ̶ background information

The catchphrase 'Pakistani Fiction'[1] which is commonly used for writers living and writing in Pakistan or abroad covers one of the most influential Iiterary developments of contemporary English speaking literature. It has to be seen in what is generally known by 'Migrant Writing', which itself is a product of 'Postcolonial Writing'. Although there is a close relationship to England as the former colonial power 'Pakistani Fiction' by now has reached an independent literary status. This was not always the case since Pakistan had not only been influenced by English literature it was also overshadowed by literary giants from India such as Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy or Salman Rushdie. It was, however, especially Rushdie who helped Pakistani writers out of their - lets call it (with all respect) - literary infancy status­ with his novel Midnight Children (1981).

This book started a literary production of novels which ranges from topics such as religious extremism, class divides to dictatorship or war and love.[2]

Most Pakistani writers write and talk about their homecountry and problems related to it and they do this from two perspectives, from abroad and at home. So you find many of them working and living in London, New York, Karachi or Lahore. It is this double perspective which also helps to fully understand the possibilities which 'Pakistani Fiction' offers.

Two of the most important representatives, Nadeem Aslam and Hamid Mohsin, have already gained international status and were nominated for many literary awards such as the Man Booker Prize.

The energy involved in these and other Pakistani novelists is quite well described by Kamila Shamsie who wrote about these new writers by saying that 'Some of us have been writing for many years but suddenly we've had four or five novels coming out together and that's created a buzz'. The result of this literary vitality soon made clear that Pakistani literature - in contrast to contemporary Indian writing - seems to be more grittier and more engaged in style.

The background of this energy can certainly be seen in Pakistan's religious, historic and political background which helped to pave the way for many writers since readers seem to have embraced the political nature of 'Pakistani Fiction' a lot. This especially goes for novels written after 9/11 most of which also have to be read in the face of the 'War on Terror'. Hamid Mohsin commented on this with the words that 'If you have grown up in Pakistan, to sit down and write something that's not political is almost impossible'. This link between writing and politics is done by many young writers who originally stem from the country's upper class while having grown up in Pakistan in the 1980s. The list of these writers and their works shows that they consist of many authors already disposing of an international status. If one really dares to pinpoint it down to a novel which opened the present importance of Pakistani writing most critics mention Mohammed Hanif s A Case of Exploding Mangoes (2008) or Our Lady of Alice Bhatti (2011). It is these two novels which seem to have inspired writers such as Mohsin Hamid, Kamila Shamsie or Uzma Aslam Khan and books like The Story of Noble Rot (2001), Tresspassing: A Novel (2003), Geometry of God (2008) or Thinner than Skin (2012). H.M. Naqvi's Home Boy (2009), such as The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) by Hamid Mohsin or Kamila Shamsie' s In the City by the Sea (2004) use Pakistan and the West as their literary backgrounds thus reflecting modern Muslim existence from two sides. On the whole the quality of these writers is extremely high and shows that 'Pakistani Fiction' 'is now coming to its own' Munezza Shamsie ( 2013). This newly gained independence must, however not forget that Pakistani writing is still deeply rooted in its long Pakistani background[3]. Many of these modern writers are still influenced by Pakistani authors such as Jamil Ahmed and his book The Wandering Falcon (2008) although they work in their own personal migrant background by now. Nadeem Aslam's novels Season of the Rainbirds (1993), Maps for lost Lovers (2006), The Wasted Vigil (2009), or others like The Blind Man's Garden (2014), Broken Verses (2005), or Burned Shadows (2009) by Kamila Shamsie have all reached international importance. This also goes for Daniyal Mueenuddin 's novel In Other Rooms Other Wonders (2009) or Roopa Farooki's book The Flying Man (2012). The double perspective of East and West which can be found in many of these and other books is at the moment broken apart by this newly gained literary autonomy which many of these authors seem to favor. Pakistani literature, like Australian or Canadian literature as well, is becoming more and more independent, i.e. it more and more centers around Pakistan as its literary focus. This trend can - at the moment - quite well be seen with writers such as Uzma Aslam, H.M. Naqvi, Ali Sethi, Mah Khan Philipps and Feryal Gauthar who all seem to follow this direction of going back to their mothercountry. 'Pakistani Fiction' in English has been more focused on political issues at both the national and international levels especially after the recent rise of interest in Islam and Muslims in the wake of 9/11. However as far as Shahraz's works are concerned, her writings cannot be strictly classed as political as she only makes slight evasive hints at the underlying political struggles and her major concern remains the social conflicts at more or less domestic levels that shape the everyday lives of her characters. Siddiqui (2011) in his chapter, 'The Political or the Social: Qaisra Shahraz and the Present Pakistani Writings in English' voices a similar thought. Regarding Shahraz's writings he adds that:

"Though the political questions are only hinted at by Qaisra Shahraz, her novels remain rooted in its social context. As such it can also qualify as a Muslim social novel with the elements of romance thrown in. This kind of fiction has a more successful counterpart in popular Urdu literature. There are not many novels in English that can qualify as Muslim socials [...] she earns the distinction of introducing a new genre of fiction in English." (Siddiqui, 2011:194-195).

Shahraz's writing with its main focus on the social issues of lives of women within Pakistani society is a major contribution to an independent Pakistani literature. It indicates the need for 'Pakistani English Fiction' to address social concerns of women's lives. In the light of this discussion other writers deal with women's education, marriage, sexuality and the social pressures that women face within Pakistani society and thus provide an important conceptual link that binds Shahraz and Ahmad. Both Shahraz and Ahmad's characters remain like so many others the victims of an unjust society where male members of their family exploit religious values to gain secular and materialistic gains. 'Pakistani Fiction' is also closely connected to what is commonly known by the term 'Islamic Literature'. 'Islamic Literature' in the widest sense of the word requires an explanation if not an apology since it may be misleading. Islam does not stand for a group of languages nor is it the name of a language. It stands for a religion and is closely related to the vast community of Muslims (the ummah), their lives, their social, political and legal institutions; in short Islam stands for a total concept of the world since it covers all spheres of Muslim existence. Islamic culture - of which literature is one important part - is thus logically strongly influenced by Islam itself. Islamic literature can therefore be subdivided according to languages. Principal among them are Arabic, Persian and Turkish. However Berber, Hausa, Somali, Albanian, Kurdish, Uzbek, Pashto, Sindhi, Tamil must be added as well. The author of this essay concentrates on Panjabi, Urdu and Bengali being the most important ones for 'Pakistani Fiction'. Although many of these languages do not dispose of a linguistic basis it is Islam itself which affects some sort of homogeneity which was fostered by Persian and above Arabic as the two most influential literary factors. In short Islam and the Quran pervade and accompany Islamic literature in the sense that they shape the relationship between God and man and thus dispose a strong influence on (literary) characters. It is in this constellation between life giver and human being that the inquiring and self­searching mind (two central elements of female Muslim writing) has never been lulled into total self-complacency. It is here noteworthy to point out that it was and still is Western critics who falsely misinterpret Islamic literature with a negative stereotyped intention s.th. which was (rightly) criticized by Said in his works Orientalism (1978) and Culture and Imperialism (1993). 'Islamic Literature' on the whole disposes of a great bulk of unequally unimagined wealth of form and content all of which was and still is used by many poets and novelists. 'Islamic Literature', however, is also a literature of contrasts since it often deals with scepticism, blind faith, asceticism, hedonism, economy and lavishness. 'Female Pakistani Fiction' has its origin in Islamic literature, however, managed to leave this basis behind although (most) female characters are deeply rooted in Islam and its total concept of the world therefore influencing (and/or limiting) their character presentation for a Western readership.

2. 'Female Pakistani Writing'

'Pakistani Writing' (like all kinds of contemporary migrant writing) seems to be more and more influenced by female writers. This new trend is deeply rooted in gender studies and female attempts to throw a critical light on patriarchal Pakistani society and an anti female concept of Islam. The (literary) struggle and criticism of female authors and their characters against a male orientated world is more and more in the focus of Pakistani Anglophone writers such as Bapsi Sidhwa or Qaisra Sharaz. However, Urdu feminist writing also more and more joins this trend and critics regard the Urdu feminist writer Umera Ahmad as one of the frontrunners of this new development. The common presentation of these two types of female presentation lies in the description of sexual discrimination, sexual victimisation, gendered and religious oppression and above all sexual subjugation, in form of rape, forced and arranged marriages, and male control of body and mind with the help of patriarchal structures and Islam.

This negative concept of the female has its basis in Pakistani society which until today is based on patriarchal structures which favor the male and discriminate the female, all in the name of history, culture, tradition and religion. In Pakistan (and Bangladesh) men are considered to be confronted with respect, dignity and integrity, whereas women lack all these qualities. Their value too often is based on their bodies and the fact that they have to earn all these positive male qualities since they are not God given to them.[4] Women have to link their lives to the male, be it the husband, the father or the brother. Modern Pakistani women only slowly try to solve these male ties to their family but the deeply rooted feudal, tribal, political and religious facts are still powerful and are responsible for the degrading position for women in present Pakistani society. Among the most important writings on Pakistani women and the description of their lives are Bapsi Sidhwa, Qaisra Sharaz, Umera Ahmad and above all Monica Ali. Although strictly belonging to the 'Silheti Community' her writings can be attached to the wider term of 'Pakistani literature' since her female characters more or less all follow this negative description of the female. 'Pakistani Fiction' in English provides wide fields for female and feminist matters since the analysis of the female under patriarchy offers more (literary) possibilities. The literary, sociological, political and religious discussions following from here hint at the general role of feminist and gender studies of which Pandey (2003) states:

"Feminism in literature refers to a mode that approaches a text with foremost concern for the nature of female experience in it. The fictional experience of characters, the rational, intuitional or imaginative capacity of an author, the experience implicit in language of structure that interrogates the cultural prescriptions, that subordinate and trivialise women and treat them as inferiors are the primary concerns of female fiction writers from feminist perspective." (ibid.: 1)

Any feminist analysis of literature permits the (critical) reader to fully reflect the role of the (suppressed) female figure in society and her marginalized position.[5] Critical concepts like 'Cultural Ecology' here find an interesting basis to reflect the role of the female in literature and society in order to positively integrate it. This is seen by Ahmed (2009) who also stresses the key role of literature for fundamental changes in society and a critical re-consideration of the position of women (ibid.: 90).It is exactly at this crossroad of literature and its role within a society where the function of Pakistani Writing in general and in English in particular is at hand. This option for a change, its discussion in Pakistan and abroad also includes new chances for Pakistani literature since the global market offers worldwide recognition. The roots of 'Pakistani Fiction' have to be found on the subcontinent where politically orientated literature paved the way for female writers to reflect their role. One of the most important frontrunners in this respect was Mumtaz Shahawaz (1912-1948) whose novel The Heart Divided (2004) is considered to be the first English written novel with a South Asian background "welding the personal and the public" (Shamsie, 2005: xi). Key years for more women to follow Shahawaz were the 1940s, a decade which saw the falling apart of India and Pakistan. It was exactly in this complex political situation where the first women raised their voices in manifold ways and it is due to Muslim women like Begum Rana Liaquat, Ali Khan or Begum Shaista lkramullaha who left their traditional roles in order to participate or organize demonstrations, rallies or protest marches with the aim of creating a new state Pakistan. The political birth of Pakistan, however, to which these and other women participated as some kind of nation builders did not improve their traditional role, on the contrary it worsened it again. The sudden death of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, three years after the end of World War Two was followed by manifold political concepts to rule Pakistan. All these democratic and military governments could not bring in a stable political situation. This political instability was interrupted only in 1977 when General Zia-ul-Haq came into power supporting religious extremists. The results of this were negative consequences for women since their lives were now looked upon by the Sharia and its strict Islamic laws.

Shamsie (2005) on this:

"Earlier in the 1960s, the martial law of Ayub Khan defied orthodoxy to promulgate 1961 Family Laws Ordinance, drawn up by Pakistani women activists, with clauses that discouraged polygamy, regulated divorce procedures and introduced a minimum marriageable age for women. However, the martial law of Zia-ul-Haq held these in abeyance, and in 1979 he introduced the Hudood Ordinance which does not differentiate between rape and adultery in order to lslamise society. New blasphemy laws came into being; both were used to victimise the weakest and the most vulnerable women and minorities." (ibid.: .xiii)

Although one would have expected a pushing aside of female matters under Zia's religiously orientated and extremely conservative Islamic ideology the opposite took place. Suddenly women became the focus of attention in many political and national discourses. To be more precise the female body and sexuality suddenly were discussed in a setting which Cooke (2001) described as "the symbolic centre of their concerns and debates" (ibid.: viii). However, this was a debate dominated by men who still dictated the rules of treating women and the female. In short, this discussion was still made by the existing patriarchal system of exploitation and subjugation with the aim to keep women passive, silent and obedient. Despite these negative frameworks it nevertheless has to be pointed out that this discussion simply took place, even if one considers it to have its origin in the fear of a male-orientated society of losing its power.[6] The consequence of this trend down the years showed a steady but growing pressure of Pakistani women and their careful attempts for more emancipation and equality. It also showed (and still shows) that Pakistani society was (and still) is ruled and governed by feudal and tribal lords who take the liberty of policing and governing women and their spheres, all in the name of Islam which helped (and still helps) to keep Pakistani society anti-­female and male-orientated. The result is a keeping away of women from the possibility of equal participation in public spheres. It is exactly here where many female Pakistani writers set their novels, thus not only describing the role of women under Islam but also hoping to change this situation in the long run. 'Pakistani Fiction' in between has become a medium for protest both on a political and social level. The criticism emerging from this must strictly be considered to be political if one follows Terry Eagleton' s statement 'That all criticism is in a sense political'.

It is Siddiqui (2011) who takes this idea up while stating that:

"Almost all Pakistani novelists have dealt with the feudal class in their works. The feudal class also knows how to use religion to its advantage, even when religion does not have a very strong basis in the lives of people it has been used by the feudal class to maintain its power and position" (ibid.: 186).

Works of Anglophone writers, both male and female, help to provide important and helpful contributions to the emerging field of Pakistani literature as well. Female writers such as Bapsi Sidhwa, Monica Ali, Feryal Ali Ghuhar, Sara Suleri, Kamila Shamsie, Uzma Aslam Khan and Qaisra Shahraz along with their male counterparts such as Nadeem Aslam, Mohsin Hamid, Hanif Kureshi, Tariq Ali, Zulfiqar Ghose and Mohammad Hanif are some of the main writers of Pakistani English Fiction. These writers, writing from both inside and outside of their country of birth (Pakistan), have - as has already been pointed out - gained international recognition. Because of their double perspective their writing may be looked upon as an attempt to reflect their 'belongingness' to Pakistan. Shamsie (2005) in her edited anthology And the World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women points out the wider scope Pakistani literature has, and continues to describe their migrants` settling into the English speaking world:

"The fanning out of migrants into the English-speaking diasporas, accompanied by the facility of travel and the growth of the electronic media, has provided an impetus to Pakistani English literature; it reaches a broad Anglophone audience. However, in Pakistan it has a much smaller readership than indigenous languages and literatures which are more widely spoken and read. Thus, Pakistani women who enjoy English as a creative language live between the East and the West, literally or figuratively, and have had to struggle to be heard. They write from the extreme edges of both English and Pakistani literature." (ibid.: 1)

The greater scope of Pakistani English literature and its international exposure continues to encourage many young writers from both within and outside Pakistan. Pakistani English literature is now finding a much wider readership within Pakistan as English language is increasingly becoming a popular medium of communication. Anglophone writers have dealt with many themes through their writings addressing a wide range of issues. Kamila Shamsie's novel Burnt Shadows (2012) deals with the journey of the protagonist Hiroko Tanaka, a school teacher in Nagasaki. Shamsie's Hiroko is a woman who travels across countries from Japan to India then to Pakistan and America. in search of a home after the US bombing of Nagasaki in 1945. Burnt Shadows (2012) reveals the tale of a woman in pursuit of her identity. Shamsie shows the fluid and dynamic nature of the identity of an individual which transcends across boundaries of time and space. Another striking feature of the novel is the burnt bird shapes on her back left by the bomb explosion. Shamsie describes how a woman's body, like her life, is hurt amidst the wars fought by men. Another female Pakistani writer Sara Suleri's autobiographical novel Meatless Days (1989) is a critique of the subordinated position of women within Pakistani society. Shamsie's and Suleri's novels are based in the context of larger political and religious discourses on both a national and international level. However, the specific novels chosen for this research - Bapsi Sidhwa's Ice Candy Man (1988)/ Monica Ali's Brick Lane (2003), like The Pakistani Bride (1983) and Qaisra Shahraz's The Holy Woman (2001) and Typhoon (2003) - deal with women and their domestic and social lives within Pakistani (and British) society. A distinguishing feature of Sidhwa's and Ali's fiction, which makes their novels most suitable for this research, from the other choices available, is their central focus on the domestic lives of women. Their novels are based on experiences of women as their bodies assume the central position in their struggle of self-assertion. Both Sidhwa's and Ali's female characters find their bodies to be sites of struggle which men try to control sexually, physically and emotionally. These writers situate their female characters in resistance against culturally constructed norms that aim to control their bodies and sexually objectify them as symbols of male honor. Their work reflects a male obsession with the female body in a society where women's position, their roles, their dress, and their behavior are decided by men, at both national and domestic levels. This commonality in Sidhwa's, Ali's (or Shahraz's) fiction enables a feminist reading against the larger patriarchal Pakistani society.

3. 'Female Pakistani Fiction' and 'Postcolonial Writing'

It is without doubt that 'Pakistani Fiction' is a product of 'Postcolonial Writing' (Edwards, 2008) and being part of it 'Pakistani Fiction' is automatically an "unstable and contested critical category" (ibid.: 1 ). This instability also fits for feminism as one contemporary driving element of many female Pakistani writers. Feminism is here often marked by violence and trauma both being relicts of colonization. Postcolonial literature is marked by many parameters all of which help to understand the writing and re-writing of authors from former colonies. - The most important ones which critics seem to repeat while talking about novels originating in Africa, Asia , India or Pakistan are difference, otherness, diaspora, exile, rewriting, violence, travel, maps, memory, gender, identity, hybridity and globalization. Although they are listed up individually they often occur in mixed forms as well. The focus will here lie on three chosen elements (hybridity, diaspora, globalization) which seem to be closely linked to 'Female Pakistani Writing'. The above mentioned connection between 'Female Pakistani Fiction' and 'Postcolonial Writing' finds its basis in classical ideas of 'Postcolonial Writing' itself. Here it is for example Chinua Achebe's notion of 'Things fall Apart ' (1958) which for him are meant politically and which - for Pakistani writers - are enlarged into an individual level while talking about a dissolution of family structures, emancipation processes or male violence. Salman Rushdie's idea of 'The Empire writes Back With a Vengeance ' is also a logical by-­product of this new and radical view while hinting at the radicalization of female writing as such. 'Postcolonialism' itself has always been interested in discourses which support colonization and its aftermath, such as structures of power, (sexual) classifications, concepts of subjugation or social exclusion. This resulting closeness between 'Pakistani Fiction' and 'Postcolonial Writing' can best be seen in the basis of 'Postcolonialism' which is constantly reflected among Pakistani authors with the steady increase of female authors. 'Postcolonialism' - to put it plainly - is basically interested in discourses which supported colonialism and its consequences such as structures of power, (sexual) classifications, concepts of subjugation or social exclusion.

Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, often seen as the 'Holy Trinity of Postcolonialism' must be mentioned as frontrunners in this respect since they coined a phrase which until today has influenced 'Postcolonial Writing '. The talk is about the notion of ' The Empire writes Back ' (1989) which was later extended by Salman Rushdie with the already mentioned ' The Empire writes Back with a Vengeance ' (see The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Postcolonial Literatures, 1999). For Islamic countries such as Pakistan it was above all Edward Said who criticized stereotyped concepts of the West as far as Islam was concerned with the suggestion of a contra-punctual reading (see e.g. Orientalism, 1978; Culture and Imperialism, 1993).

Said himself was critically seen by Homi K. Bhabha who suggested a concept of a 'Third space', a dynamic place where East and West could meet (see The Location of Culture, 1994). This 'Third space' represents above all a place of compromise in the face of binary concepts. Next to these two critics it was above all Spivak (Can the Subaltern Speak ?, 1988) who influenced Pakistani writers. Spivak is of special importance since she attacked the imperialist imperatives of political dominion, cultural and political exploitation and sexually oppressive measures all of which were seen from a female side (A Criticism of Postcolonial Reason: Towards a History of the Vanishing Present, 1999). Two more critics are also important to be mentioned. The talk is about Anderson who brought in a Marxist point of view (see Imagined Communities: Reflection on the Origin and spread of Nationalism, 1983). This political notion was later taken up by Ahmad who followed Anderson on a political path (see In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures, 1992). Also important are Mary Louise Pratt and David Spurr along Ann McClintock who focused on gender studies, queer studies and feminism all of which are also of central importance for female Pakistani writers. Punter (2000) exactly hints at these problems while talking about the possibility that the 'postcolonial' is not restricted to ex-colonies but within 'ourselves ' and that life in former colonies is still rooted in a 'process of mutual postcolonial abjection'. To complete the list of important critics one has to mention Hardt/Negri who threw light on the importance of globalization in this respect (see Empire, 2000). Globalization for them stands for a consolidation of power which represents the effects of capitalism in a post­modernized global economy which like the former Great Britain is based on exploitation and profit making.

4. Parameters for (female) 'Pakistani Writing'

a) Gender

At the beginning of a short reflection of gender as a critical parameter for female Pakistani writers lies the thesis that many male Muslim writers tended to take over existing Western concepts most of which were criticized by their female counterparts . One central reason for this has to be seen in European conquest part of which was colonial writing. It is without doubt that gender itself as a literary parameter has always played an important role in Pakistani literature (see McClintock, 1995). Many colonial narratives on the whole explicitly presented sexualized literary concepts and they had a closeness to imperialism as a predecessor of globalization and their function as tools of exploitation. This attachment of the West and the negative and stereotyped literary presentation of women had first been criticized by female (and some male) Western authors and feminism as a critical literary theory. A classical example of male white power that controls the feminized colonial landscape are e.g. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899 ) and Mr. Johnson (1939) written by Joyce Cary. Here both authors make use of a metaphoric use in the sense that female bodies (Conrad) and local people (Cary) are used to symbolize the conquered land. This sexually negative presentation of the female was later taken up by the already mentioned Said (Orientalism) when he compares sexual subjugation of Oriental women as a result of the conflict between East and West. So to speak, sexuality and gender are connected to metaphors of white male superiority and they have become important elements of existing power constellations (also see criticism by Lewis, Gertrude Bell or Jane Miller). Reina Lewis's critique of Said is influenced by Jane Miller's criticism of the masculinist assumptions found in some postcolonial criticism. Miller writes that Frantz Fanon and Edward Said are part of a strand of postcolonial theory that erases women from the discursive and material project of nineteenth-century European· imperialism. According to Miller (1990), Said ignores women as participants in imperial power relations:

"Said [in Orientalism] sets out with care and delicacy the parallels and anal­ogies developed in this field between colonial relations and sexual relations, and he shows how illuminating of the reality of the imperial adventure those parallels have been for both West and East. What he does not confront are the sexual meanings on which those illuminations depend. It is possible to feel that within his analysis it is with the distortion of male sexuality [identity and sovereignty] produced by the language of Orientalism that he is chiefly concerned [ ...]. The question remains: why does such an analysis not entail a concern for women's loss of political and economic status, in itself? [Women's history ... ] does not become part of the history which is being rewritten.

In accepting the power and usefulness of an analysis like Said's there is an essential proviso [ ... ] to be made. If women are ambiguously present within the discourses of Orientalism, they are just as ambiguously present within the discourses developed to expose and oppose Orientalism. Their presence in both is as forms of coinage, exchange value offered or stolen or forbidden, tokens of men's power and wealth or lack of them. The sexual use and produc­tiveness of women are allowed to seem equivalent to their actual presence and their consciousness. They are, finally, 'Orientalized' with Said's terms into the perceptions and the language which express, but also elaborate on, the uses men have for women within exploitative societies." (ibid.: 118-120)

The consequence of this development could be seen in an eradication of women from education and scholarship (see criticism of Spivak and Gramsci) with the result of a general negative description of the female as such.


[1] Pakistani English literature or 'Pakistani Fiction' refer to English literature that has developed and evolved in Pakistan. These widely used definitions also include Pakistani diaspora writers who live and work abroad. The latter group prefers to write in English (one office language in Pakistan) whereas the first generation of Pakistani writers preferred to write in Urdu ( the other official language of Pakistan; the dialect of English spoken in Pakistan is known as Pakistani English. The following short list of the three trends of 'Pakistani Fiction' helps to show how multiple their writers are and how strong the three branches of 'Pakistani fiction' is: 1. Traditional Pakistani writers: Ahmed Ali, Zulifar Ghose, Alangir Hasbni, Bapsi Sidhwa 2. Diaspora writers: Tariq Ali, Monica Ali, Fatima Bhutto, Tehmima Durrani, Mohammad Hanif, Aamer Hussein, Hanif Kureishi, Sara Suleri 3. Present trends: Ahmed Ali,Alamgir Hashmi, Daud Kamal,Maki Kureishi, Taufiq Rafat, Shahid Suhrawardy, Kamila Shamsie, Muheeza Shamsie, Fabmida Riaz, Umera Ahmad, Kisvar Nihid, Umera Ahmad, Bina Shah, Zaib-Un-Nissa Hamidullah, Fatima Bhutto, Fatima Suraya Bajia, Parveen Shakir, Tehmima Durrani, Khan Ruhksana, Sagufta Sara, Sharaz Qaisra.

[2] Among the best known books are The Shadow of the Crescent Moon (2013) by Fatima Bhutto, Burnt Shadows (2012) by Kamila Shamsie or the Wondering Falcon (2012) by Jamil Ahmad.

[3] "In contrast to the secular idea of the Indian Republic, the foundational concept leading to the state of Pakistan was based on religion" ( ibid.: 7) s.th. which had already (however critically) been seen by Riaz (1991) who already pointed out that Pakistan was a state based on the ideal of a world been religion but is actually (only) embedded as a fragment in "an impure and fragile historical and political environment" (quoted in Stilz/Dengel-Janic, 2010: 11).On the whole one can say that Pakistani literature resisted English as a source for writing because of the colonial experience and the central role of Urdu as a national language.

[4] Therefore Muslim writers deal with Islam, directly or indirectly. Religion/ Islam are used as a reservoir of loss, mourning , nostalgia and criticism. This goes for female and male writers alike. For example Aamer Husain's collection of short stories Turquoise (2002), esp. ' Cactus Town ' evokes the mood of Karachi, and postcolonial Pakistan. Likewise, in his poetry collection Rooms are Never Finished (2001), Agba Shaid Ali uses these aspects with a serious criticism on the political conflict in Kashmir and the violence there. Islam is here presented in past and present. The memory and history of pre-colonial Islam rearticulates the individual as a cultural entity, functioning reflective whereas today Muslim characters are active in a completion of ideas, goods and people. Here a criticism of Islam is seen, which does not see women as equal to men. The reason for this negative image of the female must be seen in the beginning colonial encounter of East and West. Although they brought Western ideas to Pakistan and other Muslim countries these modernizing processes catalyzed in the Muslim colonial subject responses of mimicry and introspection. Religion became the basis for classification (Muslim and British). It is here where the colonial presentation of the 'Self' and the 'Other' in terms of religion also contributed to violence and subjugation against women. Religion is not only a means of oppression it is also taken up by these writers as a tool of identity (and in most cases) as some form of resistance identity.

[5] Feminism strictly speaking is a liberation movement set in the period after World War Two when the so called 'New Literatures in English' began to develop independence and cultural identity as literary matters connected with female questions and problems. However, feminism is also a result of postmodernism and post - structuralism and above all a (logical) consequence of post-colonialism dealing with economic and political issues in the former colonies now known as the 'homelands'. Feminism is basically also a movement that demands equal rights for women. Its aim is to identify women as creative and equal contributors of values with the attempt to tear down stereotyped concepts of the male and the female. Among Western writers it was above all Virginia Woolf with her book A Room of One's Own (1929) and before her Ibsen with his play The Doll's Room (1874) who started feminism in literature. Woolf, like E.M. Forster, G. Orwell or G..Greene questioned the rationale of imperial expansion part of which was suppression of all kind. It is in this context that one must not forget D. Lessing who reflected on this in her unfinished novel The Golden Note Book (1962).

[6] For a closer look at the practice of this time see Haqqani (2005)

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Female Pakistani Fiction. A Critical Approach
Comenius University in Bratislava
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Female Pakistani Fiction, Pakistani Literature, Female Literature, Introduction, Background, Postcolonial Writing
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Matthias Dickert (Author), 2015, Female Pakistani Fiction. A Critical Approach, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/306410


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