Hybridity in British Muslim women's writing

Canpolat, Seda (2014) Hybridity in British Muslim women's writing. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


A key paradigm in postcolonial studies, Homi Bhabha’s notion of cultural hybridity has become the dominant model for understanding migrant identity formation. However, its assumed universality and widespread currency are problematic because this concept is not equally applicable or relevant to all migrants. This dissertation focuses on the representation of cultural hybridity in contemporary British Muslim women’s writing, which is well-suited to pointing out the limitations and biases of Bhabha’s celebratory concept of hybridity. Because of its mostly religious, dark-skinned, female and working-Class protagonists, British Muslim women’s texts expose the secular, white, male and middle-class biases on which Bhabha’s idealised subject is predicated. Accordingly, the major literary texts under scrutiny are Leila Aboulela’s novels The Translator (1999) and Minaret (2005), Monica Ali’s Brick Lane (2003) and Fadia Faqir’s My Name Is Salma (2007). By means of an intersectional approach the thesis identifies, one by one, the biases inherent in Bhabha’s vision of hybridity, particularly as it has been appropriated within the field of postcolonial studies. Each of the four chapters addresses one subject position that the heroines inhabit: that is, religion, gender, race and class. Embedded within wider contemporary debates on religion, gender theory, postracialism and class mobility, each chapter illuminates the ways in which these subject positions complicate British Muslim women’s cultural self-fashioning and our understanding of hybridity. The original contribution of this gendered Islamic critique of hybridity is twofold: first of all, it shows that hybridity is not the only model of migrant identity formation. With reference to the value and belief system of Muslim cultures, the dissertation introduces competing Islamic epistemes of cultural self-fashioning. Secondly, it shows that, where hybridity is the preferred cultural choice of British Muslim women, their various female hybridities are the product of gendered reworkings and appropriations of male-centred postcolonial and Islamic paradigms.

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