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Hegemony, marginalisation, and hierarchies: Masculinities in contemporary Pakistani anglophone fiction

By being empowered as subjects, authors of Pakistani anglophone fiction present a more nuanced, layered, and complex picture of Pakistan than the Western hegemonic discursive construction of the country as a hub of terror. Contemporary Pakistani anglophone fiction provides an insight into the collisions of culture, modernity, and religion in Pakistan. This literature also offers a way of understanding gender dynamics in contemporary Pakistani society. Scholarship on the representation of men and masculinities in South Asian anglophone literature, especially Pakistani anglophone fiction, is sparse. My study seeks to fill this lacuna and focuses on fiction by four male authors, namely, Nadeem Aslam, Mohsin Hamid, Muhammad Hanif, and Daniyal Mueenuddin. My research highlights the potentially powerful existence of male narratives exposing, critiquing, and resisting misogyny, male violence, and gendered oppression. This research explores how these authors fashion the narrative of Pakistani masculinity and how these representations are shaped by wider societal, cultural, political, economic, and religious contexts. I draw on theories of performativity, intersectionality, and a range of scholarship about masculinities for my analysis. Examining texts which bear the imprint of socio-cultural practices offers a tool to understand the social, cultural, and religious pressures that shape patriarchy, dictate men’s actions, and control masculine perceptions of identity and self-worth. Each chapter explores a different aspect of Pakistani masculinity, ranging from the depiction of the feudal and capitalist masculinities in rural Pakistan in In Other Rooms, Other Wonders to representations of toxic and hostile masculinities among working-class and lower-class men in Our Lady of Alice Bhatti and the clash between urban middle-class and elite Pakistani masculinities in Moth Smoke. The final two chapters reach beyond the geographic borders of the nation to focus on the depiction of the impact of honour culture, male entitlement, and racial marginalisation on diasporic Pakistani masculinities in Maps for Lost Lovers and the impact of global and political shifts on hegemonic masculine ideals and transnational business masculinity in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. This research maps a range of representations of the diversity, complexity, and unequal power dynamics of Pakistani masculinities. This study also explores the formation and representations of female identity and femininities in negotiations with masculinities in the selected fiction, for example, emphasized femininity in Maps for Lost Lovers, rural femininity in In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, and enlightened femininity in Moth Smoke. Through this study, I hope to widen the critical discourse about gender in relation to Pakistani anglophone fiction and contribute towards an expansion of scholarship seeking to interrogate and interpret Pakistani masculinities.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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