Orienting Muslims: Mapping Global Spheres of Affiliation and Affinity in Contemporary South Asian Fiction
This thesis asks how four South Asian Muslim novelists have responded to the challenge of writing about Islamic faith ties in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York's World Trade Centre and the ensuing "war on terror". This is a period when Muslim writers and commentators have come under increasing pressure to "explain" Islamic affiliations and affinities, and – as Pnina Werbner (2002: 1) has put it – to 'disclose where ... the centres of their subjective universe lie'.
... sing on the international novels of Nadeem Aslam, Mohsin Hamid, Salman Rushdie, and Kamila Shamsie, this thesis explores the hypothesis that they can be read as part of a post-9/11 attempt to revise modern "knowledge" of the Islamic world, using globally-disseminated literature to reframe Muslims' potential to connect with others, whether Muslims who subscribe to other versions of Islam, or non-Muslims. It considers how the "world literature" these authors create and shape maps spheres of Islamic affiliation and affinity, questioning where their subjects turn in seeking a sense of connection or identification, and why. It provides a detailed examination of the inter-cultural and intra-cultural affiliations and affinities the characters pursue in these texts, asking what aesthetic, historical, political and spiritual identifications or commitments could influence such connective attempts. It also analyses popular discourses and critical discussions surrounding the novels, offering a critical examination of the explanations offered by their authors in their non-fiction writing and commentary for privileging, problematising or prohibiting one (Islamic) affiliation or affinity instead of another, and scrutinising how the writers are appropriated as authentic and hence authoritative spokespeople by dominant political and cultural forces. Finally, it explores how, as authors of Indian and Pakistani origin, Aslam, Hamid, Rushdie and Shamsie negotiate their identities and the tensions of being seen to act as Muslim spokespeople [...]