As a kid, I wanted to be king, not princess.
IN my last column I began exploring the written accounts of early Muslim migrants to Britain through an examination of Mirza Sheikh I’tesamuddin’s The Wonders of Vilayet (1784). Over a century later, we encounter two early examples of female Muslim travel writers in Britain, Atiya Fyzee and Shahbano Begum Maimoona Sultan.
Anonymous said: AHK : How are you pretty lady
What does AHK mean?
Novelist hailed as the next Monica Ali recalls the horrors of warfare.
When Tahmima Anam published The Golden Age to some critical acclaim, this is the headline The Guardian chose to lead with: “New fiction star taps Bangladeshi roots.”
Followed up with:
Great writing may be in the blood, but having a window seat on remarkable historical events can help to shape an author. A major new talent, Tahmima Anam, has the advantage of coming from a line of gifted Bangladeshi writers and thinkers, yet it is the damaging experience her family shared with thousands of others living around them that is to see her launched in Britain.
I can’t even. I mean, on the one hand, yes, liberal arts colleges are going to lap up a novel about an Urdu-speaking single-mother’s struggles to bring up her children in Dhaka and make sure they survive their university-bred revolutionary zeal during the birth of Bangladeh, because, sure, who does not want to swap out Half of a Yellow Sun from their postcolonial/non-western nationalism/feminist literature reading list, and teach some other war fought in some other distant place, at some already remote time that has been overshadowed by literature of the WWII, Vietnam, the Cold War or the GWoT, right? And of course, a position of privilege cannot provide experience enough, especially for a non-white person, to produce a novel worthy of catapulting her into literary stardom. No, of course not, the reading public wants the story of her ‘damaging experience’ instead, and the telling of that story is the real guarantee of literary stardom. This is the economy of the world literary system: no subject is barred to you if you are white, but if you’re PoC, you had better stick to the Jameson-Rushdie-Bhabha-Naipaul formula to achieve success—write about the birth of your nation, your exilic/colonial double-vision, the homelessness of multiple departures and returns—we want to hear of the wars in our neck of the woods, because you are our witness, we want to hear of the home-life of the women in your natal village, because if you don’t, who will publish the corrective to those fantastic tales of oppression peddled by necon collaborators of Empire?
The review of the novel which is not a novel about Bangladesh or even about Bangladeshiness, but which will surpass Tahmima Anam’s Bangladesh trilogy and soon become The Novel about Bangladesh/global Bangladeshis/hyphenated Bangladeshis, because Zafar is terrifyingly familiar to every migrant intellectual from a corner of that corner of the world from which everyone once aspired to secure escape through education, acquire privilege, and then record their slow disintegration under pressures of successively more aggravating/alienating accommodations to the regimes of racialised global capitalism. Even more terrifyingly familiar than Mohsin Hamid’s Changez, and really, the trope of the white woman who is intensely desired but also loathed and who eventually discards the overachieving narrators is also somewhat similar in both the novels, but Zafar, Zafar is even more greatly burdened by his knowing, his insight, than Changez, and you can almost feel your own burdensome higher education weighing down on your thinking as you read this novel that is not a novel about Bangladesh, much the same way as when you read an early Rushdie and try to get all his poly-lingual in-jokes and references. And at the end of it you will still be left thinking, well, did we really hear Zafar’s story all this while, or was it really his unnamed old-money Pakistani friend, his interviewer and the curator of his story, all this while, ventroloquising. What an uncomfortable thought.
Derrida, Archive Fever
What is a riot? What is a mob? Ferguson may make one think that a riot is a protest that has exceeded the tolerance of the state, a mob is a set of ‘peaceful’ protestors who’ve ‘escalated’ to violence, and of course, we cannot have that, the state must be seen to have complete monopoly and authority over violence in a smoothly functioning, that is, peaceful society.
Homi Bhabha, “By Bread Alone,” The Location of Culture.
The strange mystery of the circulating chapati before the mutiny of 1857, which Bhabha uses to show us how rumour and panic steer history.
"Boulevard du Temple", a daguerreotype made by Louis Daguerre in 1838, is generally accepted as the earliest photograph of people. It is a view of a busy street, but because the exposure time was at least ten minutes the moving traffic left no trace. Only the two men near the bottom left corner, one apparently having his boots polished by the other, stayed in one place long enough to be visible.
I sought out this photo because of this passage in Scott McQuire’s chapter on the impact of photography on urban spatial perceptions in Media City:
Architecture in its turn was an ideal subject which ‘sat’ patiently – a great advantage since the slow speed of early photographic emulsions necessitated exposure times of up to half an hour. Unlike people, buildings didn’t have to be strapped into a neck brace in order to register a solid image. However, this meant that prior to 1851, when Archer’s wet collodion process opened the way to ‘instantaneous photography’, urban photography was distinguished by the emptiness of the streets. If this emptiness seems striking today, it was even stranger for 19th-century viewers to see usually crowded thoroughfares bereft of pedestrians and traffic. In a letter written to his brother in 1839, telegraphy pioneer Samuel B. Morse was transfixed by a solitary figure in an image made by Louis Daguerre in 1838: "The Boulevard, so constantly filled with a moving throng of pedestrians and carriages, was perfectly solitary, except an individual who was having his boots brushed."