Academic journal article The Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

"Unwilled Choices" : Exilic Perspectives on Home and Location in the Works of Zulfikar Ghose and Mohsin Hamid

Academic journal article The Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

"Unwilled Choices" : Exilic Perspectives on Home and Location in the Works of Zulfikar Ghose and Mohsin Hamid

Article excerpt


For many immigrants, geographical dislocations and cultural shocks often entail traumatic experiences. One of the many paradoxes of contemporary world is that, on the one hand, people live in an increasingly borderless world where cultural, economic and political frontiers are eroding due to global communications system and post-industrial technologies; and, on the other, since September 11, 2001, the world has been experiencing a new wave of xenophobia in public, and megalomania among many world leaders and politicians, resulting in the closing of borders and an irrational fear of the 'other' or the new "barbarians". Until September-11, American cultural production seemed to achieve what Ralph Waldo Emerson prophesied about in 1845: "In this continent - asylum of all nations - we will construct a new race, a new religion, a new state, a new literature which will be as vigorous as the new Europe which came out of the Dark Ages". September-11 caused a sort of abortion of history - history moving in a linear, progressive fashion was disrupted with a jolt of epic proportions, creating hiatus in the Emersonian dream. In order to negotiate this disruption in the experiences of the South Asian-American immigrants and investigate the issues of identity, exile, Home, and cross-culturality, we have selected two writers of Pakistani origin - Zulfikar Ghose, the prototype writer in exile with rich experience of multiple exiles; and Mohsin Hamid, an emerging voice in the post-September 11 scenario - who, despite being contemporaries, represent two different perspectives on 'home' and 'exile' - preand post-9/11.

Keywords. Exile and alienation, Location, Home, Immigrant/Diasporic writers; Zulfikar Ghose; Mohsin Hamid


Iocasta: What is an exile's life? Is it great misery?

Polyneices: The greatest; worse in reality than in report.

(Euripides's The Phoenician Women)

Human migrations and resultant shifts in cultural boundaries and identities are as old phenomena as human history itself. With the onset of the 20th century, the great imperial structures began to dismantle, resulting into large-scale immigrations from the former colonies to the erstwhile imperial centres. Never before in human history had so many crossings - geographical, cultural, racial - happened at such scale. On the heels of those crossings, the problem of identity of the immigrants emerged as one of the biggest issues among all such post-imperial concerns. The problem of cultural identity as it is studied in the postcolonial academia now is a result of the colonial encounter. The concepts of home/exile, cross-culturality/cultural purity, assimilation, and hybridity have become more important than the older forms of group identifications. Particularly "Home has become such a scattered, damaged, various concept in our present travails' (Gurr 1981: 10). Closely related to the concept of home or Home is the classical idea of exile which has multiple layers of meanings. Andrew Gurr has suggested that a distinction should be drawn between the idea of exile, which implies involuntary constraint, and that of expatriation which implies a voluntary act or state. In his essay 'Reflections on Exile', Edward Said has also used four almost synonymous terms: "exiles", "refugees", "expatriates" and "nmigms". In Searching for Safe Spaces: Afro-Caribbean Women Writers in Exile, Chancy provides a viable definition of exile as "the condition of consistent, continual displacement; ... the radical uprooting of all that one is and stands for, in a communal context, without loss of the knowledge of those roots" (1997:1). Chancy has also delineated the specific conditions that force people to leave their countries of origin and live in involuntary exile:

The threat of governmental/political persecution or state terrorism; poverty enmeshed through exploitative labor practices that over-work and underpay; social persecution resulting from one's dehumanization because of color, gender, sexuality, class standing; . …

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