Imposed silences, subversive voices : (re)reading selected Pakistani Anglophone writing through the bodies of Pakistani-Muslim women : a dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in English Literature at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand

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This dissertation is a personal and political act of resistance. Through a centralisation of the female body as an analytical construct, my research offers a feminist intervention to discussions about contemporary Pakistani Anglophone writing thereby challenging the often overtly political and nation-driven attention these texts have received. My analysis focuses on the inscription and framing of the bodies of Pakistani-Muslim women in Mohsin Hamid’s Moth Smoke (2000), Kamila Shamsie’s Broken Verses (2005) and Nadeem Aslam’s Maps for Lost Lovers (2004). A central claim in this dissertation is that these novels complicate and challenge (if not always deconstruct) popular discourses which define Pakistani-Muslim women in essentialist terms as a homogenous group of passive and voiceless victims of male oppression or of a misogynist religion. Instead, I argue that the female bodies represented in the novels occupy a broader range of positions. While some are “silent” victims, others are highly subversive civic subjects and individuals. The novels portray historically and culturally-specific materialisations of womanhood, born out of a complex interplay between the discourses of religion, politics, desire and sexuality. I also claim that these novels address and write back to both indigenous and global actors. They engage and disrupt neo-Orientalist discourses of Muslim and feminist exceptionalism. At the same time, these novels question the privatisation and domestication of Pakistani-Muslim female bodies in local nationalist and religious discourses. While many of the female characters in these novels resist appropriation in (masculine) discourses of nationhood and religion, I nonetheless observe a problematic tendency to portray motherhood, and the maternal body, in ambivalent or even negative terms. I note, too that the implied audience of these novels is a global readership and/or a globalised elite, English-reading audience within Pakistan. In addressing this readership, these novels risk ignoring or even silencing the voices, issues, concerns and aspirations of a local population that is non-cosmopolitan, non-transnational and regional. Despite their challenges to monolithic assumptions about Pakistani women, then, the notion of agency attributed to the female subjectivities in the texts I have considered seems to be refracted through a neo-liberal lens which equates modernity/progress with individualism and secularism.