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B/Orders Unbound

Marginality, Ethnicity and Identity in Literatures

by Sule Okuroglu Ozun (Volume editor) Mustafa Kirca (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 260 Pages

Summary

Contemporary literature concerns itself with transgressing borders and destabilizing hierarchical orders. Border crossing to question the given limits and orthodox beliefs brings many disciplines and diverse experiences together, and the result is a myriad of ways of expressing the alternatives when the established boundaries are liberated. The volume presents fifteen essays and brings together many academics and scholars who share a common interest in transgressing borders in literatures. The book is determined to encourage border violations, and each paper tackles the issue of border crossing in different realms and territories.

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction (Sule Okuroglu Ozun / Mustafa Kirca)
  • Part I: Border Violations
  • Dead Survivors: Blurring the Borders of the Living and the Dead in Vietnamese Vietnam War Literature (Erin McCoy)
  • Textual B/Orders Violated: the Hyperreal World of J. M. Coetzee’s Foe (Mustafa Kirca / Pelin Yarimca)
  • B/Orders of the Eye: Colonial Voyeurism and Fetishism in Caryl Phillips’s Cambridge (Elif Oztabak Avci)
  • Part II: Diasporic Experiences
  • Molecularising the Nation: The Body without Organs in Fae Myenne Ng’s Bone (Dolors Ortega Arévalo)
  • Hindu Identity as a Site of Liminality (Leena Taneja)
  • Disrupted Borders in The Buddha of Suburbia (Sule Okuroglu Ozun)
  • Part III: Intersections
  • Representation of the Multilayered Trauma in Alan Drew’s Gardens of Water (Ingrida Eglė Žindžiuvienė)
  • Naipaul’s The Mimic Men: The Colonized Man’s Attempts to Transgress the Boundaries (Yagmur Demir)
  • White Stains on Black Pages: Deconstructing English Identity in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (Seda Bahar Yavcan)
  • Against the Grains: Bridging the Gap between the East and the West in Suheir Hammad’s Breaking Poems (Nassima Kaid)
  • The Garden of Paradise or the Padishah’s Palace: The Ideal World and Authority in the Context of the “Palace Metaphor” in Classical Turkish Literature (Nesrin Aydin Satar / Humeyra Mermer)
  • Part IV: Liminalities Translated into Film and Theatre
  • Mapping Global Shakespeare in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara (Sarah Fitzpatrick)
  • The Image of the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Women in Ibrahim, The Thirteenth Emperor of The Turks by Mary Pix (Violetta Trofimova)
  • An Exposé of Absurd Contemporary Conflicts in Play: Rajiv Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (Qurratulaen Liaqat)
  • Dear White People or the Rebirth of the Black Power Movement: The Failure of American Multiculturalism? (Rim Khaled)
  • Notes on Contributors

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Sule Okuroglu Ozun and Mustafa Kirca

Introduction

Contemporary literature very much concerns itself with transgressing borders and destabilizing hierarchical orders in every possible way for the sake multiplicity. Border crossing to question the given limits and orthodox beliefs brings many disciplines and diverse experiences together, and the outcome is a myriad of ways of expressing the alternatives when the established boundaries are liberated. For that matter, B/Orders Unbound: Marginality, Ethnicity and Identity in Literatures, employing an interdisciplinary approach, intends to blur the boundaries of conventional discourses and narratives in any or all possible contexts. The collection assembles fifteen essays and brings together scholars who share a common interest in transgressing borders in literatures, but who do not interpret the term “border” in the same way. Nonetheless, the volume is determined to encourage border violations, and each paper of the book tackles the issue of border crossing in different realms and territories. The volume’s opening chapter by Erin McCoy, “Dead Survivors: Blurring the Borders of the Living and the Dead in Vietnamese Vietnam War Literature,” explores the permeable, flexible, and reverenced border between the living and the dead in Dương Thu Hương’s Novel Without a Name (1995) and Bảo Ninh’s The Sorrow of War (1994, censored in Vietnam until 2003). In this chapter, the writer, whose critical analysis includes empirical research she has done in Vietnam, aims to explore this cultural fluidity through a post-modern and interdisciplinary analysis of the aforementioned Vietnamese novels about the Vietnam, adding a new cultural and historical perspective of traditional analyses of Vietnam War literature (the Vietnamese perspective is often left out of the western narrative of the war).

In “Textual B/Orders Violated: the Hyperreal World of J. M. Coetzee’s Foe,” Mustafa Kirca and Pelin Yarimca analyze textual borders to see what happens when the seemingly “transitive” border between the imitating and the imitated texts is forced by Nobel-winner J. M. Coetzee in his Foe. The study argues that Foe problematizes the boundary between the original and the copy by assuming to be the twentieth-century “prequel” to Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe it rewrites, thereby turning the imitating copy into the original. The writers claim that within Foe’s “hyperreal” world where the distinction between the original and the copy is eradicated, Coetzee negates the originality of Defoe’s novel and invalidates its colonialist/patriarchal discourse through his politics of textual decolonization. ← 7 | 8 →

The critical literature on the connections between imperialism and seeing is extensive. The Western empirical tradition’s conceptualization of visualizing and knowing as two interchangeable notions manifests itself in “colonial meaning-making” processes in the form of a keen interest in seeing and thereby knowing the Other particularly from the second half of the eighteenth century onward. “B/Orders of the Eye: Colonial Voyeurism and Fetishism in Caryl Phillips’s Cambridge” by Elif Oztabak Avci explores Cary Phillips’s ventriloquism of nineteenth-century travel-writing discourse in his novel Cambridge (1991) from within the conceptual framework of voyeurism and fetishistic scopohilia. The chapter argues that Cambridge foregrounds the power relations that shape the acts of seeing and being seen via the portrayal of Emily Cartwright as an “observer” of the colonial “scene” who attempts to resolve the anxiety that stems from the blurring of the boundary between her sense of self as “a lady of polite status” and the enslaved “negro” through voyeurism and fetishism.

The second part of the volume devotes itself to “diasporic experiences” – a highly visited topic which requires trespassing of literal borders and experiencing hybridity. Many minority communities are beginning to contest exclusionary narratives of national belonging based on binary opposition systems. This is a sign that dominant narratives of the nation have to be revisited and deterritorialized. Dolors Ortega Arévalo’s “Molecularising the Nation: The Body without Organs in Fae Myenne Ng’s Bone” aims to analyze Ng’s novella by focusing on the second-generation Chinese-American characters in order to show how Fae Myenne Ng problematizes fixed dominant and majoritarian narratives of the nation and suggests new hybrid and productive cultural spaces from which to generate alternative and minoritaian signifiers. Deleuze and Guattari seem especially relevant here in their redefinition of the concept of difference and in their proposal of a new mode of individuation that is disperse, unlimited, multiple and ‘nomadic’. By moving away from fixed and stable signs, they seem to provide a wide range of theoretical elements to explore the postcolonial ground.

Leena Taneja in her “Hindu Identity as a Site of Liminality” explores the liminal character of Hindu identity as a site of both stability and fluidity. Using Indian literature sources, namely the well-read and popular Hindu scripture the Bhagavad-Gita, this chapter of the book argues that prominent Hindu sources encourage and support the concept of an essential self, described as Atman, a permanent identity that provides intelligence, intuition, and intentionality to the individual person. The foundation of Hindu philosophy recognizes such an entity as a part of Brahman, the divine being, the Supreme soul. Taneja claims that as different Hindu schools discover the meaning of illumination and ultimate salvation, their ← 8 | 9 → writing reflects a purposeful change that alters the meaning of identity from an unchanging, perfect soul to a self, lost in perpetual longing for the divine. In loss and separation, not in union, is identity ultimately found, according to the bhakti writers. Identity emerges in the liminal state between love and separation from the divine in the medieval devotional schools. In stark contrast to the rigidity and eternality expressed in the Bhagavad Gita. The non-negotiable boundaries constituting the Gita’s Self are deliberately and carefully subverted by the bhakti schools who sought emotion over intellectualism as a method for salvation.

The diasporic writings of the early South Asian immigrants in the post-World War II era were largely shaped by writers’ traumatic immigration experiences and by the national anxiety about them. During and after the 1970s, having been affected by a rise in racially motivated attacks on their communities, South Asian writers became more interested in racial and cultural issues. These more assertive British Asian writers are engaged in the process of writing and redefining “Englishness” and the transition from postcolonial Britain to multicultural Britain. The perspective aimed at “Disrupted Borders in The Buddha of Suburbia” by Sule Okuroglu Ozun attempts to illustrate how second generation diasporians evaluate the values of their heritage culture and the culture they are growing up in, and how they turn their in-betweenness into a positive energy to hybridize their diasporic identities with reference to Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia. Focusing on multi-cultural London, the study successfully depicts the English society of the 1970s especially from Karim’s perspective. The work examined in this chapter includes characters from different generations whose understanding of homeland, trauma of dislocation, perception of the major culture, sense of belonging, cross-cultural experiences and assimilation into the Western metropolitan centre are different. Thus, this part deciphers questions of diasporic subjectivity especially through Karim.

Various kinds of intersections pop up in literatures when strict boundaries are blurred. The border/order theme entails the necessity of cross-cultural exchanges and clashes between the opposites, liminal spaces, and inevitable traumas. Border interstices which can be articulated in a multiplicity of ways, especially with regard to viewing identity and culture, enunciate and comprise a space where coexisting with “others” is possible. Whether they are real or imaginary, intersections of borders convey plural expressions of identity. Ingrida Eglė Žindžiuvienė’s article “Representation of the Multilayered Trauma in Alan Drew’s Novel Gardens of Water” discusses trauma-inflicted consequences after the 1999 earthquake (the Marmara earthquake) in Istanbul. The central topic in the novel is the trauma caused by this tragic event; however, this trauma is described on different layers: ← 9 | 10 → the personal trauma and the national one, the clash of cultures (the values of the Muslim world and Christianity), or traditions versus modernity. Moreover, the post-traumatic period, as disclosed in the novel, causes many other later traumas on the personal level. It is observed that trauma shakes and even destroys important beliefs and self-control, which, eventually, may result in the person’s isolation and/or death. The discussion of the effects of traumatic experience on cross-cultural relationship leads to the questions dealing with the boundaries between the East and the West, and, therefore, helps to disclose different types of reaction to the traumatic event. The interaction between one’s identity and traumatic experience – the influence of identity on traumatic experience and the effect of trauma on one’s identity – remains the focus of this discussion.

In “Naipaul’s The Mimic Men: The Colonized Man’s Attempts to Transgress the Boundaries,” Yagmur Demir studies the ambivalent situation of colonized individuals through The Mimic Men. She argues that Naipaul’s protagonist Ralph Singh feels a certain kind of lack and assumes that this feeling of incompetence and inadequacy would perish if he disconnects himself from his native land, and after abandoning his “disordered” mother country, he seeks order in London. In London, however, the fragmentation of his personality increases, for he performs a set of behaviours for the sake of being like the Other. Touching the issues of cross-cultural junctures and identity, Demir shows that Ralph is unable to have a solid identity and struck between the borders of two distinct cultures, thereby occupying a Third Space. Under the influence of borderline sensibility, he does not feel at ease neither in London nor in Isabella. He depends on the colonizer and constantly needs the gaze of the Other to prove his existence. To trespass the boundaries, he resorts to writing his memoirs, yet he cannot alter his constructed Eurocentric viewpoint whatever he tries.

At the beginning of the millennium, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth acquired a great critical reception. Through an elaborate patchwork of different ethnicities and generations Smith manages to portray varying perceptions of multiculturalism and Englishness. As it sets an intricate example of multiculturalism, the novel has been studied with a focus on the immigrant experience. The multi-layered texture of the novel, however, enables another perspective that has been overlooked; the portrayal of the white English. With a concentration on the “white” instead of “black,” Seda Bahar Yavcan in her “White Stains on Black Pages: Deconstructing English Identity in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth” aims to undermine the novelist’s characterization of Archibald Jones and reveals his function as a criticism to “Englishness”. Through a close reading of the novel, Yavcan’s study suggests that due to his inability to fulfill the necessities of “Englishness,” the white and English ← 10 | 11 → character Archibald Jones should be regarded as an attempt to both deconstruct and reconceptualize the idea of national identity.

The last two decades of the twentieth-century witnessed an upsurge of Arab American women writing which has drawn attention to increasing academic and critical interest. Their artistic productions focus both on the cultural and linguistic aspects of literature. These writers consciously shift between two or more languages by incorporating their native language along with English. In doing so, they create several views and enhance their ability to express their subject matter. “Against the Grains: Bridging the Gap between the East and the West in Suheir Hammad’s Breaking Poems” aims at examining Arab American poet Suheir Hammad’s Breaking Poems (2008). Nassima Kaid claims in this chapter that the poet uses an audacious and provocative style by introducing an original language, “Arabish” as a way to show how she aesthetically stitches both languages into her poems to express grief and anger at the dispossession, occupation, and massacres of Palestinians while maintaining her American identity.

Biographical notes

Sule Okuroglu Ozun (Volume editor) Mustafa Kirca (Volume editor)

Sule Okuroglu Ozun holds a PhD in English literature with a thesis on Anita Desai, Kamala Markandaya and Meera Syal. Her research interests include identity politics and diaspora literatures. Mustafa Kirca holds a PhD in English literature with a thesis on Winterson’s and Rushdie’s novels as historiographic metafictions. His research interests include parodic re-writing and metafiction in contemporary novel.

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