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The Politics of Representation in Ahdaf Soueif’s «The Map of Love»

Sabina D'Alessandro

This book examines the themes and narrative features in Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love. It deals with unresolved questions regarding asymmetrical intercultural relationships and the historical reasons for the present cultural conflicts. It also looks at the role played by nineteenth century visual and literary stereotyped representations of ‘oriental’ otherness when compared with the western tradition. The author offers a critical perspective on Soueif’s use of nineteenth century English travel writing as a strategy for the deconstruction of its representative mechanisms. The book focuses on Soueif’s mapping-out of the complex and conflictual search for identity on the part of the Egyptian protagonists, whilst questioning the possible processes of transformation in maintaining one’s own cultural diversity.

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Chapter II -Issues of Identity - 37

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37 Chapter II Issues of Identity To travel can consist in operating a profoundly unsettling inversion of one’s identity: I become me via an other. Depending on who is looking, the exotic is the other, or it is me.1 Writing, for Ahdaf Soueif, constitutes a creative path towards the reshaping of identity, finding its niche (as mentioned earlier) in the theoretical, critical and representative framework of post- colonial feminism. Among the various lines of critical thought, the term ‘identity’ has gradually assumed an ever more complex role and significance; it has contributed to the pinpointing of the processes of representing women, viewed as spaces for the ‘inter- section’ of numerous categories of identity, in relation to the spe- cific ‘experience’ (in accordance with the paradigms of ethnicity/ race, class and gender) of the variously located women. This novel conceptualisation was brought about as a result of the critical contribution of authorities on the postcolonial area, both Afro- American feminists and those from the Third World (including Black, Asian and Caribbean); these scholars have articulated theo- retical approaches that oppose and denounce the homologating tendencies of figuration by white, Euro-American feminism, ac- cused in the eighties and nineties, of racism and complicity with the discursive and representative, patriarchal and western, colo- nial system. 1 T. Trinh Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other. Writing Postcoloniality and Femi- nism, Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1989, p. 23. 38 The denunciation by these scholars from the Third World led to a clash at the theoretical level and...

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