A particularly powerful case of such selective memories is now fully evident in an increasing body of mémoire by people from an Islamic background that has over the last half a decade, ever since the commencement of its "War on Terrorism," flooded the US market. This body of literature, perhaps best represented by Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003), ordinarily points to legitimate concerns about the plight of Muslim women in the Islamic world and yet put that predicament squarely at the service of the US ideological psy-op, militarily stipulated in the US global warmongering. As President Bush has repeatedly indicated, the US is now engaged in a prolonged and open-ended war with terrorism. This terrorism has an ostensibly "Islamic" disposition and provenance. "Islam" in this particular reading is vile, violent, and above all abusive of women--and thus fighting against Islamic terrorism, ipso facto, is also to save Muslim women from the evil of their men. "White men saving brown women from brown men," as the distinguished postcolonial feminist Gayatri Spivak puts it in her seminal essay, "Can the Subaltern Speak?"The entire review is a must read - click here to read it!
The publication of Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran coincided with the most belligerent period in the recent US history, the global flexing of its military muscles, and as such the text has assumed a proverbial significance in the manner in which native informers turned comprador intellectuals serve a crucial function in facilitating public consent to imperial hubris. With one strike, Azar Nafisi has achieved three simultaneous objectives: (1) systematically and unfailingly denigrating an entire culture of revolutionary resistance to a history of savage colonialism; (2) doing so by blatantly advancing the presumed cultural foregrounding of a predatory empire; and (3) while at the very same time catering to the most retrograde and reactionary forces within the United States, waging an all out war against a pride of place by various immigrant communities and racialised minorities seeking curricular recognition on university campuses and in the American society at large.ON THE SURFACE, Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran has a very simple plot. A female professor of English literature at an Iranian university, having been born to a privileged family and thus educated in Europe and the United States, is finally fed up with the atrocious limitations of an Islamic republic, resigns her post, goes home, collects seven of her brightest female students and they get together and read some of the masterpieces of "Western literature," while connecting the characters and incidents of the novels they thus read to their daily predicaments in an ungodly Islamic republic. The plot, factual or manufactured or a combination of both, provides an occasion for the narrator to give a sweeping condemnation of not just the Islamic revolution but with it in fact the entire nation, the poor and the disenfranchised, that has given rise to it--for which she has absolutely nothing but visceral contempt. To connect this simple plot and its extended services to the US imperial operations at home and abroad, we need a larger theoretical frame of reference in comparative literary studies.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Native Informers and the making of the American Empire
A review of "Reading Lolita in Tehran"