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Islamic Identity in Pakistani American Plays: Disgraced and The Who & The What

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2017, 30(2), pp.119-142
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Kim JaeKyoung 1

1중앙대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

As Edward Said argues in Orientalism, the distorted image of the East created by the West provides an opportunity instead to mirror the West’s identity. In this regard, by exploring the Islamic immigrants’ identity crisis and social issues in the United States, it is possible to reflect on the contemporary American stand on the Muslim community. Pakistani American playwright Ayad Akhtar (1970-), who mirrors in his plays his experience with Islamic identity as a second-generation immigrant in the United States, has attempted to present and comprehend both sides. This paper aims to investigate political, social, cultural, racial, and religious tensions between Pakistani Americans and white Americans following the 9/11 attacks as revealed in Akhtar’s two plays: Disgraced (2012) and The Who & The What (2014). I particularly focuses on the gender roles and role relationships between a Pakistani American husband and his White wife (Amir and Emily in Disgraced) and between a White husband and his Pakistani American wife (Eli and Zarina in The Who & The What). It traces how both Islamophobia and the patriarchal culture of Islam cause an identity crisis for the young Muslim Americans, make different changes in their gender roles, and threaten their married life. The artistic creations of each wife (a portrait and a novel respectively), which are closely influenced by each of their partners, function as symbolic work to show mutual understanding between husband and wife. Based on Said’s criticism of the West’s prejudiced representations of the East and Noam Chomsky’s warning against increasing Islamophobia in the United States after 9/11, my analysis of gender roles of the two married couples expands to the power game between White Americans and Muslim immigrants in the United States. From this analysis, I argue that Akhtar’s plays not only deliver a critical message against racial discrimination and Islamophobia but also propose a way towards better understanding between white Americans and ethnic minorities, the United States and the Middle East, the strong and the weak, and ourselves and other people.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.