ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Representing Women’s Bodies in Pakistani Anglophone Fiction


Vitolo Daniela - University of Naples "L'Orientale", Department of Literary, Linguistic and Comparative Studies, Naples, Italy


21- Panel Title: Violence against women in South Asian countries


 The violence women are victims of in South Asian societies can be understood as a reaction to men’s frustration and anger as they see their dreams and expectations turned down as a consequence of uneven social dynamics. In Pakistan, as in India and Bangladesh, the subordination of women to men is justified and supported through a widespread nationalist narrative. According to this narrative women embody all the values the nation is built on, and on their bodies, conceived of as representing the nation itself, lies the honour of both their family and their nation. This vision justifies men’s role as protectors and controllers of women’s bodies and this explains why women are seen and treated like properties in the hands of fathers, brothers and husbands. The unequal power relation between men and women that nationalist narratives have developed implies therefore that women refusing the role imposed on them are seen as a threat to their family as well as to society and nation. As a consequence, in today’s ‘age of anger’ (P. Mishra), such women can easily become the common enemy the men of resentment (H. Arendt) unite against.

In the light of these observations, this paper discusses the representation of women’s bodies in Pakistani Anglophone fiction and points out how such representations open up a space of resistance against those who condemn and repress women’s right to agency over their bodies, thus giving voice to the stance of the country’s new wave of feminism.