Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Fetishistic Reading in Sara’s Meatless Days

It has been acknowledged as a common psychoanalytic understanding that women rarely fetishize, the view that has been widely accepted since 1927 when Sigmund Freud suggested that the fetish develops out of a bread form of castration anxiety the time that young boy first realizes that his mother does not have a penis. For women have not penis so they seldom have the fetishistic inclination. Indeed, Freud does vaguely in describing the female fetishism and attributes this behavior as man’s category. To provide the alternative reading of Freudian phallicizing of fetishism, Lorraine Gamman and M. Makinen, in their book Female Fetishism, explain why a woman who has not a penis but still qualifies herself as a fetishist. Their theory focuses on the pre-oedipal instead of the oedipal and challenges the concept of penis envy and the phallus as the only signifier of desire.

Freud and Fetishism
The postcolonial critic Homi K. Bhabha has borrowed from Freud’s fetishism to endow with the meaning of mimicry in postcolonial contemplation which turns the exterior sameness into the interior otherness. Yet more important, the way that Bhabha’s employment of mimicry is actually to expound his meditation for the possibility of the third space, the hybridity, the liminality. The notion of cultural change and transmission, the liminal, could be traced back to the anthropologist Victor W. Turner who was recognized as one of the most important cultural theorists from mid-1970 to 1983, the year he died. Following the Belgian folklorist Arnold van Gennep, Turner calls these transitional third spaces the “liminal,” and describes “the liminal” as “the seedbed of cultural creativity [from which] new symbols and constructions then feed back.” Following Turner, Bhabha explores the idea of liminality from the anthropological filed to the post-colonial society. Both Turner and Bhabha are trying to formulate a position for cultural criticism by expounding the concept of liminality in rites of passage, a state of being in in-between phases. Turner suggests formulating a rite of passage for the individual and societal in a liminal phase: “Liminal entities are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arranged by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial”. While Turner extends the liminal concept from the individual to the modern society, Bhabha, on the other hand, elucidates the place of the liminal into a broader national and political implication: “a place of hybridity, figuratively speaking, where the construction of a political object that is new, neither the one nor the other. . . ” (Location). For Bhabha, the model of liminality that dramatizes the interstitial space between theory and practice—a liminal space that does not separate but rather mediate their mutual exchange and relative meanings. There is a tension between them that in turn produces their hybridity, the “third space,” the liminal, as an ambivalent, hybrid space that is written into existence.

Meatless Days and Fetishism
In this study, Bhabha’s hybridity, the double discursivity and the “third space” as a space of translation, “invention and intervention,” which is found is  particularly suited to the project to examine the liminal space of postcolonial cultural identities in terms of the female fetishism that is presented in the Pakistani writer Sara Suleri’s Meatless Days. It is considered that  the analysis of the fetishistic food is decisive for its widespread association with the woman bodies. Furthermore, I shall relate fetishism as linked to a love of clothes and photographs and hence to the object-choice of feet, which prevails in Suleri’s novel. In this autobiographical narrative, apart from the narrator, we can focus on the three major characters, Suleri’s mother Mairi, sister Ifat, friend Mustakori, and how their unique fetishistic liminality described by the narrator. Suleri creates the liminal space for the narration of the absent community of women in Pakistan by collaborating the audacious cannibalistic images and female fetishes as a way fighting back the patriarchal society.

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