Saturday, January 05, 2008


Iranian literature specialist Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz (Washington University in St. Louis) has classified 'The Kite Runner' as one of the recent works that she argues constitute a “New Orientalist” narrative in her book 'Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran'. (Dr. Hamid Dabashi of Columbia University also has written about New Orientalism and expatriates who serve as “native informers” or “comprador intellectuals” in respect to the Middle East).

Keshavarz broadly characterizes the New Orientalist works thusly:
Thematically, they stay focused on the public phobia [of Islam and the Islamic world]: blind faith and cruelty, political underdevelopment, and women’s social and sexual repression. They provide a mix of fear and intrigue-the basis for a blank check for the use of force in the region and Western self-affirmation. Perhaps not all the authors intend to sound the trumpet of war. But the divided, black-and-white world they hold before the reader leaves little room for anything other than surrender to the inevitability of conflict between the West and the Middle East.

demonization of the Muslim world and glorification of the Western world-what Keshavarz terms the “Islamization of Evil” and the “Westernization of Goodness”

...functions as an allegorized version of the colonial/neo-colonial/imperial imperative of “intervening” in “dark” countries in order to save the sub-human Others who would be otherwise simply lost in their own ignorance and brutality. .. purely self-sacrificial expressions of the superiority of the imperial peoples’ humanity and ideology.

other New Orientalist works on the Islamic Middle East, such as

Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner
Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran,
Asne Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul,
Geraldine Brooks’ Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women,
Bernard Lewis’ What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response.

Keshavarz, Fatemeh. Interview. Jasmine and Stars: New Orientalist Narratives. ZNet. 2007 <>.

Dabashi, Hamid. “Native Informers and the Making of the New American Empire.” Al-Ahram Weekly 1 June 2007. <>.

Dabashi, Hamid. Interview. Lolita and Beyond . ZNet. 2007. <>

No comments: