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“My country, my language, my daughter”: Melancholic Self-erasure in Fadia Faqir’s My Name is Salma

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paper

Publication date30/04/2021
<mark>Original language</mark>English
EventArab Literature in English: Re-writing Gender, Race, Politics and Culture - online
Duration: 30/04/2021 → …


ConferenceArab Literature in English: Re-writing Gender, Race, Politics and Culture
Period30/04/21 → …
Internet address


This paper presents an innovative reading of Fadia Faqir’s My Name is Salma (2007), viewing it through the framework of literary trauma theory, which provides fresh insight into the purview of Arab-Anglophone literature by women. Faqir’s third novel has been studied almost exclusively through the lens of migration and/or racial and ethnic identity. It is also predominately seen as a site of East-West dialogue. The novel has not been read within a literary trauma theory or memory studies framework, and this paper seeks to fill that gap in scholarship. It argues that Salma’s forays into British capitalist society are not the assimilative acts of a new migrant but are, in fact, symptomatic of a Freudian (pathological) melancholia that afflicts her following the traumatic memories of her past, loss of the daughter she conceived out of wedlock, and continued threat of death by “honour killing” from the tribal kin she left behind. These events have shattered her identity, and so her attempts to create a new “self” in her Western alter-ego Sally constitute an act of self-evacuation, or what I call a “melancholic self-erasure,” which ultimately proves ineffectual. Her manifold losses have no substitute; there is no suitable re-cathexis, and she eventually succumbs to her melancholia by seeking death in returning to her village. Thus, this paper moves beyond the explicit and implicit referral to Western expectations — as though they constitute an a priori rubric by which to evaluate Oriental literary output — which operate as yet another level of silencing that compounds a history of public and private erasure of women’s voices in the Arab world. The paper seeks to disrupt prevailing analyses that place Salma in a (failed) encounter with a dominant West whose approval she seeks.