International Journal of Language & Linguistics

ISSN 2374-8850 (Print), 2374-8869 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijll

Sexing the Karachi City: Gender and Urban Subjectivity in Shandana Minhas’ Tunnel Vision
Dr Sabreen Ahmed

This paper locates the positioning of a novel Tunnel Vision by a contemporary Pakistani women writer Shandana Minhas within a zenana sub-culture and look for fissures that make the protagonist embrace or escape her traditional milieu. I use the term zenana not merely as a private quarter within a household separated for women as means of gender seclusion, but as an ideological construct for the psycho-social space of Minhaz’s female protagonist Ayesha. Zenana as an ideological structure defines the conceptualization of social, political and personal space for a Muslim woman. The zenana indexes both a particular place and a particular view of one’s place in the world. The spatial and cultural codes of secrecy, privacy and modesty are demystified in Minhas’s sexist representation of the city space in Karachi. As the modern South Asian Muslim women slip through the borders of traditional patriarchal control exerted by the institution of zenana, new forms of patriarchal control in terms of choice of sexual behavior, financial restrictions, professional hazards etc emerge as ideological constructs which finds an incisive representation in Minhaz’s novel. Her comatose body becomes a site for production of knowledge, conflicting emotions and a shared history where globalization and urbanity restructures the performance of gender, sexuality, religion and class for a modern woman in contemporary Pakistan. The leading woman in the text Ayesha rather than adhering to her religiosity yearn for liberation from the repression of her sexuality and burden of spinsterhood, seek authentic self expression which at most instances is only partially allowed. The issue at hand is to understand on one hand her religious identity as Muslim woman while at the same time to grasp the specificity of her claim to act as a modern subject situated in the time of political and cultural modernity, as seen in the critical religious interrogations of Shandana Minhaz’s Tunnel Vision through her representation of sexist and gendered realities in the city space of Karachi. Apart from these issues, the novel is also about Minhas’ love for Karachi. Each chapter begins with an ode to the spirit of the place. From the witty and bizarre one-liners on the rear of auto-rickshaws and trucks to snippets from folk songs make up the title name of the chapters. The titles are a humorous representation of the realities and myths of a spatial urban existence.

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