Lecture by Silvia Schultermandl

Dr. Silvia Schultermandl (University of Graz):

“Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist: Performing Transnationalism through Narrative Ambivalence” 

The title of Mohsin Hamid’s novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) is provocative and ambivalent: to use the term fundamentalism in context to 9/11 evokes preconceived notions of Muslim fundamentalism and anti-American terrorism. But precisely such invocations are not part of Hamid’s treatment of 9/11; on the contrary, his Pakistani protagonist Changez reflects on his own losses through the September 11 attacks, losses that are personal as much as they are indicative of a new and extremely hostile environment in New York City. What Changez learns in a very painstaking way is that the destruction of the World Trade Center twin towers has changed his own availability of America as much as it has changed the Manhattan landscape. Hamid’s novel enriches the ever-growing canon of 9/11 fiction with a narrative of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent proliferation of militarism in the United States from the point of view of a male, South-Asian protagonist, a member of the very ethnic group which was most targeted by the racial profiling practices of the American homeland security forces. Hamid’s protagonist enters the reading market at a time when 9/11 generated among the American public not only an acute feeling of vulnerability and mourning but also a new degree of xenophonia against Arabs, South Asians, and Muslims.