Journal article Open Access

Contemporary Arab Petrofiction: Opening up Biopolitical Spaces for the Dispossessed

Bashir, Saima, Saeed, Sohail Ahmad

The paper is an exploration of how petrofiction, as a form of biopolitical
fiction, charts out the discontent of the selected Arab writers with the present
as well as their visions of the past and the future. Within the context of
the United States’ imperialism, expansionism and the resultant Arab Modernism,
two postmodern Arabic novels from different nation states and cultures
translated into English at different time periods have been chosen for
this study with a view to examine themes common to their biopolitical and
necropolitical backgrounds. The novels are Cities of Salt (1984), the first
volume of a petro-quintet by Saudi-Jordanian novelist Abdel Rahman Munif,
and Men in the Sun (1963) by the Palestinian Ghassan Kanafani. These texts
are analyzed as petronarratives demonstrating oil as a resource curse, and its
fallout of development as a form of distorted modernity. By deconstructing
unilinear narratives of progress and possibility, the selected marginalized
authors reject easy solutions or fantastic alternatives to the present. Their
narratives deterritorialize the codifications of colonial discourse to open up
new spaces of possibilities for the dispossessed. They work as writer-activists
signifying the attainability of the idea that fiction is powerful enough to
effect political change and develop biopolitical memory. The study concludes
with the crystallization that although representation of the wounded memory
through written text is not possible, the text as a body can initiate biopolitical
change.

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