Of Hideous ‘Half-and-Halfs’: Reading the Grotesque in Leila Aboulela’s The Kindness of Enemies


Farzaneh Doosti 1 Amir Ali Nojoumian 2
1 PhD and lecturer in Department of English, Central Tehran Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran

2 Associate Professor of English Department, University of Shahid Beheshti, Tehran



Drawing from the mainly Bakhtinian theories of the grotesque and its further readings by Kristeva, Foucault, and Bhabha, the present paper tends to examine the representation of “feminine grotesque” in one of the less discussed novels of Post-millennial Muslim diaspora, Leila Aboulela’s The Kindness of Enemies (2015). Written in response to the Islamophobic aftermath of the 9/11 and London bombings, Aboulela’s postmillennial fiction is often read as an instance of Islamic Postcolonialism, in the shade of which the story’s manifestly corpographic quality is mainly neglected by the critics. An offspring of miscegenation between a Muslim African and a white non-Muslim Russian, Aboulela’s female protagonist Natasha Hussein reconfigures diasporic hybridity as seminally “monstrous,” and accordingly proposes a synthesis between the feminine abject and Muslim monstrosity. The Bakhtinian grotesque is exemplarily revitalized in Natasha’s abject body at different strata, which turns her body mass from a definite individual figure to a becoming political body in a network of sociocultural and religious forces. In her struggle to adjust with space through the Sufi practice of zikr, she is both metamorphosed and proposed to the West as an alternative model of embodied Muslim subjectivity which is more willing to tolerate and to negotiate.


Muslim Diaspora, Corpography, Gyno-Grotesque, Diasporic Body, Muslim Monstrosity, Islamophobia



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