Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

MA English

Department

English

Advisor

Simone Alexander, Ph.D

Committee Member

Jeffrey Gray, Ph.D

Keywords

Prosthesis, Transgender, Bricolage, postcolonial, Hijra, Immigration, Surrogacy, biracial

Abstract

Chris Abani describes a scene where his main character Black and Sweet Girl, a transsexual dancer, have intercourse for the first time. Black hesitates as he begins to penetrate her anally because, “he couldn’t become her this way. He knew this thing, this intimacy he craved wasn’t about love, or even sex, but about filling himself.” (275). Black does not want sex, he wants, as Sweet Girl does, to transcend boundaries of gender and the physical dimensions of sex. Similarly Thayil’s narrator Dimple, a castrated biological male prostitute living as a woman, expounds on the nature of sex after a customer asks, “What I want to know, do you feel pleasure or not?” (124). Dimple responds, “Not like you do and not the way a woman does […] I feel pleasure but not, what’s the word? relief?” (124). The lack of sexual fulfillment for both characters functions as a metaphor for widespread economic, racial and sexual disempowerment within the narratives.

This paper will perform a comparative analysis of two novels: Chris Abani’s Virgin of the Flames and Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil. In particular, it will deal with two principal characters: Black in Virgin of the Flames and Dimple in Narcopolis. Both these characters straddle various divides: cultural, racial, sexual and spiritual.This paper will examine the ways both characters inhabit migratory spaces between polarities and fluidly move between them, as well as seek to contextualize questions about how queer theology in tandem with the material study of othered bodies can inform a post-colonial understanding of power structures in the contemporary age. I intend to ground the critical analysis of the project in the theory of Argentinian theologian, Marcella Althaus-Reid. Althaus-Reid’s work The Queer God addresses the way that, “[b]odies in love add many theological insights to the quest for God and truth, but doing theology from other contexts needs to consider the experiences and reflection of Others too” (2). This queer theology also seeks to dismantle heterosexual readings of the Scriptures through rejecting normative presentations of human bodies and heterosexuality.

I will begin my project with a materialist analysis of the transgendered bodies of both Dimple and Black to question how their sexual hermeneutics informs their spiritual ones. In so doing, I hope to reach an understanding of how the deviant theology of these characters challenges what Althaus-Reid terms T-theology, a methodology which is, “still colonially based, its covenants are still similar to the covenants of colonial industrial landscapes” (31). In this context the physical spaces within and without Dimple and Black’s bodies, as well as their deviant gender performances become sites of post-colonial resistance.

 
 

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