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Seminar 3 pm


Mondays, 3-4:30 pm

Week 1: Aurelia

Week 2: Evia, Mia

Week 3:

Week 4: Moitree

Week 5: Eleanor

Week 6: NO CLASS

Week 7: Noella

Week 8:Beth and Keyonte

Week 9: Haleema

Week 10:


Mondays, 3-4:30 pm

Week 2: Evie, Mia

Week 3: Keyonte, Eleanor

Week 4: Noella, Kevin

Week 5: Moitree, Tumi

Week 6: NO CLASS

Week 7: Claudia, Beth

Week 8: Aurelia, Haleema

Week 9: Yushang

Week 10: Fenn, Magiesha





"You think that a clothing is just a clothing. But as a matter of fact, it is not. In a place like this it is a serious thing."

"How had she made him? She did not

know. She had patched him together, working in the dark. She had made a quilt out of pieces of silk, scraps of velvet, and now that she held it up to the light the stitches showed up large and crude, and they cut across everything"

1 - Clothing is a recurring symbol in the novel. What is the significance of clothing and what does it symbolise exactly?

"'m talking about the clash between

Western values and our own. I'm talking about the struggle to assimilate and the need to preserve one's identity and heritage. I'm talking about children who don't know what their identity is. I'm talking about the feelings of alienation engendered by a society where racism is prevalent. I'm talking about the terrific struggle to preserve one's sanity while striving to achieve the best for one's family"

2 - Chanu emphasises the cultural clash between the west and the east which impacts an individual's identity. How does being Bangladeshi and living in England truly effect one's identity? Are there any examples of characters who experience an identity crisis?

"Listen, when I'm in Bangladesh I put on a sari and cover my head and all that. But here I go out to work. I work with white girls and I'm just one of them... Some women spend ten, twenty years here and they sit in their kitchen grinding spices all day and learn only two words of English." (Page 114)

3 - What is Razia's view on the working, immigrant woman's experience?

"Fighting against one's Fate can weaken the blood. Sometimes, or perhaps most times, it can be fatal. Not once did Nazneen question the logic of the story of How You Were Left To Your Fate"


4 - The concept of fate is often mentioned. Discuss the role of fate within the novel.



  1. We have previously explored the veil through Fanon's theories, in the Battle of Algiers, and in Devi's short stories 'The Hunt' and 'Draupadi'. Unveiling, dress and the body are also presented in Homefire, but in a modern context of media, video and photo evidence and politics. Discuss dress and the body in Homefire. You could think about religious dress, the act of undressing and symbolic clothing in the novel. 
  2. Think about our previous discussions of transnational feminism and solidarity; this global novel is set across America, England, Istanbul, Guantanamo, Pakistan, Afghanistan. It may be interesting to think about temporality and history of these places - travelling between them, the Pasha's family history, how media and technology mediate and link these places. 
  3. Through Spivak's claims of "divided loyalty: being a woman and being in the nation", discuss the intersection of identities in this novel - between femininity, national identity, religion and class identity. Think about Aneeka and Isma, as well as Karamat's wife, Terry and their divided loyalties. How does this speak to masculinity and being "in the nation" in the text?



Sadia Abbas, "The Echo Chamber of Freedom: The Muslim Woman and the Pretext of Agency"
  1. 'Agency can be produced out of subordination; choosing subordination can be an exercise of agency; agency is not just comprised of acts of resistance but can consist of modes of inhabiting norms. Female desire does not have to take emancipation from religion as its object. Practicing modesty by veiling can produce an interior experience of the trait' (pg. 14)
discuss the idea that of agency can arise from being 'in subordination' and is not limited to one idea of it. how does the essay attempt to break down the monolith that Muslim women seem to face, and often is grouped into?
Assia Djebar, Fantasia
  1. discuss the use of intertwining the history of Algiers along with the story of the narrator in the story.
  2. discuss the importance of writing and language in Fantasia. The way that the French have a need to write down the events taking place as they initially invade reflecting the girls writing letters in their youths, the narrator's parents being able to show their care for each other by writing and speaking in French than Arabic.


  1. Explain the relevance of Scott's "metaphor of visibility" in the context of the historical global narrative of feminism.
  2. Spivak refers to the protection of women as "a signifier for the establishment of a good society". Discuss the role of womanhood in the historical narrative of race and racism.
  1. Scott touches on the subjectivity of historical accounts, 'insisting that histories are written from fundamentally different perspectives or standpoints.' What does this say about the significance of experience?
  2. Discuss the depiction of the working class in relation to the idea of desire as a 'machine'. How does the concept of the worker's struggle relate to the idea of subalternity?

WEEK 1 (Aurelia)

  1. Why is everybody afraid of Mary Oraon and not respectful towards her even though she achieved so much? Do you think the same situation, that a powerful, skilled woman would rather be feared than admired, could happen again today and if so do you have examples?  
  2. Why is Dopdi suddenly called Draupadi once she is caught? What reason could the author have in mind?



  1. The text is written both about and in a variety of different languages and dialects. For those who do not speak all of the languages present in the text, how did you go about reading it? Did you attempt to translate any parts you couldn’t understand? Did this impact your understanding of the text and its themes?


  1. We’ve previously discussed the rift between the home and the world. Anzaldúa writes,

Yet in leaving home I did not lose touch with my origins because lo mexicano is in my system. I am a turtle wherever I go I carry "home" on my back. Not me sold out my people but they me. So yes, though "home" permeates every sinew and cartilage in my body, I too am afraid of going home. (21)

Consider the discomfort that can be found in the movement between different spaces.


1. What is the space of the ‘borderlands’ and how is this specifically characterised in the Anzaldua’s text? How can this then be translated across other spaces - both transnationally and structurally? How do we interrogate the border and binaries that force the creation of the ‘borderlands’?

2. What is Anzaldua’s theorisation of ‘The New Mestiza’? What does to occupy this identity within the ‘borderlands’? How does Anzaldua cultivate this identity through her writing style?



Chandra Mohanty, “Women Workers and Capitalist Scripts: Ideologies of Domination, Common Interests, and the Politics of Solidarity”, in Alexander and Mohanty, eds. Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies (1997): 3-29. Mohanty, "Women Workers"


Mohanty further interprets the definition of women as housewives and suggested that there is “the heterosexualization of women's work - women are always defined in relation to men and conjugal marriage” (12). As earlier we identified there is a ‘web’ of women interconnecting in Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy, do you think Lucy is defined solely by her relationship with men? In addition, do you think the geographical and cultural divides of specific women as workers may put forward the basis for common interest and potential solidarities across national borders?

Maria Mies, “Colonization and Housewifization”, from Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale  Mies, "Colonization or Housewifization"

Question 2:

Mies articulated that, “Not only was the housewife called on to reduce the labour power costs, she was also mobilized to use her energies to create new needs” (106). To what extent do you recognize Mie’s claim that, while the housewifization of women, along with the creation of housework in the western world serve as the agents of consumption, Third World women are usually producers instead of consumers? Does this phenomenon work in today’s society as well?


Ngai PunNgai Pun, “Becoming Dagongmei (Working Girls): the Politics of Identity and Difference in Reform China", The China Journal, No. 42 (Jul., 1999), pp. 1-18. Pun Ngai, "Becoming Dagongmei"

Question 3:

“Regional and kin-ethnic differences among workers were further exaggerated and manipulated to divide and rank the work-force” (7). Ngai gave us vivid examples like how the director Mr. Chou recognized “Chaozhou mei as submissive, attentive and clever, and thus suitable for account work”, “Hubei mei were better than the Hunan mei since the poorer region, the harder working the workers…”. Therefore, in the fierce competition for supervisor and production-line leader positions in factories to get higher salaries, do you think the conventional norm of workforce ranking will influence the solidarity of women from different regions?

Question 4:

What are the reasons behind the migration of the dagongmei (working girls) from the rural areas to the special economic zones in search of jobs, despite the discriminations they were battling within their working environments and also the exploitative actions from their



  1. To what extent does being women provide a common bond between Lucy and Mariah? How might differences in Lucy's and Mariah's economic class positions and national identity affect their experiences and concerns as women?
  2. Would you say Mariah has progressive attitudes about women? From this, why is Lucy critical of Mariah's attitudes about women?


  1. Why do you think Jamaica Kincaid started the story in the middle of the story? Do you think it was useful?
  2. What do daffodils symbolize for Lucy?
  3. Why can Lucy analyse situations better than anyone else (e.g. her statement on Mariah and Lewis making out and just putting on a show for each other -> marriage falls apart later)?
  4. Lucy is free in the end, which is what she tried to achieve all her life. Do you think she is happy and will she be able to form a long-lasting relationship with anyone?


Claudia and Beth

  1. Gould (2014) emphasises the importance of “engaging with postcolonial texts in their local contexts” (p210) to trace texts reception “among readers who are the object of their representations” (p210). To what extent does a consideration of the reception of The Home and the World in its national contexts (both at the time of its publication and now) enrich our understanding of the text and it’s importance?
  2. Visweswaran (1994) identifies “shifting identities” (which can be “multiple, contradictory, partial, and strategic” p50) “temporality, and silence” as tools of feminist ethnography. How does Tagore employ these three tools within the narrative of The Home and The World? And to what extent do they show “the potential of women’s agency to defy the containments of Indian nationalist discourse” p42.
  3. How does the trajectory of Bimala in ‘The Home and the World’ either support or contest the fear that a society in which men and women interact in the outside world inevitably leads to “degeneration in the female character”, given the nationalist belief that “Home was the principal site for expressing the spiritual quality of the national culture”, and that women “take main responsibility for protecting this quality.” (Chatterjee)
  4. Explore the conflicting perspectives of feminist versus nationalist on women’s role in building the independent nation. The nationalist movement saw women as protectors of the nations ‘inner spirituality’ located in the domestic against the influence of colonists. How can this be viewed as both a “movement from bondage to emancipation”, as well as a movement from “one kind of bondage to another”.

WEEK 5 (Moitree and Tumi)

1. Discuss the ways in which Sandip’s idolisation of bimala reflect his theorisation of the nation state and how he essentialists it as a form of social organisation
2. Bimala is at first taken with Sandip’s grandiosity and shocking ideas about human nature and power in a global context. Discuss the significance of the fact that Bimala sees through this eventually, in relation to the author’s hope and faith for and in the people of Bengal, and their liberation.
3. Nikhil is shunned for employing an English tutor for bimala, and bimala herself often leans towards the more traditional veneration of her husband, and does not seem particularly interested in broadening her horizons the way Nikhil is eager for her to do, but is attracted to Sandip’s more aggressive and “” stance. Discuss the ways in which this indicates the idea of progression and feminism being “Western” and how this is indicative of the ideological dominance colonial narratives.
4. Discuss the ways in which Tagore constructs/discusses not only ideals of masculinity, but the nature of feminity, in Bimala's respective attraction and revulsion to Sandip's "strength" and Nikhil's supposed "weakness". What does this suggest about his ideas of feminine nature, and more broadly, the nature of Bengal, and the ex-colonial nation state in general?

WEEK 4 (Noella and Kevin)

1. What is the “white woman’s burden” (137) in the context of the transnational “relationship” between Victorian feminists and Indian women? Is the “white woman’s burden” still prevalent in present-day (Western) feminist discourses?

2. To what extent do you agree with Burton's deliberation that, while British feminists like Butler strove for a “global sisterhood” (152), Indian women were robbed of their agency and 'silenced in the name of feminist "sisterly" protectiveness'? Can we observe similar forms of behaviour today?

3. Despite having a 'complex sense of Self', Grewal suggests that both Toru Dutt and Behramji Malabari construct their own forms of identity that 'reveal emerging understandings of what it means to be "native"' (134). Does Anna construct her own form of identity and sense of "Self" through her journey to England? If so, how?

4. Grewal writes that, in order to positively promote imperialism, many upper-class Indians were indoctrinated with the belief that freedom was only attainable in England, and the home became a "cage" (167) that only modernity could free women from. As such, many believed that 'England and travel to England meant visiting the land of freedom, and the journey gave access to this freedom' (169). Consider whether Anna falls victim to this belief and perceives her own journey to England as a form of freedom.

WEEK 3 (Keyonte and Eleanor)

  1. In Voyage in the Dark, Anna is described as ‘Hottentot’ (pg12). In mind of Virey’s citations describing the “Hottentot woman as the epitome of sexual lasciviousness” and the exhibition of Sarah Bartmann, how does this change our understanding of Anna’s identity in correspondence to others’ perception of her and black femininity?
  2. Gilman mentions the sizable lack of autopical descriptions of genitalia of black males by comparison to that of black females (218). Why was there a stronger fixation upon the black femininity and why was it used to create generalisations of blackness and black sexuality?
  1. In Voyage in the Dark, Rhys describes Anna's arrival in London: "a curtain fell and I was there... hundreds thousands of white people white people rushing along... I'm not going to like this place" (11-2). McClintock discusses the projection of "the female body onto the modern city" (82). How does Anna's interaction with imperial London interact with McClintock's argument? Consider her experience of London as an immigrant and her relationship to the 'city men' she meets. Can we argue for Anna's body as projected onto the city?
  1. McClintock also discusses "the mirror... [that] becomes an icon for the social framing of identity, and the doubled image of Victorian womanhood" and "the elaborate and expensive costumery worn by women [that] became the visible icons of male prosperity and class status" (98). How do McClintock's discussions of the mirror, clothing and social identity shape our understanding of Anna? Thinking again about the female body in the modern city, how do Rhys' use of motifs like clothing and the mirror present Anna's social identity? Some quotes from Voyage: "as if it isn't enough that you want to be beautiful, that you want to have pretty clothes that you want it like hell" (18) Anna shopping - "Out of this warm room that smells of fur I'll go to all the lovely places I've ever dreamt of. This is the beginning" (21)

WEEK 2 (Evie and Mia)

1. In the text, Anna states: “I had read about England ever since I could read”. Using the lens of our protagonist’s experiences in England, discuss the novel’s representation of the dominant Western narrative and its relationship to both Western and non-Western feminisms.
2. A key theme of the novel is identity. Using specific examples from the text, explain why Anna finds it so difficult to assert her own sense of self.
3. Jean Rhys zones in on Anna’s few relationships with the male characters, most notably Walter Jeffries. What does the unfolding of these relationships convey about the protagonist in relation to themes such as belonging, money and power?
4. Anna’s subjective narrative perspective persists throughout the novel. How does her unreliability as the narrator mirror her state of liminality between her past West Indies lifestyle and her adjustment to England?