Dr Aroosa Kanwal is serving as Assistant professor at International Islamic University, Islamabad. She did her Phd. from Lancaster University, UK (2013). She published her monograph named, “Rethinking Identities in Contemporary Pakistani Fiction: Beyond 9/11” in 2015. Her monograph won the Best Non-Fiction Book Award at KLF 2016. Her area of interests are Pakistani diaspora writings, questions of migration, identity and resistance in postcolonial literatures, in particular of South Asia.
Atoofa: Hey, Thank you so much for your time and thank you for this interview. I have read your book and it is one well published, well argued critical piece, I must say.
Dr. Aroosa: Thank you for having me.
Atoofa: When you started your Ph.D. at Lancaster University, did you know that you will do wonders once done with degree?
Dr. Aroosa: Not at all! Just like any other PhD scholar, I was only determined to get my doctoral degree and return to my country.
Atoofa: How was your experience of living at UK? You must have missed Pakistan, right?
Dr.Aroosa: Of course I missed Pakistan, I missed my parents a lot but I do miss Lancaster too now. It became my second home probably because of the love, support and care I received not only from my friends but also from my supervisor, HOD, office staff and colleagues.
Atoofa: What motivated you to go for such fancy topic “Rethinking Identities in Contemporary Pakistani Fiction: Beyond 9/11” for your dissertation? In Post-colonial discourse your work is a benchmark regarding the role of Pakistani Anglophone Fiction in writing back to dominant discourses. What are your comments over it?
Dr.Aroosa: You can say that Rethinking Identities is the first book of literary criticism, by a Pakistani Muslim, to offer an indigenous response to West-led ‘war on terror’ public discourses by engaging second-generation literary narratives that deal with the questions of identity, displacement, home and belongingness, religious affiliation and terrorism. It was a timely response to contemporary debates surrounding stereotyping of Muslims. As you know very well that the post-9/11 fictional narratives feature significant historical and political events that have contributed, in one way or the other, towards the contemporary troubling situation for the Muslim world and hence towards framing of Pakistani-Muslim identities. By significantly foregrounding the complexities involved in the discourses of belonging and stereotyping Muslim identities in their writings vis-à-vis their counter Western narratives, Pakistani writers problematize and destabilize the relationship between dominant and subaltern, centre and the margin. In so doing, post-9/11 fictional narratives not only help to understand the complexities surrounding contemporary Muslim identity politics but has also set up clear categories of ‘New Pakistani Literature’ in the last two decades. Since Pakistani fiction is a major growth area at present and is widely taught on university courses across the globe, I personally feel that this ‘new wave’ of Pakistani writings claim and provide alternative perspectives on contemporary situation. What I intend to say is that Pakistani writings complicate and problematize the discourses of nationalism, notions of identity, Islamic fundamentalism and clash of civilization which open up the spaces of possibilities. Without such diverse narratives and contexts, it is difficult to grasp a holistic picture of what is happening in contemporary Pakistan. This is what I wanted to investigate in my book, to provide perceptive insights into the current situation in central Asia and respond to fears and misconceptions about Muslim cultures in general and subcontinent culture in particular.
Atoofa: You must have felt over whelmed when you received the Coca Cola Best Non Fiction Award at KLF 2016? Would you like to share your feelings?
Dr.Aroosa: I still don’t believe that happened. I was absolutely sure that the prize would go to Farah Naz Ispahani or Yaqoob Bangash who were the other nominees for this award. So I can’t be more grateful to KLF and Coca Cola, for encouraging and acknowledging the efforts of academics and researchers like myself.
L-R: Dr. Aroosa Kanwal (Prize Winner), Fahad Qadir (Director, Public Affairs & Communications, Coca-Cola) & Ameena Saiyid (Founder, Oxford University Press Pakistan) – PC Coca Cola Journey.
Atoofa: Well, I guess enough of the academic thing, what about something funny? Would you mind telling what makes you run; a cockroach or a lizard?
Dr. Aroosa: I definitely suffer from Katsaridaphobia!
Atoofa: What do you do in your free time?
Dr.Aroosa: My favorite leisure time activities are painting, recycling the unusable stuff and all kinds of art and craft activities.
Atoofa: What if you get one week holiday where would you like to go for a week?
Dr.Aroosa: Turkey and Spain.
Atoofa: What message would you like to give to the fellow researchers and scholars?
Dr.Aroosa: Read and write and be-not-afraid of exploring new ideas! Most of the critical work done on Pakistani writings is coming from the western academics. We need indigenous responses on Pakistani writings from this part of the world too.
Atoofa: It was amazing to know a little bit about you. Looking forward to healthy and intellectual companies with you. Have a lovely evening, Dr Aroosa.
Dr.Aroosa: Thank you very much indeed!
Note: It was indeed lovely meeting her. She is one of my favorites. Humble, gentle and loving personality.