How Is the Figure of the Refugee Represented in Abdulrazak Gurnah's by the Sea?

Topics: Refugee, Right of asylum, Forced migration Pages: 3 (1200 words) Published: May 26, 2013
Analyse the Representation of the Figure of the Refugee in Abdulrazak Gurnah’s By the Sea The purpose of this essay is to examine Abdulrazak Gurnah’s presentation of the refugee through the individual identity of the novel’s protagonist, Saleh Omar. While there is a wealth of criticism across the genre of contemporary diasporic literature as a whole, relatively little research has been conducted on By the Sea specifically. This essay will therefore seek to provide a close reading of the episode in which Omar is interviewed by the immigration official at Gatwick airport, upon his arrival in England combining some of the insights of Peter Childs, Jean-Jacques Weber and Patrick Williams and their work on post-colonial literary studies, with those of scholar Phil Marfleet and his work in the field of refugee studies in order to illuminate the novel. Taking its cue from Jacques Derrida’s work On Hospitality, in which he discusses the aporia associated with unconditional hospitality, the essay will examine this encounter in Derriddean terms of an encounter between ‘guest’ and ‘host’. With all this said, the essay will align this notion of hospitality, as it is conceptualised by Derrida, in dialogue with the notion of what it means to be a political refugee, grounding these two ideas in a sense of the political climate of the novel at Gurnah’s time of writing. By showing how post-colonial issues intersect with those of asylum, the essay will ultimately aim to show how the novel depicts the possibility of (re)constructing a home in a foreign land. The implication of Omar’s meeting with Ken Edelman is twofold. Not only can it be read in terms of Derrida’s understanding of the provision of hospitality and sovereignty (whereby the legal status of the refugee is negotiated), as we shall see later: it also lends a darker edge to the novel’s navigation of cultural borders. Gurnah hints at the xenophobia and racism which is implicit within the discourse of the British...
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