Postcolonial development, socio-ecological degradation, and slow violence in Pakistani fiction

Authored by: Saba Pirzadeh

Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138053137
eBook ISBN: 9781315167343
Adobe ISBN:


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Contemporary Pakistani fiction offers new paradigms of thinking through issues of power, violence, and agency in a country caught between the competing demands of tradition and modernity. In this regard, Mohsin Hamid’s Moth Smoke (2000) and Uzma Aslam Khan’s Trespassing (2004) explore the ramifications of neoliberal development for individuals, communities and the natural environments within the Pakistani context. Extending this idea, this chapter argues that Hamid and Khan trace the vexed aspects of neoliberal development by depicting the buildup of postcolonial ecological vulnerability, which means the (indefinite) crisis that is generated when various processes inflict slow violence on physical, social, and psychological integrity of people and the natural environment (Simatei 2005). Slow violence connotes a “violence that is neither spectacular nor instantaneous but rather incremental and accretive” (Nixon 2011). Focusing on the narrativization of slow violence, this chapter establishes how Hamid and Khan use the genre of fiction to depict slow violence—as process (materiality) and praxis (visibility)—to underscore its role in generating postcolonial ecological vulnerability for the human–nature binary. In doing so, Hamid and Khan communicate the embeddedness of slow violence within the Pakistani context to raise critical awareness about its everyday impact, and counter the human tendency of being “anesthetized to ecological destruction” (Shiva 2015).

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