Catalog Home Page

Limp wrists, inflammatory punches: violence, masculinity, and queer sexuality in Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy

Gairola, R.K.ORCID: 0000-0002-1826-6339 (2014) Limp wrists, inflammatory punches: violence, masculinity, and queer sexuality in Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy. South Asian History and Culture, 5 (4). pp. 475-489.

Link to Published Version: https://doi.org/10.1080/19472498.2014.936206
*Subscription may be required

Abstract

In this essay, I read Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy as a ‘counter-bildungsroman’ narrative that braids together Radha Aunty’s transgressions of femininity with Arjie’s queer awakening amidst the heteropatriarchal violence of the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I situate this twinned discourse against the backdrop of domestic and institutional spaces that articulate exclusive identity formations and heteronormative ideals. I argue that Arjie’s engagement in a gender-bending game of ‘Bride-Bride’ in the beginning of the novel and his intentional mangling of a British poem at the end re-appropriates, or ‘queers’, the hegemonic, institutional spaces of home and school. Despite his youth and the trauma of civil war that functions as a metaphor for the inner turmoil of erotic awakening, Arjie’s sexual transgressions within the heteropatriarchal spaces of home and school challenge the masculine nationalism that drove the pogrom. As such, this essay meaningfully departs from previous studies of this novel that read it as either a ‘coming out’ bildungsroman in the Western tradition or a chronicle of communal strife between Sinhalese and Tamil nationalism. Indeed, my close reading of the novel recognizes it as occupying an inbetween narrative space that often reflects both Radha Aunty and Arjie’s liminal gender and sexual identities.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Routledge as part of Taylor & Francis
Copyright: © 2014 Taylor & Francis
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/51962
Item Control Page Item Control Page