Date of Award

Spring 4-12-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Renee Schatteman

Second Advisor

Dr. Ian Almond

Third Advisor

Dr. Marilynn Richtarik

Abstract

This dissertation explores postcolonial fiction that reflects the structural situation of a genocidal number of third-world women who are being trafficked for sexual purposes from postcolonial countries into the global north—invariably, gender, class and race play a crucial role in their exploitation. Above all, these women share a systemic disposability and invisibility, as the business relies on the victim’s illegality and criminality to generate maximum revenues. My research suggests that the presence of these abject women is not only recognized by ideological and repressive state apparatuses on every side of the trafficking scheme (in the form of governments, military establishments, juridical systems, transnational corporations, etc.) but is also understood as necessary for the current neoliberal model to thrive undisturbed by ethical imperatives. Beginning with the turn of the twentieth century, then, I analyze sexual slavery transnationally by looking at James Joyce’s “Eveline,” Therese Park’s A Gift of the Emperor, Mahasweta Devi’s “Douloti the Bountiful,” Amma Darko’s Beyond the Horizon, Chris Abani’s Becoming Abigail, and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, concentrating on the political, economic, and social discourses in which the narratives are immersed through the lens of Marxist, feminist, and postcolonial theory. By interrogating these postcolonial narratives, my project reexamines the sex slave-trafficker-consumer triad in order to determine the effect of each party’s presence or absence from the text and the implications in terms of the discourses their representations may tacitly legitimize. At the same time, this work investigates the type of postcolonial stories the West privileges and the reasons, and the subjective role postcolonial theory plays in overcoming subaltern women’s exploitation within the current neocolonial context. Overall, I interrogate the role postcolonial literature plays as a means of achieving (or not) social change, analyze the purpose of artists in representing exploitative situations, identify the type of engagement readers have with these characters, and seek to understand audiences’ response to such literature. I look at authors who have attempted to discover fruitful avenues of expression for third-world women, who, despite increasingly constituting the bulk of the work force worldwide, continue to be exploited and, in the case of sex trafficking, brutally violated.

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