In his novels Cockroach and Carnival, Rawi Hage explores the varied experiences of postcolonial migrants to the northern city. His protagonists are antiheroes, hustlers who reject the demands of good immigrant citizenship. Theorists of urban life applaud the city as a space that is hospitable to encounters with difference; they fail to consider the ways in which processes of bordering and differentiation are part of economies that exploit migrants. This article focuses on Hage’s portrayal of migrant mobility in the city. By bringing together a critique of these theorists of urban experience with Sandro Mezzadra’s arguments about the autonomy of postcolonial migrants, who are subjects and agents despite and because of the determinations of the political field, this article probes the subjection of postcolonial migrants in the city. The “politics of mobility” also determines migrants’ modes of conviviality and labor. Hage’s protagonists survive by maneuvering underground, in the interstices of the city, or in a cab, their space of work and mobility in the city, and using a rich verbal medley to tell its myriad stories. Thus Hage presents counterhegemonic narratives and visions of postcolonial migrants in the city.
Mobility in the City: Rawi Hage’s Novels of Urban Migrants
Yumna Siddiqi is associate professor of English at Middlebury College, where she specializes in postcolonial literature and theory, diaspora and migration studies, and literary theory. Her book Anxieties of Empire and the Fiction of Intrigue (2008) explores the contradictions of postcolonial modernity in turn of the nineteenth- and turn of the twentieth-century fiction of detection and espionage. She has published articles on postcolonial literature and culture in Cultural Critique, Victorian Literature and Culture, Renaissance Drama, Alif, South Asia Research, and Textual Practice. Her current research is on post-colonial literature, migration, and the city.
Yumna Siddiqi; Mobility in the City: Rawi Hage’s Novels of Urban Migrants. the minnesota review 1 May 2020; 2020 (94): 124–141. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00265667-8128463
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