Deconstructing the Identity of 'Women'

Debbie Rodan


In this paper I examine the intersections of gender, race and class through an analysis of the differing characters inscribed with the identity of 'women' in the recent film East is East (released in 1999). I not only focus on the representation of female characters present in the film (specifically, the second Mrs Khan, Ella, the minor characters Stella and Peggy and the daughter Meenah), but also those who are absent, in particular the first Mrs Khan. I argue, using Gayatri Spivak's concept of "foreclosure," from her Critique of Postcolonial Reason, that Mrs Kahn's absence is an "unacknowledged moment" in which her identity as 'woman' is "foreclosed." Through this foreclosure Mrs Khan's identity is constituted only in terms of 'difference'. I claim that the character who is cast in the most positive light in terms of gender, race and class is the Khan's only daughter, Meenah. Her identity is constituted both in terms of 'sameness' and 'difference'. I argue that Meenah could be representative of a certain new kind of hybrid subject, which is developing a new kind of hybridity (here I am using Homi Bhabha's notion of hybridise).

Debbie Rodan teaches and researches across disciplines and across academic institutions, dividing her time between Murdoch (Arts) and Edith Cowan (Media).

New: 6 September 2001 | Now: 6 May, 2015