"It's in the Bones": Muslim Pathologies and the Problem of Representation in Disgraced
Samah Choudhury [+]
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (PhD candidate)
The play Disgraced, written by Pakistani American playwright Ayad Akhtar, took home the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and has continued its popularity streak across American theatrical stages in the years since its debut. This article examines Disgraced and its central character - a lying, violent, and ultimately pathological Muslim man, Amir Kapoor. I ask how this particular pathology – drawing from Fanon’s conception of how colonial subjects understand themselves in relation to white colonizers – allows us to think about the Muslim figure beyond its otherwise hegemonic imagery. I propose two modes through which to read Akhtar’s decision to position Amir squarely within the stereotype as it relates to the climactic moments of the story: a declaration of pride on 9/11, the loss of his job, and the savage beating of his white wife. These modes – in which the Muslim is self-pathologized or has a pathology imposed upon him – simultaneously reinforce and subvert the expectation of the Muslim, though the perennial problem of publicly representing a beleaguered minority within a hostile political climate remains. The enactment of a physical act of pathological violence, in particular, outstrips the otherwise nuanced reading of imposed pathology due to the fleeting medium of live performance.