Elif Shafak’s fiction: Reaching pluralism through story-telling

Ever since the genesis of this world, identity politics has played a pivotal role in determining the attitudes of socio-cultural communities towards one another. Communities, being conscious of their identity traits and defining features, have always tried to shroud themselves from the influence of remnant social cultural entities in order to preserve their idiosyncrasies.

Modern novelist Elif Shafaq staunchly disapproving the practice of identity politics in the global community contends that such practices not only lead to the sad demise of creativity, imagination and the inexpression of one’s inner soul but also propels communities to thwart the very idea of peaceful coexistence.

Elaborating upon this notion, in her TED talk Politics of Fiction, she rather convincingly contends that identity politics has a profound impact on writers, wrongly compelling them to project only those areas of concern whose relevancy can be traced in their cultural and social fabric. Moreover, the writers are not viewed as creative individuals, rather are seen as representatives of their own cultures, voicing only the ideas that they are expected to. In order to substantiate her contention, Elif gives the example of eminent commuter and writer, James Bawdin who silenced an interviewer when he inquired him about his homosexuality. When the interviewer tried to label Bawdin as a gay writer, Bawdin stopped and remarked, ”But don’t you see? There’s nothing in me that is not in everybody else, and nothing in everybody else that is not in me”.

According to Shafaq, when identity politics tries to put labels on us, it is our freedom of imagination that is in danger. Identity politics steals a writer’s freedom of expression and compels him to abstain from crafting experimental literary pieces that might not resonate with their own culture. Elif believes that there should be no place of identity politics in works of fiction as

Identity politics divides us; fiction connects. One is interested in sweeping generalizations, the other in nuances. One draws boundaries, the other recognizes no frontiers. Identity politics is made of solid bricks; fiction is flowing water.

In her article titled, As we speak of story tellers, we speak for pluralism, she further adds to the debate of identity politics and suggests that the writers have a responsibility on their shoulders to come across as peacemakers in the global community and ‘build bridges of empathy’ through works of fiction .They need to propagate the ideas of democracy, pluralism, coexistence and cosmopolitanism.

Identity politics paves path for Socio-Cultural monotony which is unhealthy for individual and collective growth likewise. That is precisely the reason her novels are multicultural, resonating with individuals from fairly diverse backgrounds. By virtue of her in-depth analysis of and familiarity with diverse cultural practices, Elif has managed to carve a niche for herself in the realm of modernist literature.

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