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Nation, Gender, Religion in Imtiaz Dharker’s I Speak for the Devil

Author Affiliations

  • 1Department of English, Diamond Harbour Women’s University, Kolkata, India

Res. J. Language and Literature Sci., Volume 10, Issue (3), Pages 21-25, September,19 (2023)


Imtiaz Dharker’s poetry collection, I Speak for the Devil published in 2002, is an act of rebellion; loud, clear, and unambiguous in its confrontation of religious, gendered, and national identities. The book's contents have been broadly divided into three sections: ‘They’ll say, She must be from another country’, ‘The broken umbrella’, and ‘I speak for the devil’. For Dharker the inaugural moment of this journey is a politically rife incident in Pakistan, highlighting the killing of a woman who had asked for divorce. Her death is glibly manipulated by the façade of honour killing, alerting the readers to geographical spaces, deeply imbricated in social, cultural, and gendered paradigms. Her spatial identity as a South Asian Muslim woman, having relocated to Glasgow, shuttling between the USA and India, shapes and defines her poetic idiom. Aligning the private and the public, Dharker seeks to locate her identity within a specific South Asian spatiality, exploring in the process issues that inform an eclectic mix of the global and the local. Her poems are situated at the intersection of her gendered, her national, and her diasporic identities. They also encapsulate the complexity of the space that takes cognizance of the objectifying tendencies of so much knowledge on the other (the other that does not fit in) while acknowledging that it is neither pure nor totally divorced from its viewing position. Who speaks for whom and how are questions that mark her poetic allegiances and choices. My paper attempts to read these poems as a transgressive journey across boundaries, largely conditioned, determined, and controlled by patriarchal norms.


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