‘Language becomes the only “home” to inhabit when all else is lost’
: censorship, exile, and identity in the works of Haifa Zangana

  • Fatima Seedat

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This thesis explores the themes of exile, identity, and censorship in Haifa Zangana’s literary work, the first sustained analysis of her literary oeuvre. This includes a memoir, Dreaming of Baghdad; a novel, Women on a Journey; an Iraqi woman’s account of war and resistance, City of Widows; a chapter she wrote in an edited collection against the Iraq occupation called ‘The Torturer in the Mirror’; and, finally, a collage titled Map of Destruction. A postcolonial theoretical framework is used to scaffold my reading of these texts and is nuanced by the use of Michel Foucault’s theory of biopower. This approach to the context of Zangana’s work has facilitated an exploration of the exertion of systemic power over the people of Iraq. This thesis highlights how Zangana’s literary work offers critique of Saddam Hussein and the US occupation of Iraq, and their role in exile, identity, and censorship, which in turn produces collective memory and mourning. This thesis concludes that Zangana’s writing amplifies the collective voice, which has been suppressed due to the weaponization of the Iraqi identity; her work helps us understand how ordinary lives have been uprooted in the fight for freedom.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJodie Matthews (Main Supervisor)

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