Postcolonial Servitude: Interiority and System in Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders

Ambreen Hai


This article focuses on Pakistani-American writer Daniyal Mueenuddin's notable first collection of interlinked short stories In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (2009) as an example of an emergent wave of contemporary transnational fiction that foregrounds the figure of the domestic servant as central, not marginal, emphasizing diverse servants' vulnerability and agency as stigmatized subaltern individuals locked within cultures of domestic servitude. Situating his fiction in the contexts of Anglophone South Asian literary history and Pakistan's postcolonial feudal system, it argues that Mueenuddin makes a significant intervention by crafting strategies of subaltern representation that explore a servant's interiority, and highlighting the interlocking systems of power that dehumanize or constrain him or her. It explores the intersections of gender, sexuality, and class evoked in these stories, the psychic complexities of individuals who struggle against habitual abjection, subordination, and disempowerment, and the ways servants, working in the intimacy of an employer's home, strive to ameliorate their lot within frameworks of patriarchy, corruption, and violence. Mueenuddin's cultural work is to urge shifts in ways of seeing, to defamiliarize the familiar, and to encourage empathetic ways of thinking about ethical action in specific postcolonial contexts.


domestic servants, subaltern representation, Daniyal Mueenuddin, feudalism in Pakistan, South Asian fiction in English, postcolonial servitude

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