Complicit Refugees, Cosmopolitans and Xenophobia: Khaled Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’ and Romesh Gunesekera’s ‘Reef’ in Conversation with Texts on Xenophobia in South Africa

By Miki Flockemann.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the aftermath of the brutal xenophobic attacks in parts of South Africa against ‘other’ Africans between March and May this year, a fairly sustained (if repetitive) public debate has emerged in the local press. The aim is to extend this discussion to South African literary production and to stories from elsewhere – in this case, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The distinction between complicit refugees and cosmopolitans draws on some of the arguments of Mark Saunders and Anthony Appiah as a framework for comparing Hosseini’s popular ‘The Kite Runner’ (2003) and Gunsekera’s lyrical ‘Reef’ (1994). These will be read in relation to K. Sello Duiker’s ‘Thirteen Cents’ (2000). Establishing a ‘conversation’ between these texts is associated (from Appiah) with calls for re-thinking terms such as citizen and cosmopolitan. This, in turn, has implications for the current expressions of, and about, xenophobia in South Africa.

Keywords: Complicity, Refugee, Cosmopolitan, Xenophobia, Nationalism, Identity, Transformation

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 9, pp.71-78. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 595.587KB).

Miki Flockemann

Extraordinary Professor, Department of English, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa

Miki Flockemann’s primary research interest is the aesthetics of transformation. Other areas she has published in include comparative studies of diasporic writings, especially by women from South Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas. More recently her focus has extended to looking at interconnectedness between local cultural production and the Indian Ocean World. She has also published on South African theatre and performance with a focus on reading shifts in cultural trends. She has an interest in the ‘performativity of knowledge’ and foregrounds this in her teaching and research. She is currently co-convenor of an interdisciplinary Humanities course, and conducts a Topics in Theatre elective in the Department of English at the University of the Western Cape near Cape Town, where she is Extraordinary Professor.


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