The IUP Journal of English Studies
(Dis)advantage and the Self-Determining "Other": Intersectional Politics in Zadie Smith's The Embassy of Cambodia

Article Details
Pub. Date : September, 2021
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES30921
Author Name : Manasvini Rai*
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : Arts & Humanities
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 10



The Embassy of Cambodia (2013), a notable novella by Zadie Smith, investigates the intersections of (dis)advantage surrounding its main protagonist-an African immigrant woman Fatou, employed as a domestic help in North-West London. The present paper applies theoretical concepts such as "intersectionality" and "the other," across the overlapping realms of race, socioeconomic class, gender, and nationality to the identity of the character Fatou, revealing the interrelated patterns of persecution and rebellion. Theoretical positions are drawn from works by American black feminist bell hooks, Kimberle Crenshaw, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Linda E Carty, and other theorists. These are correlated with the fictional depictions by Smith of injustices toward black women. Connections are established between the exploitation of working-class black women in the First World and African slave history. hooks's critical works also outline strategies of self-actualization for black women, pertinent for intersectional characters such as Fatou. Individuals and nations at different ends of the spectrum of (dis)advantage are examined in terms of the hierarchies they form. Textual exegesis reveals the individual dynamics of subversion and resistance employed by "the other," that results in not merely survival, but greater personal self-determination.


The novella The Embassy of Cambodia (2013), by contemporary black British woman writer Zadie Smith, depicts certain discriminatory events and subhuman ordeals in the life of its chief protagonist Fatou, who possesses a multidimensional identity that lies at an "intersection" of multiple socioeconomic qualifiers. The protagonist's identity becomes a location for establishing an "intersectionality" of being. Crenshaw (2020), who coined the