The IUP Journal of English Studies
Social Drama as a Political Process: A Cultural Analysis of the "Rushdie Affair"

Article Details
Pub. Date : September, 2021
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES20921
Author Name : Satveer Singh
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : Arts & Humanities
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 16



This paper combines perspectives drawn from sociology, anthropology, and literary studies to present a cultural analysis of the controversy caused by the publication of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses in 1988. With reference to the works of Victor Turner, the paper analyzes the full phase developmental pattern of the "social drama" that was engendered by the book's publication. The social drama approach is extremely versatile and can be used as an interpretive frame for the analysis of a broad range of social conflicts. A characteristic attribute of social dramas is that they possess liminal properties and represent a threshold of ambiguity between stable processes of social life. The paper analyzes the patterns of verbal and symbolic behavior produced in the course of the controversy and details some of the ways in which it was responsible for altering the base of community relations at an international level.


This paper applies the conceptual model of "social drama," which is derived from the anthropological work of Victor Turner, to analyze the processual progression of the controversy precipitated by the publication of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses (hereinafter TSV). In this way, the paper primarily aims to produce a cultural analysis of the series of events which have become fixed in popular memory as the "Rushdie Affair" (hereinafter RA). In my analysis of the controversy, I have relied upon textual material which includes partially historical and partially journalistic accounts of the events leading up to and composing this period of crisis. For a reader unfamiliar with the main events of the controversy, an indicative chronology may be found in Appignanesi and Maitland (1990). Turner (1985) characterizes "social dramas" as "recurrent agonistic situations" that can be found in social orders of all scales and complexity and identifies "liminality" or social ambiguity as their defining attribute. In its broadest sense, liminality can be characterized as a state of indeterminacy, a threshold between successive stages of social stability (Turner 1985). I find this model most congenial for the analysis of a vast range of socially ambiguous situations in which two or more