International Journal of
English and Literature

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. English Lit.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2626
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJEL
  • Start Year: 2010
  • Published Articles: 275


Gender identities and the search for new spaces: Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Paradise

Eleanor Anneh Dasi
  • Eleanor Anneh Dasi
  • Department of English, ENS, University of Yaounde I, Cameroon
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 18 August 2017
  •  Accepted: 24 October 2017
  •  Published: 30 November 2017


There is growing ambivalence in the concept of gender in our societies today principally because its definition has moved from biological to social, implying that gender categories are not simply limited to male corresponding to man and female corresponding to woman, as it was traditionally, but man can now pass for woman and vice versa depending on the individual. These new constructions have contributed to reshaping and reformulating assigned roles and expectations of individuals, along with creating conflict particularly when such roles, attitudes and behaviour are considered non-conformist. In such a situation, there is need for creation of a new space particularly in culturally diverse settings where values conflict with each other. Gurnah’s Paradise is replete with differing notions of gender and the way they are valued, used and trusted. It is from this perspective that this study explores the varying perspectives on gender, that is, gender binary, gender variance and gender fluid, their roles, relationships and representations and how these prompt the search for new spaces within diverse and contradicting cultural settings. Individuals within such settings manifest traits which enforce continuities in creating, structuring and sustaining gender differences. Thus, individuals’ reassertion of their gender positions alongside carving out their own spaces is investigated. By implication, individual’s experience of gender and how it helps in forming their social identities in relation to other members of society is examined. This reveals that no matter how absurd gender categories may seem, they are bound to (co)exist due to diversity in cultures and individual perceptions of self.

Key words: Gender, gender variant, gender expression, masculinities, femininities, sexual identities, new spaces.