Home as Love: Transcending Positionality in Leila Aboulela’s The Translator

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Contrary to hegemonic Western representations of Muslim women as victims of Islam and Muslim men, Sudanese-Scottish Leila Aboulela’s The Translator depicts a Muslim woman, Sammar, whose sense of home and belonging is predicated on her romantic love for her late cousin and husband, Tarig. Therefore, after his death, she feels alienated from her home in Sudan and leaves for Aberdeen, Scotland, where she is ostracized because she is Muslim. While this Muslim identity proves indispensable for her survival and gradual healing, ultimate normalcy and belonging are restored when she reclaims the world of love and acceptance she has lost with Tarig’s death through a new relationship. The romantic love and the language she uses in this relationship allow Sammar to restore the sense of being and the belonging she had at home within the spaces she occupies in Aberdeen, ending her alienation and reclaiming her subjectivity. Using feminist theory and postcolonial theories of place and identity, as well as Lila Abu-Lughod’s notion of emotional discourse as a pragmatic act, this study investigates the novel’s depiction of place and identity as constructed entities embedded in emotion. This depiction, this study proposes, undermine various positionalities and binaries, such as self/other and east/west, allowing Aboulela to approach them more critically.

Original languageEnglish
Article number72
JournalHumanities (Switzerland)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the author.


  • cultural difference
  • home and belonging
  • hybridity
  • Orientalism
  • Othering
  • postcolonial theory
  • Western representations of Islam and Muslim women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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