chapter  5
36 Pages

Portable Pleasures and Papier-Mâché

Strategic Exoticism in Mirza Waheed’s The Book of Gold Leaves
WithRakhshan Rizwan

This chapter explores the way Mirza Waheed’s novel The Book of Gold Leaves negotiates its position as a commercially viable product and a cultural product in the service of human rights through the use of strategic exoticism. Strategic exoticism in The Book of Gold Leaves functions as a kind of strategic shaming aimed at exposing the presence of human rights violations in Kashmir and the everyday complicity of ordinary citizens who desire and consume Kashmiri cultural production. The brand of exoticism in The Book of Gold Leaves is markedly distinct from the one described by Huggan in his work because Western reading publics are not the sole addressee of Waheed’s work. For this reason, he does not compose and market his literary texts with only their assumed tastes and appetites in mind. Rather than flattening out local histories to render his novel more consumable for metropolitan Western readers, Waheed furnishes his novel with finely observed physical and historical details pertaining to the practice of papier-mâché in Kashmir. This chapter demonstrates how Waheed uses bricolage in his novel insofar as the meanings assigned to papier-mâché objects are scrambled and re-arranged, and they are re-articulated in new and subversive contexts.