This PhD thesis examines the interaction between travel, translation, and gender in
relation to Islam in German and English transcultural literature. As the non-Islamic
world seems to be defining itself increasingly in contrast with the Islamic world, a
literary exploration of these issues, which have virtually been ignored by academic
scholarship, will shed new light on the interactions between the Muslim world and
The aim is to explore how German- and English-language authors, Muslim
and non-Muslim, approach notions of physical and metaphorical movement,
(cultural) translation (the means of communicating between cultures, languages and
religions, and between a migrant's/traveller's heritage and present), and the
significance of gender constructions in contemporary fictional and semi-fictional
writing of travel and migration. In my comparative reading of the selected texts,
which is guided by postcolonial criticism, I evaluate the similarities and differences
between German and English transcultural writing, whilst paying particular attention
to the role of Islam in these texts.
The first two chapters focus on movement. In the first chapter on migration
writing (Emine Sevgi Ozdamar and Monica Ali), I analyse what happens when Islam
'moves'. I ask how the writers approach first-generation Muslim migration and
constructions of 'home', primarily from their female protagonists' point of view. The
second chapter on pilgrimage and hajj (V.S. Naipaul and Ilija Trojanow) looks into
the idea of travelling to Islam, to its 'heart' (Mecca and Medina) as well as to its
peripheries (non-Arab Muslim countries), and the textualization of the journeys. The
emphasis of the subsequent two chapters then shifts to gender issues of the
generation that 'has arrived' (post-migrants). The third chapter is an examination of
the perceptions of the relationship between Islam, 'difference', and masculinity
among young male Muslims (in texts by Feridun Zaimoglu and Hanif Kureishi).
Chapter 4 explores the interaction between language, gender, and Islam (in the work
of Ozdamar, Zaimoglu, and Leila Aboulela). As this chapter considers female
perspectives from the 'margins of society', it connects back to Chapter 1.
I also address the question of whether writing about Islam reveals a shift in
the Western cultural paradigm. An exploration of the self-definition of Muslim
writers in relation to their audience and an outlook to recently published German and
English transcultural literature conclude the thesis.