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The Scatological Subaltern: Political Obstinacy, Dirty Alterity, and Racialized Labour Relations in Rawi Hage’s Cockroach



Rawi Hage’s second novel, Cockroach, deals with problems of marginalization and discrimination in Montreal and more generally in liberal multicultural society. His unnamed Arab narrator not only learns to live with the ethnic hierarchy of the labour market, but also develops an understanding of the social capital that can be made off of middle-class curiosity with Otherness. However, as the narrator finds his attempt to attain value in his new society frustrated, he begins to fantasize that he is transforming into a cockroach: a hyperbolic embodiment of the racist stereotype of the Arab as dirty, savage, sexist, violent, and dangerous. This paper looks at Hage’s novel as a critique of the power of the white gaze, the commodification of ethnicity in liberal society, and the place of the immigrant in a society divided by competing cultures.

MA Final Research Paper

Supervised by Louis Patrick Leroux

English Department, Concordia University

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