This article explores how Abdulrazak Gurnah illustrates the varieties of Muslim masculinity in the Indian Ocean world through an analysis of two of his youthful characters, Hassan Omar, from his debut novel Memory of Departure and Salim Yahya, from his more recent Gravel Heart. Both young men find themselves pitted against a more traditional male role which stifles them while, at the same time, encourages them to envisage a more fluid understanding of what it means to be a man in a predominantly Muslim society like Zanzibar. The fissures in the relationship that Hassan and Salim have with their fathers and uncles point to a questioning of an established hegemonic masculinity and its socially rigid facade in Muslim East Africa. Social constraints such as honor and shame drive both young men to seek a better future overseas. I claim that through his novels, Gurnah offers a new script for Muslim men to follow in the twenty-first century.


Abdulrazak Gurnah, hegemonic masculinity, Indian Ocean, Muslim masculinities, Muslim values, transgression, Zanzibar

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)