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Volume 19

The Other Side - Spring 2018

About the Issue

Rafia Zakaria

Written by
Rafia Zakaria

Rafia Zakaria is the author of The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan (Beacon, 2015) and Veil (Bloomsbury, 2017). She is a columnist for Pakistani newspaper Dawn, The Guardian, and The Baffler magazine. She also writes the 'Read Other Women' series at the Boston Review. She is the guest editor of Papercuts Vol. 19: The Other Side.


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Guest Editor’s Note


“My body speaks a language of difference in America. My tongue too,” writes Torsa Ghosal in her essay “Brown Girl Goes to Teach English in America.” Her words are a compelling encapsulation of what it is to inhabit a brown and female body in a country obsessed, in various ways, with whiteness. English, known to South Asians as the language of our oppressors, is also the tongue that for many of us opens windows of understanding, giving us a means of revealing interior lives, thoughts, feelings, all of which the literature of colonialism has taken from us. Yet, if English as we speak it, as we know it, is to truly be our own, it must be used to share not only our own reality but also the subversion of constructing whiteness as we see it, feel it, imagine it, and experience it.

Many of the works in this issue of Papercuts, which I am honoured to have guest-edited, accomplish this second sort of subversion, one that constructs and imagines the white and the imperial. Emad Ansari’s story “Right to an Answer” is told from the perspective of a US State Department consular officer tasked with approving or rejecting visas in Karachi. The piles of papers, dastawezaat that can be the difference between a visa and defeat, rely on the construction of identity, the collection and collation of various aspects of life that were first used to count, sort, and categorise South Asia by British colonialists. Now they are the material of American imperialism, its sorting of people into the admissible and inadmissible. The same theme of a seemingly eternal displacement shines through in Faisal Mohyuddin’s luminous “A Ghazal for the Diaspora.”  “We have always been the displaced children of displaced children/Tethered by rivers to abandoned lands, our blood’s history lost,” Mohyuddin writes with mesmerising prescience. His ring with the restrained frustration of every immigrant, the fear of being caught in a perpetual cycle where belonging is a chimera and escape an apparition.

A true investigation of imperialism cannot be complete without considering the weight of those we are complicit in imposing. Anosh Malekar does just that in his historical reflection on the “African Warriors in India,” exposing just how Africans, sometimes enslaved and sometimes free, were used to military conquest. The story of the conquest of Janjira, and the eventual emergence of a princely state, treads on delicate ground; the island is only forty miles from the mainland, and yet the role of African warriors in capturing and ruling the Fort is a forgotten story. Excavation and archaeological discovery is not always a physical endeavour, it can just as well be a literary one.

There are so many more gems enclosed within these covers, each one inviting the reader to pause and consider language, experience, and the literary craft in novel ways. “The Alt in Publishing” interview tells the inspirational stories of the founders of three independent presses, each one doing the actual work of insuring that writing while brown becomes publishing while brown. It is a delicate task, this traversing of the varied realms of fiction and history, poetry, and reportage, and it is a testament to the literary versatility of the authors of these works that they make the journey so seamless.





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