“I Eat Transphobes For Breakfasts”: Postcolonial literary language politics and identity construction on social media.

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper

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Marginalized communities in postcolonial states, in particular transgender people, face unique challenges when consciously displaying their gender and/or sexual identity. Drawing upon the postcolonial concepts of appropriation and abrogation – typically only limited to the literary tradition – this paper seeks to understand how colonial language and aesthetics are articulated in media by diverse transgender activists in the Pakistani context. I do this through the case study of the indigenous khwajasira community – an overarching term for transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people, often known as the “third gender” or as gender category X in legal communication. I study the tension between linguistic appropriation and abrogation (Ashcroft, Griffiths, & Tiffin, 1989) combined with multimodal critical discourse analysis (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006; Machin & Mayr 2012) on Instagram posts by bilingual/multilingual activists with a primary focus on English and Urdu. We delineate four case studies of Pakistani khwajasira activists including Mehrub Moiz Awan, Shahzadi Rai, Hina Baloch and Nayyab Ali as they utilize both English and Urdu languages in their advocacy efforts. Through a close reading of online cultural artefacts and texts from these activists, we analyze language as a fraught and a contested site through which the postcolonial condition is negotiated for those on the margins. In terms of a collective media corpus from all cases, we collected 830 social media posts from their public Instagram accounts. By limiting the inquiry to reels, Instagram videos, Lives, images, and interviews, with all corresponding captions, we evaluate innovative linguistic and textual strategies such as untranslated words, codeswitching, codemixing, metonymic gap, interlanguage, and neologism. By examining the language practices of Mehrub Moiz Awan, Shahzadi Rai, Hina Baloch, and Nayyab Ali, this paper captures a range of diverse perspectives, experiences, and linguistic expressions within the khwajasira community. That combined with the level of scrutiny and attention that these activists garner on mainstream/alternative and local/international media, this paper provides a unique lens into the tensions and challenges of the postcolonial subaltern subject. Our exploration of social media texts and the discourses surrounding them reveal nuanced insights into the ways in which marginalized communities use language to resist, decolonize, and dismantle dominant power relations. Through these case studies, this paper contributes to our understanding of the complex interplay of language, media, identity, and gender in postcolonial milieus. Beyond this, the paper emphasizes the need to center non-Eurocentric perspectives within the broader LGBTQI+ movement, in shaping our scholarly understanding of queer experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2023
EventIAMCR Lyon 2023 Conference - Lyon, Lyon, France
Duration: 9 Jul 202313 Jul 2023


ConferenceIAMCR Lyon 2023 Conference


  • Postcolonial Literature
  • Appropriation
  • Postcolonialism
  • transgender women
  • LGBTQ+
  • instagram
  • Activism


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