Transforming the Ich-Du to the Ich-Es: The Migrant as “Terrorist” in Kabir Khan’s New York and Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire
Keywords:Ich-Du, Ich-Es, Asian migrant, terror narratives, objectification, pathologizing gaze
Terror narratives have been characterized by a dialogism where the “normative” I—i.e. the “non-threatening mainstream”—defines and delineates subjects whose identity is centred on their (actual or presumed) location in the terror network. This is especially so in the case of Asian migrants who settle down in Western countries, as their very identity as Asian locates them at a precarious point in the real or imagined “terror network.” The migrant is no longer the Du (Thou), but the Es (It), imparting an identity to the Ich (I), where the Ich denotes the “original” citizens of the country. The transactions of the “I” with the “Thou” and the “It” become significant in the context of Asian immigrants in that, for the dominant mainstream (the “I”), the “terrorist” is an Es/”It” that has gradually marked its transition from the Du/“Thou.” The person of the “terrorist” finds its ontological properties from the gradual movement away from a “Thou” to an “It.” The hitherto unbounded “Thou” is transformed into a definable “It,” by ascribing to her/him a religion, race, colour, nationality and ethnicity. He/she is not confronted, as every “Thou” is, but is rather “experienced” as a source of terror, as an “It.” The paper attempts to explore the transformation of the figure of the “migrant terrorist” from a confronted “Thou” to an “imagined/experienced” “It” through an analysis of New York (2009) by Kabir Khan and Home Fire (2017) by Kamila Shamsie.
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