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Manolos, Marriage, and Mantras: Chick-Lit Criticism and Transnational Feminism


Critical readings of “chick lit” are typically limited to a framework that understands the popular fiction genre as a sign or symptom of “postfeminism” in the U.S. In its readings of chick lit in general, and of South Asian American chick lit as a particular women of color subgenre, this essay steps away from the framework of postfeminism that so dominates academic and popular discussions of chick lit, and instead uses critical race and transnational feminist critique to foreground questions of race, nation, empire, and political economy. Beginning with transnational and critical race feminisms in this way illuminates not only the operations of chick lit and the middle-class neoliberal subjects it produces, but also interrogates the ways in which hegemonic feminisms in the U.S. (as exemplified by chick-lit criticism) continue to disregard such questions. We analyze South Asian American chick-lit novels through sites—consumption, marriage, and realism—that are central to neoliberal subject-making, and that highlight the ways in which the novels work to produce a (trans)national, racialized, feminine subject embedded within neoliberalism, heteronormativity, and racism. At the same time, we explore contradictions in the production of such subjectivities, thus underscoring ways in which capital and neoliberalism are incomplete formations, and reimagining the possibilities and limitations for representations of subjectivity in the context of neoliberal capitalism and globalization.

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