The Kitchen and Beyond: Romantic Chronotope of Pakistani Popular Fiction

Javaria Farooqui (University of Tasmania)
Session 8.3: Muslim and Middle Eastern Romances

This paper aims to explore the popular romance reading culture of Pakistan which includes, but is not limited to, magazines designed specifically for female readers. It is [Farooqui’s] contention that the works of fiction, published in these magazines, focus on imbuing the importance of sacrifice and patience in its female readers, as a pre-requisite for a romantic relationship. These various novellas, series and short stories, henceforth referred to as Kitchen-literature, are inscribed primarily for the middle class Pakistani women. In Kitchen-literature, romance is thickly veiled under the varying questions of female ego, male dominance, domesticity and social class . This sub-genre of romance is not didactic in nature but it does set quite a few indicators for its readers to facilitate their image of a perfect relationship.

Drawing upon the previous scholarship of Janice Radway, Tania Modleski, Catherine Belsey and Lynne Pearce etc, the present study is primarily an analysis of the various romantic chronotopes in Kitchen-literature and the objectives behind their formation.


The romantic chronotope in Pakistani popular fiction

  • Plot driven fictional work
  • Written in Urdu, published in digest magazines
  • Most famous one is Shuaa, title means ray of sun
  • Digests feature a distinctive national variety in fiction that is romantic in nature
  • Woven around social, psychological, domestic themes (ie leading the way) including:
    • child abuse
    • domestic violence
    • trauma
    • feminism
    • romance
  • Covers are of women elaborately dressed
  • Titles translate to Womens own monthly magazines
  • Magazines include celebrity interviews, religious quotes, and end with serialised novels
  • Publishers, writers and readers all women

Traditionally serialised novels were based on every day family issues, eg marriage and politics. However in the past 10 years this has been taken over by thrillers. Therefore the magazines have taken over this space

Kitchen literature:

  • Genre fiction published in women’s digests
  • Short stories
  • Read while women stir curry in the kitchen
  • Equated to soap operas
  • Most of the time there is nothing halal about it!
  • Linked back to women-oriented narratives of the late 19th century
  • A transformative utterance of love, often done via a poem, acts as a proxy for scenes of exploit sexual intimacy
  • Places narrative within the cultural norms
  • Happily ever after

“The kitchen is not only the space where essential union between the lovers take place, but also the extra-diegetic space where romance is usually read.”

  • There are TV series based on kitchen literature
  • Intimacy is based on gaze and feeding food
  • Kitchen is private space for female readers
  • Drawing room is the official formal space – dominated by men
  • Digests are inexpensive, can be returned but generally not in good condition

Farooqui analysed 50 stories for her research:

  • Love is equated with heart/home
  • Women learn about love from other female relatives
  • Most stories occur within a kitchen or feature a kitchen (ie women’s space)
  • Declaration of love from hero comes via poetry – Farooqui hasn’t been able to translate much of this because it is so erotic and highly charged
  • The kitchen itself is highly gendered – a woman is queen of her house.
  • Heroine transits from from her father’s kitchen (unmarried) to her husband’s kitchen (married)
  • The hero’s kitchen is usually fancier as it is her ‘gift’ from future husband, representing new life with him

Men don’t usually enter kitchens in Pakistan, not traditional space (absent)

Your thoughts and stuff

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: