Representation of domestic violence in Pakistani Urdu drama serials: a feminist textual analysis

Author: Najma Khan

Khan, Najma, 2021 Representation of domestic violence in Pakistani Urdu drama serials: a feminist textual analysis, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This research aims to explore the representation of domestic violence, and the portrayal of women in Pakistani Urdu drama serials over the last 30-40 years, and how the interplay of gender and underlying patriarchal ideologies leads to misogyny and violence against women. This study argues that domestic violence is normalised in Pakistani TV dramas within the discourse of honour and the tradition of silence and obedience by Pakistani women. This thesis will also problematise the representations of women’s struggles against domestic violence, which usually conclude with a resolution with heteronormative familial values. The key research question is whether, the dominant discourse in Urdu dramas encourages pursuing legal protection against domestic violence, or is it heavily invested in reinforcing patriarchal hegemonies that silence women to preserve ostensible familial values and integrity? This study will draw from a mix of feminist, media, and cultural theories to evaluate dominant ideology, discourse, and representations of women and domestic violence in popular Urdu dramas. A feminist textual and discourse analysis will be utilised to evaluate the Pakistani drama serial, Zun Mureed (literally translating as ‘uxorious’: having or showing an excessive fondness for one's wife).

The study concludes that the majority of Urdu dramas are heavily invested in a ‘heteronormative visual culture’ that strongly adheres to the patriarchal norms and traditions of Pakistani society, which reinstates and sustains, rather than disrupts, the status-quo between the binary genders. Furthermore, modern-day Urdu dramas are even more embedded in patriarchal hegemonies about a woman’s role in society, which is in stark contrast with the Western popular culture that mostly represents women in an individualistic framework. While the ‘new heroine’ trope envisaged by the contemporary dramas offers some level of subjectivity to women with their portrayals of agency and progressive outlook, underneath this ‘independent woman’ resides a stereotypical homemaker and mother, who is expected to put her home and children before herself. The feminist textual reading of Zun Mureed offers the same insights, where the lead female protagonist is offered a compulsory heteronormative resolution in the end. Even though there are some moments of rupture in the dominant ideology within the Zun Mureed text, those moments are fairly limited and are always overridden by a competing ideological discourse that is more aligned with heteropatriarchy.

Keywords: Feminist textual analysis, domestic violence, Pakistani Dramas, Representations, Culture

Subject: Women's Studies thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2021
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Laura Roberts