Power and Representation in Women’s Autobiographies

  • Shafag Dadashova
Keywords: conformity level, empowerment, female autobiography, self-identity, Banine, Tehmina Durrani


The study discusses epistemological aspects of power and the dynamics of its perception in the process of life-writing. Autobiography is presented as a specific form of epiphany. The paper suggests that writing one’s own life enables the author to better understand the past. As a result of a retrospective self-analysis the writer shapes a new look at the borders of his/her personal power and the level of its dependence on others. In investigation of life-writings, a qualitative method of social sciences in combination with hermeneutics, close reading and discourse analysis reveal deep and hidden social norms, gender roles, religion, and their role in empowerment and disempowerment of the author. The study consists of two parts. The first part is theoretical and interrogates the notion of personal power. It finds links between writing the own life and conscious empowerment, arguing that the author becomes more conscious about the own personality after having analysed the past decisions from the perspective of present times. The second part presents two autobiographies by female authors from two different Muslim cultures. These authors negotiate between the larger nationalist agenda and their own personal concerns. These autobiographies (Pakistani author Tehmina Durrani, My Feudal Lord; Azerbaijani writer Banine, Caucasian Days and Parisian Days) are the end of their authors’ long silence, their revolt against the conventional norms, their decision to have an agency to confess and protest. These autobiographies are the authors’ attempts to break the established matrix of perceptions, imposed norms, and gain power to build the real picture of their identity. The study sums up with the conclusion that in spite of very similar motifs of female authors to get empowered through self-analysis, different cultures and time create specific subjectivities associated with particular historical events and geographical location.