Moderator James Crabtree discussed all things privilege with panelists Monica Ali, Yara Rodrigues Fowler, and Kenan Malik on the last day of the Dhaka Lit Fest 2019. The talk began with privilege in literature, and whether it could have any benefit in the way writers create and present their craft. Malik, who, unlike his fellow panelists, is a writer of non-fiction, believes the word has lost its meaning. He expanded on the troubling notion of the term, saying where the conversation previously was around racism has now turned into that of white privilege.
Monica Ali made it a point to remind the panelists and the audience of the privilege they were surrounded by. She spoke about her own books, and pondered whether she was granted a privilege when writing about Nazneen, a Bengali woman, in Brick Lane – given her own ethnicity.
“If privilege exists, it must be used for and in solidarity. It has to help others who do not carry it,” said Yara Rodrigues Fowler. In response to Ali’s reflections about her character in Brick Lane, Fowler asked: “Is it more authentic if a writer’s protagonist is of their own ethnicity and culture?” The discussion went into representation in literature, and expectations from writers of colour to represent the communities they are writing about.