Writing back and forth : postcolonial diaspora and its antinomies

Giri, Bed Prasad, Department of English, University of Virginia
Felski, Rita, Department of English, University of Virginia
Wicke, Jennifer, Department of English, University of Virginia
Ramazani, R Jahan, Department of English, University of Virginia

This study uses selected works of South Asian diasporic fiction to question certain idealizations that persist in the theories of postcolonial diaspora. It explores a problematic dimension of postcolonial criticism and theory with a view to suggesting an alternative reading of transnational, diasporic and global cultures. Drawing on the work of a diverse set of critics in postcolonial and minority cultural studies, it specifically argues for an antinomial view of diasporic literature, caught between conflicting affiliations and commitments.

Current readings in postcolonial diasporic literature emphasize how such literature "writes back" to the empire and its various discursive formations. By attending to the problematic of displacement as much as to empire, my study locates postcolonial diasporic writing in the world of multiple affiliations. This is not to say that diasporic culture or its art is inauthentic, as some critics have alleged, but simply that it is ordinary. Like any other product of human striving, it is contaminated by the conditions of its production and therein lies its worldly merit.

The Introduction surveys and critiques the emerging discourse of diasporism
across various intellectual traditions: Jewish, black British and postcolonial. It then situates postcolonial diasporic writing within a field of tensions marked by several antinomial tendencies. Subsequent chapters discuss the work of three prominent writers of South Asian origin or descent: V. S. Naipaul, Bharati Mukherjee, and Salman Rushdie. Chapter 1, examines Naipaul's two early novels, A House for Mr. Biswas and The Mimic Men from under the postcolonial as well as colonial diaspora rubrics. Similarly, Chapter
2 examines Bharati Mukheijee's popular novel Jasmine, The Tiger's Daughter, and Desirable Daughters in terms of two conflicted responses to postcolonial displacement: exile and assimilation. Chapter 3 discusses Rushdie's major novels, Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses, under the rubric of postcolonial migrancy. In all these chapters, I discuss the problematic of displacement, its representation, its effect on politics, culture, and subjectivity, and its antinomies.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
criticism, idealizations, theory, postcolonial diaspora, South Asian diasporic fiction

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-02-18 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:33:30.

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