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Diaspora and multiculturalism: British South Asian women’s writing

Girishkumar, Divya 2014. Diaspora and multiculturalism: British South Asian women’s writing. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis analyses how the British South Asian diaspora is conceptualized, understood and reflected in a selection of female-authored literary texts which engage with the multicultural policies of the British state from the 1950s to the present. The primary sources include Attia Hosain’s Phoenix Fled (1953) and Sunlight on a Broken Column (1961), Kamala Markandaya’s Possession (1963) and The Nowhere Man (1972), Ravinder Randhawa’s A Wicked Old Woman (1987), Meera Syal’s Anita and Me (1996), Monica Ali’s Brick Lane (2003), Shelina Zahra Janmohamed’s Love in a Headscarf: Muslim Woman seeks the One (2009) and Rosie Dastgir’s A Small Fortune (2012). I conceive of British multicultural state policies as unfolding in three major phases: Assimilation (1950- 1979), Integration (1980-2001), Social Cohesion/Interculturalism (2001- present). The thesis examines these policy changes and illustrates how these shifts are mirrored in and shape the character of British South Asian women’s writings. In the light of this I argue that British South Asian women writers’ engagement with a sense of exile, dislocation or a ‘teleology of return’ along with a symbolic longing to create imaginary homelands has produced new alliances which exist outside what has been called the national time/space in order ‘to live inside, with a difference’. Through the selected writers’ individual attempts to configure new fictional home spaces, a new architecture for the diasporic imagination is constructed around the poetics of home and the multicultural politics of identity. Such cross-cultural literary interventions exist both within and outside colonial and postcolonial genealogies, reconfiguring the critical geographies by which they have been mostly defined. The first two chapters of the thesis attempt to define the complex configurations of the concept of multiculturalism and its interconnections with the terminology of diaspora. I have adopted a reading strategy tracing the South Asian migration history to Britain and the early literary representations which powerfully illuminate the fragmented imagination of the South Asian diaspora in terms of contemporary theoretical paradigms. The next three chapters analyse literary representations by Attia Hosain, Kamala Markandaya, Ravinder Randhawa, Meera Syal, Monica Ali, Shelina Zahra Janmohamed and Rosie Dastgir, who highlight and complicate the issues of race, ethnicity and gender in relation to the rhetoric of multiculturalism and multicultural policies. The writers use various strategies that testify to the innate relation between the political ‘real’ and the literary ‘imaginary’ and explain how real life experiences provide fuel to the ‘diasporic imaginary’ and affirm the transnational potency of literature.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 20 May 2016 01:30

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