Writing South-Asian Diasporic Identity Anew

Parmar, Maya (2016). Writing South-Asian Diasporic Identity Anew. In: Tickell, Alex ed. South-Asian Fiction in English: Contemporary Transformations. Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 235–252.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-40354-4_13

Abstract

Embedded so often within the conceptual term ‘diaspora’ is a sense of fragmented and splintered belonging, a longing for home, and a forfeiture of a well-defined cultural identity: it is this that a scattering of an imagined community of people engenders. Yet, as my first epigraph contends, the diaspora can also be a space of creativity, of innovation, and the productive rupturing of boundaries and prescribed limits. Lingering primarily upon the pain of resettlement, the eloquent prose of Nadeem Aslam’s Maps for Lost Lovers portrays an isolated and unnamed Pakistani community somewhere in contemporary Britain. My second epigraph, taken from that novel, gestures towards this dispossession, but it too reveals emerging distinctions of perceived belonging amongst different generations of the same diaspora. It is these reorientations of the term ‘diaspora’ within ‘new South-Asian diaspora writing’ that this chapter will explore, via Aslam’s Maps, Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani and M.G. Vassanji’s The Assassin’s Song. Initially drawing together the two novels, Maps and Londonstani—in many ways an unequal levelling, as I shall later comment—I explore the dual trajectories Bryan Cheyette describes in my first epigraph, as well as the ways in which we can productively nuance our approach to new South-Asian diaspora writing.

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