An Account of the Diasporic Literature: Characteristic Features, Multicultural Identities, Hybridity, Historical Understanding

Diaspora (Greek, “dispersion”), is a term used for large scale migration of people from the country of their origin to other countries, either voluntarily or due to economic or political compulsions. When we speak of the Indian Diaspora we mean Indians settled in England, America, Africa, and the Caribbean. Similarly one can discuss the Caribbean Diaspora to England, Canada and France. Diaspora studies also became an academic discipline. In literature too the text composed of such displacement constitutes the Diaspora Literature.

      Displacement: “Over all the world  Men move unhoming, and eternally
Concerned: a swarm of bees who have lost their queen.”---- Christopher Fry (1907 - ) British playwright. Venus Observed.

 Displacement, whether forced or self-imposed, is in many ways a calamity. Yet, a peculiar but a potent point to note is that writers in their displaced existence generally tend to excel in their work, as if the changed atmosphere acts as a stimulant for them. These writings in dislocated circumstances are often termed as exile literature. The word “exile” has negative connotations but if the self-exile of a Byron is considered, then the response to that very word becomes ambivalent. If a holistic view of the word “exile” is taken, the definition would include migrant writers and non-resident writers and even gallivanting writers who roam about for better pastures to graze and fill their oeuvre. World literature has an abundance of writers whose writings have prospered while they were in exile.

*Multicultural identities: Since no human society exists in complete isolation, different societies also exchange and share culture. In fact, all societies have some interactions with others, both out of curiosity and because even highly self-sufficient societies sometimes need assistance from their neighbors.  The study of world literature might be the study of the way in which cultures recognize themselves through their projections of ‘otherness.’ Where, once, the transmission of national traditions was the major theme of a world literature, perhaps we can now suggest that transnational histories of migrants, the colonized or political refugees - these border and frontier conditions - may be the terrains of world literature.
*      Diaspora and Utopia: While some writers have created fictional places that embody their ideal societies, others have written satires that ridicule existing conditions of society, or anti-utopia, which show possible future societies that are anything but ideal. The diasporic production of cultural meanings occurs in many areas, such as contemporary music, film, theatre and dance, but writing is one of the most interesting and strategic ways in which diaspora might disrupt the binary of local and global and problematize national, racial and ethnic formulations of identity.

*   Hybridity: The concept of cultural hybridity, in which an individual’s physical self and cultural self can be two different halves of the same whole, is a uniquely American phenomenon. Asian American authors such as Chang-Rae Lee and Eric Liu have been among the most active in developing this theme. No doubt diaspora and hybridity in cultures of the diaspora community pave the way for the formation of Diaspora Literature.

*      Historical Understanding: The history and cultural influence of books also became a subject of scholarly study. Literature is a useful resource which provides an understanding as to how settlements were established, illustrates the daily conduct of trade, explores the relationship between diverse people and also depicts the conflicting and heartrending emotions felt by a particular migrant community.

*      Ahad Ha-am, pseudonym of Asher Ginzberg (1856-1927), Russian writer, immigrated to England in 1906, living there until 1921. His writings, concerned with the problem of the Jewish peoples dispersed throughout the world, express his belief in the desirability of a Jewish homeland in Palestine based upon the common cultural and ethical heritage of the Jews. Ahad Ha-am wrote a collection of essays, At the Crossroads (1895; trans. 1913), and a collection of letters, Igeroth (1923).

*      Jhumpa Lahiri: Although Jhumpa Lahiri has never lived anywhere but America, India continues to form part of her fictional landscape. As most of the characters have an Indian background. India keeps cropping up as a setting, sometimes more figuratively, the memory of the characters. In her Interpreter of Maladies the story remains attached to India. All of the central characters in the title story suffer from the feeling of alienation. The Das family is a visitor to India and theirs are the passage to the heart of India. It is more a journey of introspection, expurgation and purification.In fact, the Das family is asunder and they are mechanically living with individual goals. However, such is not the real chemistry of love. Despite of this, the wife likes to patch up her wound so to refresh herself in familial bond. Her journey to India and thereby meeting Kapasi and telling him her agonized heart is itself a journey to happiness. Thus, India and Kapasi both are metaphoric presentation of solace and peace for the Das family. India has become a metaphoric presentation of peace whereas Kapasi for interpreter of agony.

*      Salman Rushdie, British novelist of Indian descent.

His notable books  The Satanic Verses (1988) ,The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999), Grimus (1974), Midnight‘s Children (1981), and Shame (1983), The Jaguar Smile (1987), and in 1990 his children’s book Haroun and the Sea of, The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999) and Fury (2001) etc.

  1. Salman Rushdie: Fictions of Postcolonial Modernity, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
  2. Diasporic Literature and Theory –Where Now? Edited by Mark Shackleton Parry, Benita.
  3. Postcolonial Studies: A Materialist Critique. London and New York: Routledge, 2004.
  4. Exile Literature and the Diasporic Indian Writer , Amit Shankar Saha , Calcutta University, West Bengal, India 
  5. Homi Bhabha's the Location of Culture (1994)
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