Representation and Resistance: South Asian and African Women's Texts at Home and in the Diaspora

Representation and Resistance: South Asian and African Women's Texts at Home and in the Diaspora

Representation and Resistance: South Asian and African Women's Texts at Home and in the Diaspora

Representation and Resistance: South Asian and African Women's Texts at Home and in the Diaspora

Synopsis

Representation and Resistance: South Asian and African Women's Texts at Home and in the Diaspora compares colonial and national constructions of gender identity in Western-educated African and South Asian women's texts. Jaspal Kaur Singh argues that, while some writers conceptualize women's equality in terms of educational and professional opportunity, sexual liberation, and individualism, others recognize the limitations of a paradigm of liberation that focuses only on individual freedom. Certain diasporic artists and writers assert that transformation of gender identity construction occurs, but only in transnational cultural spaces of the first world-spaces which have emerged in an era of rampant globalization and market liberalism. In particular, Singh advocates the inclusion of texts from women of different classes, religions, and castes, both in the Global North and in the South.

Excerpt

My name is Jaspal Kaur Singh. I was born in Taunggyi, Burma. When I was eleven years old, I went to a priest at the St. Joseph Catholic church and said, “Father, I want to become a Catholic.” As I stood hesitating, my friend Maria, tall and lanky, with long, greasy plaits hanging down on both sides of her dark, brown Indian face, nudged me forward a bit and I repeated the request.

Maria had told me that Christian children could write a long wish list, that Santa would come down the chimney (although we didn’t have chimneys, I was assured he was smart enough to find other means of entry), and that if one had been good, one’s wishes would come true. Maria had asked me solemnly, “Are you a good girl?”

Feeling a slight tightening in my chest, for I did not believe I was a good girl, I fibbed, “Yes.”

The priest, in his beautiful white habit, smiled kindly at me. “Why?”

“Because I want Santa Claus to come to my house.”

“Bring your parents next Sunday to me, and we will take care of that,” he smiled kindly at me.

I couldn’t imagine my Sikh parents allowing me to convert. Sorely disappointed at not having Santa come to my house, I left the church with Maria, who was still talking about Santa and his sleigh.

I, too, was tall and lanky like Maria, and also equally brown with greasy plaits hanging down my back. My school uniform, a navy tunic with a white short-sleeved shirt, was rumpled from playing in the schoolyard after school.

Maria was a year older than me and got to be the class monitor sometimes. Our school’s name was Saint Anne’s Convent High School, run by Roman Catholic Nuns from Ireland and Italy, and other Anglo-Burmese or biracial nuns.

Every morning, we children gathered in the schoolyard for hymn singing. Our voices lusty, we would sing, “Comboly Gos send down those beams! Comboly Gos send down dose beams! Whis seefly flow in, in silent steem, from thy bight thone above! Oh, come thy father of thy but . . .

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