Reworlding: The Literature of the Indian Diaspora

Reworlding: The Literature of the Indian Diaspora

Reworlding: The Literature of the Indian Diaspora

Reworlding: The Literature of the Indian Diaspora


Adopting the concept of diaspora to the experience of people of Indian subcontinental origin dispersed in other areas, Nelson uses this paradigm to analyze Indian expatriate writing. In Reworlding, he has commissioned fourteen critical essays that examine such diverse areas of the diaspora as the South Pacific, the Caribbean, Singapore, Britain, North America, and Africa and such representative writers as Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul, Kamala Markandaya, Bharati Mukherjee, and Raja Rao. Underlying this international body of literature is the haunting presence of India and the anguish of personal loss that generate an aesthetics of "reworlding."


Exiles or emigrants or expatriates are haunted by some sense of loss, some urge to reclaim, to look back, even at the risk of being mutated into pillars of salt. But if we do look back, we must also do so in the knowledge-- which gives rise to profound uncertainties--that our physical alienation from India almost inevitably means that we will not be capable of reclaiming precisely the thing that was lost; that we will, in short, create fictions, not actual cities or villages, but invisible ones, imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind.

--Salman Rushdie (76)

The chapters that follow critically examine the literature of the Indian diaspora. A term that was first used largely in the context of the Jewish experience outside the Jewish homeland and more recently in the contexts of a variety of transnational ethnic experiences (such as African, Chinese, and Armenian), diaspora literally refers to dispersal--the scattering of a people. In all its contexts, however, the concept of diaspora remains problematic, for it raises complex questions about the meanings of a number of related terms, such as nationality, ethnicity, and migrancy. It necessitates, therefore, a broad definition such as the one that William Safran offers. Safran suggests that the "concept of diaspora be applied to expatriate minority communities whose members share several of the following characteristics":

1) they, or their ancestors, have been dispersed from a specific original "center" to two or more "peripheral," or foreign, regions; 2) they retain a collective memory, vision . . .

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