Academic journal article ARIEL

In a Transnational World: Exploring Gendered Subjectivity, Mobility, and Consumption in Anita Desai's Fasting, Feasting

Academic journal article ARIEL

In a Transnational World: Exploring Gendered Subjectivity, Mobility, and Consumption in Anita Desai's Fasting, Feasting

Article excerpt

Triumphalist versions of globalization often celebrate the possibilities presented by increased mobility and travel in an interconnected world, foregrounding cosmopolitanism, the rise of global cities, and the pathways taken by elite classes of marketable professionals and business entrepreneurs. In the general euphoria of these romanticized visions of present and future reality, the world has become, through an intensification of the time-space compression that is the hallmark of the 'new globalized world', a multiply-linked place of mutual benefit, deterritorialized identities, porous borders, hybrid cultures, and mobile capital. The cosmopolitan transnational implied by this paradigm of globalization negotiates deftly between different cultural contexts, languages and selves, and possesses the means to "flexibly" accumulate not only economic capital, but in Pierre Bourdieu's terms, cultural and social capital as well. (1) The effects of globalization are far from uniform, of course. The methods of capital accumulation and the related processes of consumption in a globalized world vary significantly for different individuals and groups of people, many of whom are excluded or restricted from participating in certain circuits of exchange depending on the different permutations of gender, class, race, sexuality and nationality which determine access to power and privilege.

Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan deploy the term "transnational" to "address the asymmetries of the globalization process" ("Global Identities" 664), and they implicitly underscore the need for self-reflexivity in the use of the term when they examine how transnationalism has been appropriated to mean different things in different contexts. (2) Thus they note, for example, how the emphasis on transnational flows in certain subject disciplines tends to neglect critical consideration of "aspects of modernity that seem fixed or immobile" (664). Indeed, the very language of "flow" itself--an inextricable part of the hegemonic conceptualization of globalization that often promotes ideas of cultural hybridity and economic interconnectedness at the expense of issues about domination and exploitation--requires critical scrutiny. (3) Anna Tsing, for example, has underscored the need for a scholarly yet critical detachment that resists embracing such language and instead interrogates the way such apparent descriptions of the global economic and social landscape are not truthful reality, but rather localized cultural claims and characterizations of the world by particular parties with specific vested interests in notions of globality, the local, and the regional. (4) Questions of travel and mobility are the focus of James Clifford's influential book, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, which looks at precisely the interplay between movement and fixity or the "routes" and "roots" of peoples and cultures. His argument for re-framing culture and cultural identity in terms of a notion of "dwelling-in-travel" is by now relatively familiar. Clifford turns the question of rootedness on its head, seeing it as a function of routes and travel rather than fixity. At the same time, he is careful to make the point about different forms of travel including forced migration and violent displacement by referring to the production of what he calls "discrepant cosmopolitanisms" (36). Clifford is engaged in an attempt to dismantle monolithic meanings of travel and cosmopolitanism by widening the experience and politics of travel and including more subjectivities for serious consideration. But as Pheng Cheah points out, Clifford's move remains predicated on the assumption that "physical mobility is the basis of emancipatory practice because it generates stasis-disrupting forms of cultural displacement" (297). There are several implications here, not least for the relationship between travel and female subjects as cultural agents, who have long been and still continue to be in many instances defined by a lack of mobility. …

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