Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Diasporic Translocation and "The Multicultural Question" in Malaysia

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Diasporic Translocation and "The Multicultural Question" in Malaysia

Article excerpt

Fifty years or so after the inception of postcolonial studies as a field of inquiry, the issues of nation and narration, place and displacement, uprooting and re-rooting remain major paradigms for postcolonial concern and critique. The processes of mobility, transfer, adaptation, resistance, and change inherent in these postcolonial realities are challenging and transforming traditional understandings of identity and the cultural boundedness of the nation. A crucial dimension of these contemporary postcolonial realities is rooted in the processes of diaspora--dislocation, relocation, translocation--be it those unleashed by the population transfers of the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries, which saw the massive displacement of peoples from India and China to serve colonial economic interests, or the post-World War II, and ongoing, migrations of people into North America, Australia, and Western Europe. Indeed, the question of how diasporic groups are positioned with reference to their histories and old homelands as well as how they position themselves in relation to their new locations has made the process of cultural translocation a complex form of signification.

Homi Bhabha articulates his understanding of the heim of national culture in terms not of "unisonance" but of translocative dissonance--the splits, fractures, and othernesses within the nation, produced by diaspora. These are powerfully invoked by his coinage "dissemiNation" (see the essay of this name in Nation and Narration, 291-322). Similarly, Salman Rushdie defines home as a "scattered" concept also in order to reject the nationalist mythology of an originary and unitary identity band, choosing instead to align himself with the idea of the "disseminated" nation and its fissured histories (East 93).

The complex confluence of inside and outside, past and present, indeed of the "genealogies of dispersion and 'staying put'" (Brah 209), have produced new identities, new social and cultural configurations that are "neither the one nor the other but something else besides" (Bhabha, Location 25). In this (re)conceptualization of nation and identity, diasporic groups have not only changed themselves by picking up new accentuations and becoming established as distinctively Canadian or British or American or Malaysian, but also begun to reconfigure the very meaning of those terms. Such changes in the way diasporic communities view their identity and their place and status in their nation attest to their dynamism as well as their transformative capacity to construct a national culture of creative and selective adaptation in ways that resist total assimilation into the dominant culture. Diasporic groups are able to reform both themselves and the dominant cultural influences working upon them, allowing them to not only engage with but also create new meanings, new maps of desire and of attachment in other landscapes. This is true of Malaysia, where the descendants of colonial immigrants have created new forms of identification and allegiance that have problematized the very authority and coherence to which the term "national identity" lays claim. No longer do these second-, third-, or fourth-generation heirs of the migrations engendered by colonialism think of themselves as temporary sojourners in their nation. They are a people whose identity is no longer defined by a sense of loss, cultural impoverishment, or the absence of a homeland.

With this conception of the translocative effects of diaspora in mind, this essay aims at examining the literary productions of author K.S. Maniam with reference to their persistent reconfigurations and transgressions of the dominant narrative of a Malaysian national and cultural identity. In doing so I wish to move away from the hegemonic notion of diaspora as a discourse of exile, cultural loss, and unsettledness towards a reading of diaspora as a discourse of attachment, rootedness, and national desire. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.