Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

Introduction - Homemaking in a Globalized World

Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

Introduction - Homemaking in a Globalized World

Article excerpt

And so our dreams of distant places change as fast as images on MTV, and the immigrant arrives at the land that means freedom to him, only to find out that it's already been recast by other hands. Some of the places around us look as anonymous as airport lounges, some as strange as our living room suddenly flooded with foreign objects. The only home that any Global Soul can find these days, it seems, in the midst of the alien and the indecipherable.1

WHILE MOST PEOPLE find it easy to think of 'home' as the W domestic sphere and place of belonging, it is hard, as the IndoAmerican British author Pico Iyer suggests, to grasp its manifold implications, and even harder to present a neat and tidy definition of what it is. Discussion of home and nation continues to be a highly complex one with considerable political relevance. Its significance has been reinforced by the reshaping of nation-states and national boundaries. These reconfigurations, as demonstrated by the partition of India in 1947, for instance, are often religiously and culturally motivated. Against this backdrop, the present study suggests that 'home' is constructed on the assumption that what it defines is constantly in flux and thus can never claim to depict an objective condition or constitute an ultimate truth. Accordingly, notions of uncertainty, doubt, and unreliable narration will be explored in relation to the concept of home in recent Indian diasporic women writing from Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean, Canada, and Great Britain. The writers' approaches to their 'cultural roots' vary greatly, as is shown by the way in which their narratives negotiate home and how their women protagonists navigate increasingly globalized situations.

South Asian migration involved great diversity - different kinds of people in socio-economic terms moving at different times for different reasons; people of different religions, reflecting religious diversity on the subcontinent, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians; people from different regions and linguistic backgrounds; and latterly people from different nation states. So great is the diversity of origins, characteristics and experiences, that it is most realistic to see South Asians abroad as members of different diasporic strands, who have created many transnational communities which share a sense of origin in that region of the world.2

In the introduction to her comprehensive historical study of the global South Asian diaspora, Judith Brown states that the plurality of South Asian migration manifests itself hence not only in inter-diasporic comparisons: i.e. by comparing various national diasporic contexts with each other, but also within a single diaspora, since such intra-diasporic studies provide insights into the manifold of South Asian life-worlds.

As the title of my book indicates, my aim is to look at Indian diasporic literature by collating a number of the subcontinent's global diasporas in order to establish a comparative framework for a study of unreliable narration. This strategic compromise, however, is not meant to suggest that I usually give inter-diasporic analysis preference over intra-diasporic studies.3 In line with Khalid Koser, I am often dissatisfied with the results gained from an ahistorical pan-communal approach, yet a pan-South Asian approach to dispersed communities from the Indian subcontinent has its own limitations, too, especially when it has to respond to a wide variety of pressing questions. However, as I hope to show in the following, there are good reasons for such a comparative, inter-diasporic approach.

South Asian Diasporas and Multiple Modernities

According to Sudesh Mishra, diasporic criticism has witnessed three distinctive "scenes," none of which constitute "neat temporal blocks."4 While, in the first scene, represented by critics such as William Safran and Robin Cohen,5 a picture is commonly evoked of fairly homogeneous national territories based on ideas of dual territory, second-scene diasporists such as Paul Gilroy and Stuart Hall6 challenge "national and nationalistic perspectives"; for them, "neither political nor economic structures of domination are simply co-existing with national borders. …

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