Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

11 an Overview of Diasporic Marvellous Realism and Memory in Literature

Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

11 an Overview of Diasporic Marvellous Realism and Memory in Literature

Article excerpt

TRANSTERRITORI ALI Z AT IO N CAN ASSIST THE PROCESS of looking at one's homeland from a different perspective. This happens to some of the diasporic authors included in this book, who regard the Caribbean as a marvellous territory rather than as a magical one. However, the new world order is imposing a reconceptualization of diaspora as a global phenomenon, which subsequently has an impact on the works of a new generation of writers. Elleke Boehmer makes reference to the influence of this fact:

The world today has become so intensively interconnected that globalization is seen by many, those of the well-off north in particular, as the definitive condition of twenty-first-century humanity. 'Trans-societal flows', a 'borderless global economy', and electronic communications increasingly undermine the former centrality of national structures and institutions, and demand a re-figuration of the languages of everyday life.1

It is in the shadow of this re-figuration of the languages of everyday life that the parameters of the imaginary are affected. For this reason, attention should be paid not only to the works of those who were born in the Caribbean and then settled in host countries, or to the works of those who were born and bred in the diaspora; the works of the previously mentioned transnational or postmigrant new generation of Caribbean authors are also central to the scope of Diasporic Marvellous Realism.

The novel discussed in this chapter, Kei Miller's The Last Warner Woman (2010), is the story of a shaman who leaves Jamaica and moves to England, as well as a story about the manipulation of memory as a creative process in literature. The novel is of interest for this analysis of Diasporic Marvellous Realism in contemporary writing for two main reasons. First, the author represents one of the migratory experiences that the umbrella term 'transnationalism' encompasses. To rehearse in greater detail what has already been sketched in about Miller: born in Jamaica, he left the island at the age of twenty-six to complete an MA in creative writing at the University of Manchester in 2006, continuing with his higher education in the USA later on. Although he eventually chose to reside in the UK, he frequently visits his home country. Thus, if the label 'second-generation immigrant', referring to those writers born and bred in the diaspora, is somewhat contradictory, the label 'diasporic writer', often applied to Miller, might be equally contentious. He travels between specific sites, feeding the existing transnational networks within the trinity family-education-career. As Vertovec observes, "in recent years transnationalism has become one of the fundamental ways of understanding contemporary migrant practices."2 It is for this reason that Vertovec differentiates between 'old' and 'new' migrant transnationalism, considering globalization and the improvements in means of transport and communication as the main catalyst for this rupture. The fact that Diasporic Marvellous Realism can be identified in Miller's text invites closer analysis of how the new world order is affecting contemporary literary production. Globalization, westernization, cultural homogenization, the legacy of the Enlightenment, among other factors, are influencing the way people relate to certain nonmainstream folkloric imageries. The term 'diaspora', in this particular case, will stand for a specific way of understanding the world order and cultural representations, as well as for the author's post-migrant condition. Thanks to the ease of travel that interconnects today's world, being an immigrant does not imply that one will never be able to return to one's country of origin. Miller talks about his own experience travelling to the USA and the UK in an article he published in the 2011 special Caribbean issue of Moving Worlds. There he defines himself as a Caribbean immigrant, although he acknowledges that migrant experiences have changed in the last decades. …

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