Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 10 : 3 March 2010
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Diasporic Crisis of Dual Identity in Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake

Sujata Rana, Ph.D.

Interpreter of Maladies: Complexities of Diaspora

Having born of educated middle class Bengali parents in London and grown up in Rhodes Island (USA) Jhumpa Lahiri beautifully and authentically portrays the diaspora experiences in her first collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies (which won her the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 2000) as well as her first novel The Namesake (which spent several weeks on New York Times bestseller list).

On Defining Diaspora

Before analyzing the experiences and maladies of the diasporas presented in Lahiri's novel, an attempt is being made here to define the term 'diaspora', the related crisis of dual identity and various hazards experienced by them in the process of settlement in the new country-- their cultural dilemmas and displacement; the generational differences; transformation in their identities with the new demands; and the new possibilities and new ways of thinking.

The word 'diaspora' has been taken from the Greek, meaning "to disperse." Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin define 'diaspora' as "the voluntary or forcible movement of peoples from their homelands into new regions……" (Ashcroft 68).

Robert Cohen describes diasporas as the communities of peoples living together in one country who "acknowledge that the old country-- a nation often buried deep in language, religion, custom or folklore--always has some claim on the loyalty and emotions"(Cohen ix ).

Diasporas thus live in one country as community but look across time and space to another. The migrant diasporas and their descendents experience displacement, fragmentation, marginalization and discontinuity in the cultural 'discourse' of the subject countries.

Living in-between Condition

This living 'in-between' condition is very painful and marginalizing for the diasporas. There is yearning for "home," to go back to "the lost origin" and "imaginary homelands" (Rushdie9--21) are created from the fragmentary and partial memories of the homelands. They face cultural dilemma when their cultural practices are mocked at and there is a threat to their ethnic and cultural identity. They stand bewildered and confused, nostalgic and homesick and show resistance also to the discourse of power in various forms. In the following generations these confusions, problems and yearnings become less intense as they get influenced by the culture of that country and also adapt themselves to it.

Though the children born to migrant peoples enjoy better settlement and place in that country but "their sense of identity borne from living in a diaspora community [is] influenced by the past migrant history of their parents or grandparents" (McLeod 207) .

Changes in Attitudes

During their stay in the new country and in interaction with the representative culture the subjectivities and modes of thinking of the diasporas also change and they too intervene in the cultural discourse of the dominant culture. Thus there comes a considerable change in the outlook and identities of diasporas with the changed global economic, political and cultural scenario.

Identity Crisis

The identities of diaspora individuals and communities can neither be placed only in relation to some homeland to which they all long to return nor to that country alone where they settle down in. They, by all means, face the crisis of hybrid or dual identity, which makes their existence all the more difficult. This is an experience universal to all Indian diaspora, irrespective of their caste, region and religion (which they so strongly and fanatically clung to during their stay in India).

The Indian Diaspora

Second in number after the Chinese, the Indian diaspora consists of more than 15 million individuals through the world, gathered especially in Great Britain and in the US. And Indian diasporic literature arresting global attention today, is usually by and about educated migrants or their descendants. It deals with issues like alienation, nostalgia, identity crisis, discrimination etc. It operates in a cultural space haunted by heterogeneity, and attempts to reconcile with alien realities. A literary maze concerned with questions of equality and identity, it attempts assimilation with host country and culture. All diasporic fiction, thus, is replete with issues related to location, movement, crossing border, original home and adopted home and identity.

A Chronicler of Diaspora

Among others Jhumpa Lahiri is famous as the acclaimed chronicler of the Bengali-immigrant experience. The majority of her stories are about exile, about people living far from home and moving to new world. Both Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake explore the ideas of isolation and identity, not only personal but also cultural. When their cultural and ethnic identity is blurred in a foreign land, their personal identity, signified strongly by their name also stands vulnerable to change. The characters in both the works frequently encounter crisis of identity, which is tied to inabilities to reconcile the American identity with their Indian identity.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

The Linguistics of Newspaper Advertising in Nigeria | Women in Advertisements | Case-Assignment Under Government in Modern Literary Arabic | Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Very Young Learners: A Case from Turkey | Association of Self Fashioning and Circumstances in Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin | A Moral Lesson, Amoral Lesion - Sharon Pollock's The Komagata Maru Incident | Pariksha: Test by Prem Chand | Treatment of City in Nayantara Sahgal's Storm in Chandigarh | Phrasal Stress in Telugu | Stress Among ELT Teachers: A Study of Performance Evaluation from a Private Secondary School in Haryana | Willa Cather’s Portrayal of the Pioneer Virtues in Alexandra Bergson with Reference to O Pioneers! | Man-Woman Relationship in Nayantara Sahgal's Mistaken Identity | Classroom Management and Quality Control - An Action Research | Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha - A Dualist Spiritual Journey | Impact of Dramatics on Composition Skills of Secondary School English Language Learners in Pakistan | Narrative Technique, Language and Style in R. K. Narayan's Works | Diasporic Crisis of Dual Identity in Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake | To Teach or Not to Teach Grammar isn't the Question Any Longer - A Case for Consciousness-Raising Tasks | Cognitive Flexibility in Children with Learning Disability | Coda Deletion in Yemeni Tihami Dialect (YTD)- Autosegmental Analysis | The Enigmatic Maya in Anita Desai's
Cry, The Peacock
| Developing an English Curriculum for a Premedical Program | The Ties of Kinship in Rohinton Mistry's Novels | Indian English: A Linguistic Reality | The Unpredictability of the Sonority of English Words | Women's Representation in Polity: A Need to Enhance Their Participation | Nandhini Oza's Concern for the Tribal Welfare in "The Dam Shall Not Be Built" | A PRINT VERSION OF ALL THE PAPERS OF MARCH 2010 ISSUE IN BOOK FORMAT | HOME PAGE of March 2010 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Sujata Rana, Ph.D.
Department of English
CRM Jat PG College
Haryana, India

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