This article examines the ways in which Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing engages with the issue of translation – if not non-translation – of identity. Main attention is on one of her stories, namely ‘This Blessed House’ from the Interpreter of Maladies. It is a post-colonial reading of the story and suggests that the emptiness of the house is illusory to begin with, that the artefacts were not ‘hidden’ nor ‘left behind.’ The colonialist, on arrival in the colony, assumed ownership over such things, without even considering the existence of the invisible colonized. In a diasporic postcolonial situation, as in Lahiri’s story, discoveries of empty spaces are unattainable – again underlining the falsity of the colonial situation; there never was an ‘empty space.’ It is argued that where something analogous to an ‘empty space’ can be found in diasporic stories is in questions of identity, although it is not a space of emptiness but of hybridity.
Ambivalence, Power, and Literature
Edited by Joel Kuortti
The volume focuses on the interplay between and lapses within interrelated domains of study – postcolonial, diaspora, and world-literary – which attend to the material and discursive circumstances of the literary work. The various readings argue for a situated mode of reading that attends to literary meaning emerging from transaction across, struggle between, and appropriation of cultures, both intra- and internationally, and, by definition, not tied exclusively to a colonial historical paradigm.
The overarching themes – ambivalence, power, and literature – are approached transculturally and aesthetically with four distinct concerns in mind: theorization of transculturation; diaspora and migration; the African legacies of colonial slavery and its global aftermath; and localized topics that diversify the interpretation and definition of transculturation and its relation to an (emerging) aesthetic that goes beyond nationally constrained (geographical, cultural, linguistic, literary, etc.) boundaries.
Themes range from literary representations of archaeological sites to the contest over meaning that follow efforts to exhume the past, from the ethics of queer love in diaspora to the effects of global literary marketing, from the development of transcultural identities in the colonial encounter to domestication and foreignization in the translation of Aboriginal texts.
Authors discussed include Michael Ondaatje, Vernon Anderson, Barry Unsworth, Salman Rushdie, Yvonne Vera, Chiang Hsun, Sally Morgan, Doris Pilkington, Sarfraz Manzoor, Sathnam Sanghera, Yasmin Hai, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Timothy Wangusa, Fred D’Aguiar, Amitav Ghosh, and Jack Kerouac.
One of the most prominent Indian authors, Shashi Deshpande has commented on the prevalence of certain topics in contemporary Indian, especially diasporic, writing by saying: “Now we cannot have tigers and elephants so we have spices and grandmothers”. Grandmothers and spices had by the turn of the millennium become common literary tropes that bespoke of exoticism, although in the everyday Indian reality they were the most ordinary things. In this chapter I propose that by studying diasporic Indian literature we may investigate a phenomenon that remains habitually invisible, the ways in which the issues taken as ‘ordinary’ construct the ways in which we perceive the ‘other’. Food writing has become an important form of expression and contemporary literature uses food, kitchen and cooking both as tropes and subject. I interpret the significance of the kitchen and cooking in the wider context of cultural criticism and theory of the diaspora with special reference to poetry and fiction by Indian diasporic writers.
Joel Kuortti and Jopi Nyman
This introductory chapter consists of two parts. In the first section we seek to present a critical discussion of the term hybridity and its use in contemporary post-colonial discourse. In so doing, we will address several viewpoints onto the idea of hybridity presented by theorists from Homi K. Bhabha to Néstor Garcia Canclini. We will argue that the critical power of hybridity is in its ability to question what appears natural and complete, to problematize naturalized boundaries. The second part of this chapter presents briefly the theoretical and empirical studies collected in this volume. What unites the articles is that they seek to show the relevance of the notion of hybridity in approaching a variety of phenomena ranging from ethnic writing and theatre to contemporary cinema in a world characterized by transnational migration and the globalization of culture.