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The Diasporic Mindset and Narrative Intersections of British Identity in Transnational Fiction

This dissertation focuses on the diasporic post-colonial British writers and British as they negotiate the fraught landscape of being culturally or racially other in England. I incorporate Dipesh Chakrabarty’s conception of History 1 and History 2 as a main theoretical apparatus to explain how there are a multiplicity of narratives that produce the cultural knowledge about identity and inform any character or individual’s ideas about the degree to which they fit into or clash with the dominant white British culture in the transnational environment. I define this environment as the postcolonial setting saturated with all these various possibilities for identity formation that transcend but still retain old national and cultural boundaries. In my readings, Chakrabarty’s History 1 stands in as the rigid definition of cultural identity originating from nationalist tradition while History 2s are the narratives that jostle against and disrupt this metanarrative about identity. In the novels under discussion such as Caryl Phillips A Distant Shore, Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia, and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, such disruptions occur especially when characters who are migrants or come from migrant families must contend with the “imaginary homelands” presented to them by their homesick and culturally ambivalent parents or their own memories. Such conflicts lead to a differentiated sense of identity among different generations of migrant families in their particular diaspora. History 2s also take the form of deconstructive minor narratives when authors attempt to deprioritize the experience of women to consolidate transnational male identity in the diaspora. I trace this trend in works by Salman Rushdie and Amitav Ghosh. I conclude my analysis with Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other and Andrea Levy’s Small Island and explore the way that “feminism without borders” provides a viable way to link the History 2s related to the struggles of diasporic women in a way that does not flatten them into a global sisterhood model that privileges certain cultural perspectives in the same way that Ghosh and Rushdie prioritize the male transnational subject.
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