‘Diaspora,’ as Paul Gilroy observed, is ‘an ancient word.’ As a subject of cultural representation and a method of discursive exploration, however, its history does not go back beyond the mid-1980s. Due to the proliferation of creative works from the diasporic spaces during the next two decades or so, there emerged a new interest in the formulation of the diasporic experiences. And these formulations continued to shift their focus and emphasis in view of the transformed global economic and political situations. These changes are perhaps best captured in anthologies of critical works. The book under review, The Diasporic Dilemma: Exile, Alienation and Belonging, competently edited by Pradipta Mukherjee and Sajalkumar Bhattacharya, is one such addition in the field.
Divided into nine sections, the volume covers diasporic representations from the perspectives of cognate fields like cultural studies, ethnic gender studies, trauma studies, transnationalism, and film studies. The introduction to the volume is rich in content. It contextualises the phenomenon known as ‘diaspora’ and charts out the complex course that diaspora theories have taken over the years. Citing globalisation and events like 9/11, the editors, supported by statistical data, establish the fact that the global diasporic situation has become diverse and much more complicated than ever before. The migrants crisis in Europe, which the book could not consider for obvious reasons, testifies to the fact. Diaspora&’s absorption of transnational global issues has made it much more problematic. The introduction and some articles in the book have critically considered this aspect. The introduction is up-to-date in its coverage of both creative and discursive works.
Avinash Jodha analyses Rushdie&’s Shalimar the Crown and Mohsin Khan&’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist in the context of the global unrest evident everywhere. The author who has approached the situation from the humanitarian point of view is hopeful that sanity will prevail and the ‘healing’ process will take place. This reviewer is, however, a bit confused about the rather long section heading Rs “New Cultural Studies, Trans-placement and Deterritorialized Identity” Rs under which the article is placed. Jodha does not obviously posit his arguments in the light of the ‘new’ Cultural Studies. Pradipta Mukherjee&’s article on Khaled Hosseini&’s The Kite Runner deals with the intricacies of an Afghan American&’s memory of the old homeland now immersed in the residual effects of ethnic conflicts, state surveillance and religious terrorism. She appropriately points out how the kite-flying ritual taking place in America can be seen as a symbolic act of Afghan immigrant&’s cultural initiation in the transplanted space. Sabita Yadav looks back at the Indian immigrant condition in Britain during the 1960s. Articles by Arnab Kumar Sinha and Sajal Kumar Bhattacharya on Mohsin Hamid&’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Roma Tearne&’s diasporic fiction respectively are informed of recent critical discourses on relevant issues. Sinha demonstrates how Islam is equated with fundamentalism and terrorism in the public rhetoric and refers to the ‘uncanny’ experience of the ‘undesirable’ diasporic subjects in the American space. Bhattacharya posits the Sri Lankan narratives in the context of three different ways of handling memories which he explains in his article. Nilanjana Deb in her valuable contribution on the ‘commemoration’ of Indo-Caribbean women in Ramabai Espinet&’s The Swinging Bridge speaks of the urgency of the retrieval of foremothers’ stories trapped in family archives and ancestral memories. Women writers like Espinet, descendants of the ‘coolie diaspora,’ are now concentrating on this aspect. Through an excellent analysis of Espinet&’s fiction, Deb foregrounds how the stories of women who migrated during the period of indenture should be set in a narrative. One such “narrativisation”, one may recall, has been done by Gaiutra Bahadur in her well-researched book, Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture (2013).
The volume under review also gains in strength by the inclusion of an interview of Lakshmi Persaud taken by Jaydeep Sarangi. This too brings out the less known facts and experiences of the old diaspora revealed by a member of the new generation. Mohitosh Mondal brings out the dynamics of the female resistance in Taslima Nasreen&’s nomadic life, firebrand personality and her uncompromising writing career. Suryendu Chakraborty shows how Ana Castillo negotiates ethnicity and gender in her works, particularly in So Far From God. Siddhartha Biswas&’s article on Martel&’s Manual of Migration the two articles on Amitav Ghosh by Syeda Ayesha Ali and Samik Dasgupta, Debayan Basu&’s reflections on Jewish American diaspora, Ananya Chatterjee&’s “Globalisation, Cultural Translation and Indian Diaspora,” and Srima Nandi&’s discourse on Kingston&’s China Men offer significant insights into the respective areas. Mention must be made of the articles by Mou Mukherjee, Abhishek Chowdhury, Ritu Mohan Bairagi & Mahesh Kumar Arora, Sumanta Bandyopadhyay, Shreeparna Ghosal (Visual and Performing Diasporas) and those by Amrita Basu and Annam Ragamalika (Metaphor of Food and Diaspora).
This anthology, on the whole, is a valuable addition to the existing corpus of anthologies available in the market.
The reviewer is professor, department of english and culture studies, university of burdwan