The migration from South Asia (Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Pakistan) can be divided into two distinct strands: first, the indentured labourers in the late 19th century to the Caribbean, Africa, and Southeast Asia; second, the mid-20th century migrations to the UK, USA, Canada, and elsewhere. These groups can be formalized as diasporas: communities who share a common national or ethnic or cultural origin, and who may share a common language and a common religious faith.
What texts by Salman Rushdie, MG Vassanji, Jhumpa Lahiri, Bharati Mukherjee, Romesh Gunesekera, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Kiran Desai, and Monica Ali share, is that they are written in diaspora. They are penned not in South Asia ... but elsewhere. There is some distance, then, between these texts and their authors’ 'cultural origins'.
Diaspora literatures reflect and promote connections between cultural origins and present locations; they mediate different social and cultural groups; they reach back to distinct historical moments; they remember departures and arrivals – and what came before, after, and in between. They draw on collective memory, they add to it, and in the process revise, rewrite, and transmit memory; from one generation to the next; and from one location to another.
This lecture course, then, explores diaspora literatures from several locations, including the UK, the Caribbean, Canada, and the US.
First session: 2 April 2019