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Investigating the Problematic of Migrant Identity in South-Asian and Arab Postcolonial Fiction in English: A Cross-Cultural Comparison

Darraj, Mahmoud (2019) Investigating the Problematic of Migrant Identity in South-Asian and Arab Postcolonial Fiction in English: A Cross-Cultural Comparison. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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The aim of this thesis is to examine the problematic of identity formation in the case of the migrant subject by relating it to the direct effects of the socio-cultural transformation which inevitably takes place in the country of migration. In the fictional works to be discussed, the identity of the characters alters or is forced to change in relation to the situations and settings into which they are thrown in their host countries. My investigation will be carried out not only in terms of scrutinising the literary representation of the dilemma of identity, but also by means of analysing both the manner in which the question of identity becomes problematic and the ways through which the migrant figure responds to such problematisation. To this end, I aim to crystallise how in each work the predicament of identity overlaps with issues principally relating to displacement, exile, postcoloniality, and cultural hybridity. Drawing on Stuart Hall’s work, I approach the problematic nature of the construction of migrant identity in terms of being ‘fluid’, ‘dynamic’, and constantly unstable. The primary sources comprise a body of South-Asian and Arab postcolonial literature that has been produced since the 1960s, after significant waves of migration to the UK and the US—all of which is originally published in English, except for Season of Migration to the North (1969). The other works include V. S. Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival (1987) and The Mimic Men (1967), Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine (1989) and Wife (1975), Diana Abu-Jaber’s Arabian Jazz (1993) and Crescent (2003), and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake (2003) and Interpreter of Maladies (1999). In each chapter, I engage with theoretical discourses on the politics of identity performance, representation, and re-construction; I put those discourses in dialogue with the literary texts to demonstrate how in these texts a valid and active sense of the self is inexorably rendered damaged or destroyed as an initial corollary of being in an alien land. Moreover, I argue that the very exilic or diasporic modus vivendi contributes to a further problematisation of identity formation for the migrant figure. My approach to such complexity is primarily done in the light of postcolonial theory, specifically, Homi Bhabha’s conception of ‘mimicry, hybridity, and ambivalence’ and Stuart Hall’s understanding of the conflicting development of cultural identity. This is intended in an effort to explicate the many aspects of the destabilisation resulting from the interrelation between culture and identity, on the one hand, and migration and displacement, on the other. The cross-cultural approach of the thesis highlights the similarities with the problematic experiences of identity transformation on the migrant part, despite the different cultural backgrounds.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Mahmoud Darraj
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2019 11:04
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2022 01:00

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