Critical Identities in Contemporary Anglophone Diasporic by Françoise Kral

By Françoise Kral

The determine of the migrant has been celebrated via a few as an icon of postmodernity, an emblematic determine in a global more and more characterised through transnationalism, globalization and mass migrations. Král takes factor with this view of the migrant adventure via in-depth analyses of writers together with Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith and Monica Ali.

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Not only do they transgress the taboo of incest, they also symbolically redefine the genealogy and the imposed lineage. Immigration, and the change of context it involves, thus provides the necessary space for reinvention and becomes a key moment as well as the condition of possibility for a sort of re-birth. The end of the novel somehow qualifies this radical reinvention of the self since the transgression of the taboo of incest backlashes several generations down the line when young Callie has to come to terms with a disrupted sexual identity – she is in fact a hermaphrodite – a feature which in the novel is explicitly put down to her ancestors’ transgression of the ban on incest.

Marangoly George sketches the development of the luggage motif from an early immigration novel, Samuel Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners (1956) – in which Oliver leaves Jamaica and settles in London without any luggage and reckons that there is ‘no sense to load up myself with a set of things’ (18) – to a more recent novel, Vassanji’s The Gunny Sack. She suggests a distinction between two types of immigrants, those who travel light like Oliver and those who come loaded with all their belongings; this second category could include a recent novel like Andrea Levy’s Small Island in which the Jamaican fiancée turns up on her fiancé’s doorstep with a trunk which he has to carry up the stairs (and as one might imagine, characters who travel light sometimes have less difficulties integrating).

The etymology of both identity and identification provides an insightful entry point into the logics at work in the relation between groups and individuals – and in particular the instrumentalization of identity in the context of identification of individuals by the state – as Denise Riley remarks in Words of Selves. The second counter-argument to the essentialist definition of identity has to do with its transience, which originates both in temporality as an overarching framework and in the temporality of discourse (the fact that identity is tied to the temporality of discourse and its shifting signifiers).

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