Four popular award-winning literary fictions will be reviewed in this presentation: Samina Ali’s (2004) “Madras on Rainy Days,” Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s (1995) “Arranged Marriage,” Tanuja Desai Hidier’s (2002) “Born Confused,” and Jhumpa Lahiri’s (2003) “The Namesake.” Roksana Badruddoja will consider the following two questions: What are the meanings of South Asian American identities in the racial and ethnic imaginary of the U.S.? And, how do these meanings travel through class, gender, sexual, and cultural hierarchies in the U.S. as well as transnationally?
As a second-generation Bangladeshi American woman, sympathetic to the South Asian diasporic novels as theories of real ruptures in the lived experiences of South Asian American wo/men, she probes the dispersion of cultural experiences through the literary fictional narratives; comparing them across situations within a set of lives in her own ethnographic work that explores the lives of South Asian Americans. Her objective then is to demonstrate that too often, popular literary fictions spawned from South Asian diasporic authors for consumption by both the diaspora and the white mainstream are laden with Orientalist dualities.
What is being written into both the academic and popular narratives is a story of cultural displacement, Badruddoja argues, which evades the specificity of gender and depends on stereotypic propositions about America and South Asia. The cultural displacement model plays a key role in perpetuating the cultural authority of the “west.”