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Diasporas, Cultures of Mobilities, ‘Race’ 1

Judith Misrahi-Barak
Claudine Raynaud


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1 Cainkar Louise: Managing Multiple Identities and the Dias poric Self

2This article examines the diasporic imaginations of Palestinian American teenagers, based on interviews conducted in 2011 while they were on temporary sojourns with their families attending high school in Palestine. When asked how the life they found in Palestine was different from or similar to what they had expected, interview data show that rather than holding the predicted idealized images of the homeland typical to diasporic populations, Palestinian American teens systematically held highly negative perceptions of their diasporic homeland. These perceptions were largely characterized by notions of backwardness and violence. The article argues that these perceptions were formed largely from media representations, both American and Arabic, which overpowered the traditional roles of family and community in creating narratives of the homeland. Explanations for why this is the case are grounded in changing political developments in Palestine/Israel, including the collapse of the PLO, the rise of Hamas, and the decreasing appeal of secular movements, each of these changes rooted in the failure to reach a just and peaceful solution to the conflict. The information voids and narrative confusion created by these developments opened the door for the power of global media to construct definitions of reality.

3 Duboin Corinne: New Transatlantic Passages: African Immi grant Writers and Contemporary Black Literature in America

4The rise of globality and the arrival of non-European immigrants in North America over the past several decades have changed the contours of the United States as a multicultural nation. This paper will concentrate on first- and second-generation African immigrant writers who have recently emerged as new black voices in multiethnic American literature. We will examine the way they articulate new transcultural subjectivities. Through their fictional works, these displaced artists-such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dinaw Mengestu, or Chris Abani-offer new perspectives on the myths and realities of Africa and North America, addressing the vexed questions of race and national identity. Given their growing presence and success on the literary scene, we need to explore how these writers contribute to the rich diversity of an African Diaspora aesthetic. We aim to focus on similarities, overlaps and differences between this emergent transnational literature and a well-established African American literary tradition so as to gain more insight into the recent ramifications of black fiction and its evolving canons.

5 Hinrichs Lars: Diaspora and Sociolinguistic Space: The Jamaican Community in Toronto

6Diasporic settings confront scholars with mixes among cultures, dialects, and languages. Sociolinguists must describe the specific forms of that mix, then explain it by considering the social dynamics that produce it. This task presents above all a methodological challenge. Most scholars of culture and society agree that diasporic mixing between dialects and languages will become drastically more frequent in the nascent 21st century, and will come to dominate urban sociolinguistic space in many places. We have to ask: what methods are best suited to study the social meanings and structural changes of linguistic forms under conditions of ’super-diversity’ (Blommaert 2010; Vertovec 2007)? And how can we model community-level mixing while adequately accounting for the vast amount of observed idiolectal variation? In work on the Jamaican diaspora, I have conducted video-observations of Reggae and Rap artists of Jamaican heritage in Toronto. This paper presents an example of a frequency-based analysis of vocalic variation and discourse analyses of selected transcripts. Bridging the divide between quantitative and qualitative methodologies in sociolinguistics I employ Bourdieu’s (1982) notion of the symbolic capital of linguistic forms to explain the observable structural features of the diasporic dialect mix that occurs in the Jamaican Canadian community.

7 Jacobs Johan: Embracing Chaos:Winnie Mandela and the South African Diaspora

8Njabulo Ndebele’s novel The Cry of Winnie Mandela (2003) concludes with the complex, chaotic figure of Winnie Mandela demanding that all South Africans recognise themselves in her. This paper argues that for approaching the colonial, apartheid and postapartheid history of South Africa, diaspora provides a more useful lens than simply that of a liberatory black nationalism rising in opposition against an oppressive white nationalism. In a frame narrative, Ndebele develops with reference to the classical figure of Penelope, a thesis about the black South African woman: ’Departure, waiting, and return: they define her experience of the past, present and future. They frame her life at the centre of a great South African story not yet told’. The lives of African women in South Africa have been overdetermined by their husbands’ migrant lives, and Ndebele’s novel tells the stories of four unknown women, and that of South Africa’s most famous woman, Winnie Mandela, who waited. Beginning with the migration to the mines of Johannesburg and Kimberley, Ndebele identifies four waves of diasporic dispersion in twentieth-century South Africa. The large-scale external and internal displacement of black South Africans under colonialism and apartheid and the concomitant dream of eventual homecoming may be seen in terms of the more conventional ’old’ diasporic framework, whereas Ndebele’s four case studies in The Cry of Winnie Mandela may offer versions of ’new’ diasporic thinking. However, the stories of each of the four South African descendents of Penelope, all seen in relation to the combination of power and energy, and banality and depravity that characterises the figure of Winnie Mandela, point to a more useful understanding of diasporic migrant flows in South Africa in terms of chaos complexity theory.

9 Karamcheti Indira: Names and Global Habitations: the South Asian Diaspora and the Problem of the Proper Name

10This paper focuses on a peculiarity of the Indian diaspora-its inability to name itself by national origin, diasporic history, or race-rather, it is assigned names in the diasporic location: ’East Indian’, ’South Asian’, ’Asian American’, ’Indian American’, ’Black’ (although according to Spivak, not ’Black Blacks’, or ’real Blacks’), or even ’Hindou’, regardless of religious affiliation. By ’name’, then, I am designating the equivalence of a diasporic group with its own particularized history and identity. The difficulty in self-identifying as ’Indian’ signifies a relative ’belatedness’, a pre-emption of ’Indian’ and South Asian history by other histories. This paper seeks to examine the importance of that misappropriation and proposes that the consequences are matters of both signification and of ethics. The Indian diaspora constructs both meaning and narrative for itself by analogy to a supposedly more meaningful narrative-indenture to slavery, for example-in which it is positioned as a narrative of mimicry. Besides histories, names embed both moral imperatives and ethical claims. The misappropriation of a proper name creates uncertainty about what proper rights the ’Indian’ or ’South Asian’ can claim in the global context, especially relative to the so-called ’primary’ marginalized groups. Living by analogy, by mimicry, makes claims to compensation or affirmative action on the grounds of historical marginalization not only suspect but suspiciously opportunistic and unethical.

11 Ledent Bénédicte: ’Mind the Gaps’: Caryl Phillips’s In the Falling Snow and the Generational Approach to Migration, Diaspora and Globalization

12In spite of the theoretical success of the notions of migration, diaspora and globalization, it is not always easy in practice to clearly delineate the boundaries between these concepts. In this essay, I argue-through a reading of Caryl Phillips’s latest novel In the Falling Snow (2009)-that fiction might be a useful tool to help us explore the articulations between these three terms and take a fresh look at them. Phillips’s book examines the lives and the degree of belonging of three generations of black men of Caribbean descent living in Britain, of three individuals whose condition might be respectively labelled as migrant, diasporic and global. Throughout the novel, Phillips draws the reader’s attention to the divides between the different age groups and how their diverging experiences shape their perception of their own identity. At the same time, however, he suggests commonalities between the three men, who all partake of a culture of displacement in which race, among other factors, still plays a major role. In other words, by asking us to ’mind the gaps’ between his three protagonists, Phillips validates their specificities and endorses the changes that have affected the lives of displaced individuals of Afro-Caribbean descent over several decades; simultaneously, he also calls these generational divergences into question by hinting at a form of existential continuity between his characters, and as a consequence between the labels that might be used to describe their situations.

13 Lionnet Françoise: Cosmopolitan or Creole Lives? Globalized Oceans and Insular Identities

14If terms such as diaspora, cosmopolitanism, and creolization can be considered equally useful theoretical models for mapping social realities, why does the general notion of creolization continue to carry a host of troublesome baggage? In particular, how do we think ’cosmopolitan’ and ’Creole’ together and hope to elicit a revaluation of the notion of creolization and of the producers of Creole cultures? In this essay, I use the literary, cultural, and political history of the Indian Ocean to think through the connotations of each term. I argue that if we consider both cosmopolitanism and creolization from the perspective of the insular regions of the Indian Ocean, new possibilities emerge for comparison and redefinition of what it means to be ’Creole’ and more specifically, a Creole cosmopolitan who participates actively in the construction of cultural meanings through technologies of oral, print, visual, and virtual communication.

15 Murdoch H. Adlai: Diaspora, Creolization, and the Boundaries of Caribbean Identity

16The importance of diaspora to any understanding of the Caribbean can be seen both in its crosscultural patterns of ethnic and cultural admixture, and in the regional patterns of migration and exchange that connect many Caribbean territories. A representational framework for Caribbean patterns of diaspora would need to reflect a remarkable range of influences; from the various strands of ethnocultural affiliation linking these territories to their African, Indian, Syro-Lebanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and English avatars to the transformative effects of contemporary migrations that have refigured the ways in which these new subjects come to represent themselves and their experiences. The cultural and demographic phenomenon of twentieth-century Caribbean migration was largely a postwar event, where these groups increasingly differentiated themselves from the larger immigrant cultures of their respective metropoles, from the nationalist patterns of their host country and from the established identitarian framework of their countries and cultures of origin. Crucially, this Caribbean cultural diaspora would draw on its own fissures and conflicts to enact new notions of ’Caribbeanness’, ’Frenchness’ or ’Britishness’ in an explicitly transnational and transformative space of hybridity and renewal. Ultimately, reconsiderations of the diasporic Caribbean will compel us to revise long-held notions of the role and place of ’center’ and ’periphery’ in a post/colonial context, and to map the evolving boundaries of contemporary Caribbean identity.

17 Pillai Shanthini: Transnationalism, Memory and new Malaysian Diasporic Writings

18The focal point of this paper is the concept of the transnational and the blurred and fluctuating boundaries of ties with the nation that was once home as depicted in the works of the emerging community of new Malaysian diasporic writers. New Malaysian diasporic writers in the context of this paper are taken to refer to writers who were born in Malaysia and who are now settled elsewhere in the globe, and yet are recognisably transnational in that their writings focus on the older country and memories of family, community and a nation that once was home. Notably this transnational community of writers exists within the intersections of an outsider-insider perspective of the nation and their writings draw largely from recollections that are often rooted in folk memory and most significantly in the stories inherited from family. This paper will present a discussion of the dialectics of this perspective by interspersing concepts of ’fort/da’ (Bhabha), the ’synchronic warehouse’ (Appadurai) and various theories of re-memory. It ultimately argues that memory and material culture undergo various transformative shifts through transnational voyages, multiple passages through immeasurable borders and portals until ultimately the creative space becomes the space where both the voices of the past and the present intersperse, much like the notes from Keat’s darkling thrush rising above the straggling branches of its perch. Within that single space, the writer is both insider and outsider, included yet excluded, with every ordained arrival and departure of migration, emigration or trans-movement.

19 Rosello Mireille: Gypsy Hospitality: Tony Gatlif’s Gadjo Dilo

20Tony Gatlif’s 1998 Gadjo Dilo narrativizes the encounter between Stéphane (a young Frenchman) and a small Roma community settled outside of Bucharest. I propose to focus on this work of fiction as a way of thinking through recent political events. France’s systematic deportation of Roma has led to severe critiques: arguing that the targeting of one ethnic community is a clear example of discrimination, Europe threatened legal action. The debate focuses on the notion of ’community’ and ’belonging’ as well as on the issue of who has a right (or a duty) to move and stay in one European state. But what is the precise status of ’Roma’ in this case? Do they disappear when references to their community are removed from official texts to avoid Europe’s disapproval? Is the specificity of certain diasporic groups not erased by an appeal to a classic ’community based’ discourse of European solidarity? Gadjo Dilo constantly explores (rather than assumes) the unstable and contested link between one individual and any predictable collective culture or identity. Just as the main character, because he is so obsessed by his search for one specific representative Gypsy singer, fails to recognize that he is constantly surrounded by real Gypsy music, the film as a whole explores apparently contradictory spaces of struggle. I argue that the film helps us think about the role of diasporas in Europe, because Gatlif focuses on what it means for subjects to be both in and out, to be integrated yet relegated and to be able learn a language and a culture while functioning more or less adequately in that language and culture.

21 Rushdy Ashraf: An Apology for the African Diaspora: Race, Regret, and Reconciliation

22I propose to examine how the social relations of people of African descent have been affected by the development of two competing discourses-one of ’diaspora’ and the other of ’apology’. It is my hope to analyze the tense dialectic between these two ways of thinking about the fate and future of people of African descent. These two discourses-political apologies and diaspora-promote particular ways to understand the conditions and meaning of the African dispersal. Each of them has a distinct historical grounding and political trajectory. Diaspora offers us a historical account of disruption that focuses simultaneously on origins and dispersals, at the same time as it produces a political account of the value of the idea of a political community emphatically not set in a nation-state. Political apologies provide a penitent mapping out of historical acts that are now identified as atrocities, while promoting a political future in which that penitence is translated from political sorrow to political goodwill. These two discourses also have different implications for how ’race’ is understood. Race was a product of the diaspora in that it united a people by imagining a continental provenance that had hitherto been an unimagined community. In the discourse of apology, on the other hand, race has been invoked in problematic ways, from those who positively affirmed that the ubuntu ethic of forgiveness was an attribute of the ’African worldview’ (Tutu), to those who more skeptically saw a new form of race-thinking in the repeated apologies for the slave trade-that in this dynamic ’To err is human, to forgive, African’ (Soyinka). In this project, I wish to study more comprehensively the different strategies, premises, and outcomes of these discourses, and the ways they produce occasions of race-that is, moments when race is remade in ways that are more or less restrictive and more or less disabling.

23 Shih Shu-mei: Against Diaspora: The Sinophone as Places of Cultural Production

24The term ’Chinese diaspora’ is a construct sponsored by the Chinese state to call its ’overseas’ subjects to its fold by demanding their loyalty and longing. Used uncritically by Chinese immigrants, it can also imply a disengagement from the realities and concerns of the places of their residence. Against this paradigm, this chapter argues that Sinophone communities should be defined by the multiple Sinitic languages they speak rather than ethnicity, and that diaspora has an expiration date.

25 Vogt-William Christine: Masculinities Out of Line: Navigat ing Queerness and Diasporic Identity in Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy and Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night

26Mindful of Avtar Brah’s idea of diasporic space as being configured by multiple locations of home and abroad, as well as by contested relations between people with diverse subject positions, I discuss bodily homecomings in Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy and Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night. Here I align my readings with Kira Kosnick’s observation that ’geographically dispersed” queer subjects “themselves constituting diasporic communities, not on the basis of ethno-national origin, but on that of queer solidarities and shared identifications, can help to unsettle some of the assumptions of community as based on biological and biologized kinship’ (Kosnick 2010: 126). The objective of this paper is to trace how diaspora and queerness are imbricated in the construction of masculinity and male desire of the homosexual and transgendered characters in Selvadurai’s and Mootoo’s narratives, set in Sri Lankan and Trinidadian (thinly disguised as Lantanacamara) cultural landscapes respectively. In considering definitions of diaspora, one notes the implication of movement and place, whereby the consequences of movement between non-normatively produced identities and differently textured places result in repercussions for the queer mobile body in and from the former home. Thus the queer masculinities in these texts are writ on diasporic bodies that move ’between officially designated spaces’, where ’intricate realignments of identity, politics and desire take place’ (Patton and Sanchez-Eppler 2000: 3).

27 Wilson Janet: New ZealandWomen TravellerWriters: from Exile to Diaspora

28This essay argues that white settler colonies like New Zealand can be interpreted as diaspora settlements by virtue of their close ethnic and cultural ties with the metropolitan homeland of England. Its focus, however, is on the ’alienated subjectivity’ of four women writers of the first half of the twentieth century who travelled back as returnees, from New Zealand to Europe, and it examines the way they trace through the upheavals of travel, doubled or changing identity structures, encounters with the unfamiliar and strange, and the desire for location. Distinguishing between the early writers, living in exile, Katherine Mansfield and Robin Hyde, who never returned, and the later ’diasporic’ writers, Janet Frame and Fleur Adcock, who did, the essay identifies in their work distinctive tropes that attest to the shifting subject position of the traveller writer and articulate a diasporic consciousness of alienation and alterity. These are: the refiguring of self-hood through metaphor and disguise, the construction of self and the other as stranger or foreigner, and the problem of belonging focused through the quest for a ’home in this world’. This diasporic reading, identifying a commonality in literary aesthetic and practice, points to the complex symbiosis of life and art created by dislocation and the accommodation in art to experiences of loss and liberation. Although the work of this group is too heterogenous and generically diverse to constitute a school, collectively their endeavour as diasporic traveller writers situates them elliptically in relation to literary traditions contingent upon a bounded territorial nationalism, giving them a certain cohesiveness. Finally I suggest that as artists in exile, and often transient subjects, they represent in heightened, poetic form responses to the states of dislocation and unbelonging that are associated with the formation of diaspora communities. To that extent, they might provide literary models for issues such as marginality, home and belonging, language and gender, encountered in diaspora.

© Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2014

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