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The Postcolonial Citizen

The Intellectual Migrant

Series:

Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt

The twentieth century has witnessed the rise of a large population of postcolonial intellectual migrants «willingly» arriving from formerly colonized countries into the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada to pursue intellectual goals. Embedded in this movement from the formerly colonized spaces into the West is the vexed question of dislocation and displacement for these intellectual subjects. The Postcolonial Citizen traces how such modes of (un)belonging are represented within literary and cultural space and how migrancy, and in particular the postcolonial «intellectual» migrant, is symbolically and philosophically understood as a cultural icon of displacement in the West. Using literary texts, autobiographical narrative of displacement, and cultural criticism, this book treats the cultural reception of intellectual migrancy (particularly within America) as both an uneasy and ambiguous condition. What is timely about this book’s treatment of migrancy is the current threat imposed on postcolonial writers and scholars in the United States post-9/11. The book examines and exposes the consequences of intellectually intervening into democratic ideals after the rise of the «national security state» – giving the migrant sensibility of dislocation a socio-political dimension. Thus, in dealing with the cultural reception of migrancy, The Postcolonial Citizen clearly marks the shift between pre- and post-9/11 migrant subjectivity and particularly addresses how the «third world» intellectual migrant has become synonymous with the voice of dissent and threat to the established democratic order in the United States.

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2 Forging States of Belonging: Migrant Memory, Nation, and Subjectivity in Meena Alexander’s Memoir, Fault Lines 27

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Chapter 2 Forging States of Belonging: Migrant Memory, Nation, and Subjectivity in Meena Alexander’s Memoir, Fault Lines A woman who did not know herself, how could I have written a book of my life and thought it true? I was tormented by the feeling that I had written a memoir that was not true. —Meena Alexander, Fault Lines Meena Alexander belongs to a long list of twentieth century di- asporic writers who seek to create a sense of deep attachment to cherished places based on memory. However, any critical inquiry into the complexity of such memories is not only necessarily li- mited, but must also be approached with a certain degree of cau- tion. In Alexander’s case, memory is something she constantly invents as a means to keep her narrative moving forward. Alexan- der’s memory is filled with either repressed or half-remembered tales from past events/nations and her conflictual presence in the U.S. This very collision between her experience based on past memory and that based on present memory forms a jumbled col- 28 The Postcolonial Citizen lage in her own discursive formation of identity and writing. I con- tend in this chapter that through the genre of the memoir, particu- larly the problematic discursivity staged in the two editions of Fault Lines (FL 1993 & 2003) the issue of gross misrepresentation of the postcolonial states of memory and belonging comes to the forefront. In other words, Alexander’s writing itself becomes a space that begins to expose the arbitrary and contradictory...

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