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Imagining Bombay, London, New York and Beyond

South Asian Diasporic Writing from 1990 to the Present

Maria Ridda

This book examines new literary imaginings of the interconnected city spaces of Bombay, London and New York in South Asian diasporic texts from the 1990s to the present. It charts the transition from London-centric studies on postcolonial city spaces to the new axis of Bombay, London and New York.
The book argues that two key dynamics have developed from this shift: on the one hand, London, once the destination of choice for migrants, becomes a «transit zone» for onward movement to New York; on the other, different cities are perceived to coexist and come together in one single location. To investigate these new webs of interactions and power relations, this monograph employs Bakhtin’s model of the chronotope. Serving as a magnifying lens, the chronotope inserts different spatial and temporal segments within wider narratives of urban space. This book promotes a new understanding of the cities of the South Asian diaspora as subversive sites for defining processes of cultural signification.
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Chapter 2: ‘Homing’ the Postcolonial City


← 38 | 39 → CHAPTER 2

‘Homing’ the Postcolonial City

This chapter explores the city as a crossroads of colonial and postcolonial relationships. It focuses on ‘The Courter’, a short story contained in the collection East, West by Rushdie. In opposition to The Satanic Verses, published three years before, ‘The Courter’ inaugurates a new conception of home, one located on the threshold of North and South and one which is both real and imagined. The short story allows for an exploration of the postcolonial city as a site of dynamic interactions, demonstrates the new directions undertaken by Rushdie’s work and represents the starting point for an evolutionary analysis of transnational urbanism in South Asian diasporic texts. It constitutes a clear example of how fictions of migrancy create multiple homes and locales which are both discrete from and entwined with the fold of other places.

The Localitat/Locales

Exploring further Bakhtin’s model of the chronotope introduced in the previous chapter, I want to focus on the term locale that is key to understanding the way cities are investigated in this book. Rather than focusing on locality, early re-adaptations of Bakhtin’s criticism in postcolonial studies have centred upon notions of polyphony and hybridity.1 For example, ← 39 | 40 → Ella Shohat re-theorises the concept of polyphony, the multiplicity of languages and cultural discourses present in a literary work, to define the very nature of the postcolonial novelistic genre.2 In her view, cultural hybridity is forged by several linguistic and...

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