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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 4: Local Globalisms and Global Localisms: The American Dream, New York and Western Capitalist Urbanity in South Asian American Writing


← 124 | 125 → CHAPTER 4

Local Globalisms and Global Localisms: The American Dream, New York and Western Capitalist Urbanity in South Asian American Writing

The emphasis of this chapter is on New York as a symbol of the American Dream and as a synecdoche of Western capitalist urbanity. I begin by discussing early South Asian reconfigurations of the US in relation to the sense of freedom that the majority of migrants from the Indian subcontinent felt in a country that did not frame them within a history of colonial subjugation. Locating the texts of Krishnal Shridharani, Dalip Singh Saund and Bharati Mukherjee in the context of an early generation of writers, I delineate an evolutionary path that differentiates recent South Asian American texts thematically and stylistically from their predecessors.1 To this end, I employ Jhumpa Lahiri’s fiction, with a particular focus on The Namesake. The novel, spanning two generations, allows for a detailed historical and sociological investigation of the reasons that led migrants from 1965 onwards to move to the US rather than the UK. As a multigenerational narrative written by a second-generation South Asian American female author, The Namesake is an interesting example of a culturally specific process of hyphenation. As with Bakhtin’s central thesis, I consider the dialogicity of chronotopes in relation to the meaning of the hyphen, to its ability to ‘connect and set apart’ cities.2

← 125 | 126 → Early Journeys to the US

In a text published in 1941 entitled...

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