Hybridity, the uncanny and the stranger : the contemporary transcultural novel

Krige, Nadia (2009-12)

Thesis (MA (English))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: During the past century, for a variety of reasons, more people have been crossing national and cultural borders than ever before. This, along with constantly developing communication technology, has seen to it that clear-cut distinctions, divisions and borders are no longer as easily definable as they once were. This process, now commonly referred to as ‘globalisation,’ has led to a rising trend of ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘cultural hybridity,’ terms often connected with celebratory views of our postmodern, postcolonial world as a colourful melting pot of cultures. However, what these celebratory views conveniently avoid recognising, is that the increasing occurrence of hybridity places a growing number of people in a painful space inbetween identities where they are “neither just this/nor just that” (Dayal 47), “neither the One… nor the Other… but something else besides” (Bhabha Commitment 41). Perhaps in an effort to combat this ignorance, a new breed of authors – who have experienced the rigours of migration first-hand – are giving voice to this pain-infused space on the periphery of cultures and identities through a developing genre of transcultural literature. This literature typically deals with issues of identity closely related to globalisation and multiculturalism. In my thesis I will be looking at three such novels: Jamal Mahjoub’s The Drift Latitudes, Kiran Desai’s Inheritance of Loss, and Caryl Phillips’ A Distant Shore. These authors move away from an idealistic, celebratory view of hybridity as the effortless blending of cultures to a somewhat disenchanted approach to hybridity as a complex negotiation of split subjectivity in an ever-fracturing world. All three novels lend themselves to a psychoanalytic reading, with subjects who imagine themselves to be unitary, but end up having to face their repressed fractured subjectivity in a moment of crisis. The psychoanalytic model of the split between the conscious and the unconscious, then, resonates well with the postcolonial model of the intrinsically fractured hybrid identity. However, while psychoanalysis focuses on internal processes, postcolonialism focuses on external processes. Therefore, I will be making use of a blend of psychoanalytic and postcolonial concepts to analyse and access discursive meanings in the texts. More specifically, I will use Homi Bhabha’s concept of ‘hybridity’, Freud’s concept of the ‘uncanny’, and Zygmunt Bauman’s concept of ‘the stranger’ as distinctive, yet interconnected conceptual lenses through which to view all three of these transcultural novels.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In die afgelope eeu het meer mense as ooit vantevore, om ‘n verskeidenheid redes, lands- en kultuurgrense oorgesteek. Tesame met die voortdurende vooruitgang van kommunikasietegnologie, het dit tot gevolg dat afgebakende grense, skeidings en verskille nie meer so maklik definieerbaar is as wat hulle eens was nie. Hierdie proses, waarna in die algemeen verwys word as ‘globalisering’, het gelei tot die groeiende neiging van ‘multikulturalisme’ en ‘kulturele hibriditeit’. Dit is terminologie wat dikwels in verband gebring word met feestelike beskouings van ons postmoderne, post-koloniale wêreld as ‘n kleurryke smeltkroes van kulture. Wat hierdie feestelike beskouings egter gerieflikheidshalwe verkies om te ignoreer, is die feit dat die toenemende voorkoms van hibriditeit ‘n groeiende aantal mense in ‘n pynlike posisie tussen identiteite plaas waar hulle nòg vis nòg vlees (“neither just this/nor just that” [Dayal 47]), nòg die Een… nòg die Ander is… maar eerder iets anders buiten.. (“neither the One… nor the Other… but something else besides” [Bhabha Commitment 41]). Miskien in ‘n poging om hierdie onkunde die hoof te bied, is ‘n nuwe geslag skrywers – wat die eise van migrasie eerstehands ervaar het – besig om met ‘n ontwikkelende genre van transkulturele literatuur ‘n stem te gee aan hierdie pynlike ‘plek’ op die periferie van kulture en identiteite. Hierdie literatuur handel tipies oor die kwessies van identiteit wat nou verwant is aan globalisering en multikulturalisme. In my tesis kyk ek na drie sulke romans: Jamal Mahjoub se The Drift Latitudes, Kiran Desai se Inheritance os Loss en Caryl Phillips se A Distant Shore. Hierdie skrywers beweeg weg van die idealistiese, feestelike beskouing van hibriditeit as die moeitelose vermenging van kulture na ‘n meer realistiese uitbeelding van hibriditeit as ‘n ingewikkelde vergestalting van verdeelde subjektiwiteite in ‘n verbrokkelende wêreld. Al drie romans leen hulle tot die lees daarvan uit ‘n psigo-analitiese oogpunt, met karakters wat hulself as eenvormig beskou, maar uiteindelik in ‘n krisis-oomblik te staan kom voor die werklikheid van hul onderdrukte verbrokkelde subjektiwiteit. Die psigo-analitiese model van die breuk tussen die bewuste en die onbewuste weerklink welluidend in die post-koloniale model van die intrinsiek verbrokkelde hibriede identiteit. Terwyl psigo-analise egter op interne prosesse toegespits is, fokus post-kolonialisme op eksterne prosesse. Derhalwe gebruik ek ‘n vermenging van psigo-analitiese en post-koloniale konsepte om uiteenlopende betekenisse in die onderskeie tekste te analiseer en hulle toeganklik te maak. Meer spesifiek gebruik ek Homi Bhabha se konsep van hibriditeit, Freud se konsep van die ‘geheimsinnige / onheilspellende’ en Zygmunt Bauman se konsep van ‘die vreemdeling’ as kenmerkende, maar steeds onderling verwante konseptuele lense waardeur aldrie transkulturele romans beskou word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/1876
This item appears in the following collections: