Diasporic imaginaries : memory and negotiation of belonging in East African and South African Indian narratives

Ocita, James (2013-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation explores selected Indian narratives that emerge in South Africa and East Africa between 1960 and 2010, focusing on representations of migrations from the late 19th century, with the entrenchment of mercantile capitalism, to the early 21st century entry of immigrants into the metropolises of Europe, the US and Canada as part of the post-1960s upsurge in global migrations. The (post-)colonial and imperial sites that these narratives straddle re-echo Vijay Mishra‘s reading of Indian diasporic narratives as two autonomous archives designated by the terms, "old" and "new" diasporas. The study underscores the role of memory both in quests for legitimation and in making sense of Indian marginality in diasporic sites across the continent and in the global north, drawing together South Asia, Africa and the global north as continuous fields of analysis. Categorising the narratives from the two locations in their order of emergence, I explore how Ansuyah R. Singh‘s Behold the Earth Mourns (1960) and Bahadur Tejani‘s Day After Tomorrow (1971), as the first novels in English to be published by a South African and an East African writer of Indian descent, respectively, grapple with questions of citizenship and legitimation. I categorise subsequent narratives from South Africa into those that emerge during apartheid, namely, Ahmed Essop‘s The Hajji and Other Stories (1978), Agnes Sam‘s Jesus is Indian and Other Stories (1989) and K. Goonam‘s Coolie Doctor: An Autobiography by Dr Goonam (1991); and in the post-apartheid period, including here Imraan Coovadia‘s The Wedding (2001) and Aziz Hassim‘s The Lotus People (2002) and Ronnie Govender‘s Song of the Atman (2006). I explore how narratives under the former category represent tensions between apartheid state – that aimed to reveal and entrench internal divisions within its borders as part of its technology of rule – and the resultant anti-apartheid nationalism that coheres around a unifying ―black‖ identity, drawing attention to how the texts complicate both apartheid and anti-apartheid strategies by simultaneously suggesting and bridging differences or divisions. Post-apartheid narratives, in contrast to the homogenisation of "blackness", celebrate ethnic self-assertion, foregrounding cultural authentication in response to the post-apartheid "rainbow-nation" project. Similarly, I explore subsequent East African narratives under two categories. In the first category I include Peter Nazareth‘s In a Brown Mantle (1972) and M.G. Vassanji‘s The Gunny Sack (1989) as two novels that imagine Asians‘ colonial experience and their entry into the post-independence dispensation, focusing on how this transition complicates notions of home and national belonging. In the second category, I explore Jameela Siddiqi‘s The Feast of the Nine Virgins (1995), Yasmin Alibhai-Brown‘s No Place Like Home (1996) and Shailja Patel‘s Migritude (2010) as post-1990 narratives that grapple with political backlashes that engender migrations and relocations of Asian subjects from East Africa to imperial metropolises. As part of the recognition of the totalising and oppressive capacities of culture, the three authors, writing from both within and without Indianness, invite the diaspora to take stock of its role in the fermentation of political backlashes against its presence in East Africa.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie fokus op geselekteerde narratiewe deur skrywers van Indiër-oorsprong wat tussen 1960 en 2010 in Suid-Afrika en Oos-Afrika ontstaan om uitbeeldings van migrerings en verskuiwings vanaf die einde van die 19e eeu, ná die vestiging van handelskapitalisme, immigrasie in die vroeë 21e eeu na die groot stede van Europa, die VS en Kanada, te ondersoek, met die oog op navorsing na die toename in globale migrasies. Die (post-)koloniale en imperial liggings wat in hierdie narratiewe oorvleuel, beam Vijay Mishra se lesing van diasporiese Indiese narratiewe as twee outonome argiewe wat deur die terme "ou" en "nuwe" diasporas aangedui word. Hierdie proefskrif bestudeer die manier waarop herinneringe benut word, nie alleen in die soeke na legitimisering en burgerskap nie, maar ook om tot 'n beter begrip te kom van die omstandighede wat Asiërs na die imperiale wêreldstede loods. Ek kategoriseer die twee narratiewe volgens die twee lokale en in die volgorde waarin hulle verskyn het en bestudeer Ansuyah R Singh se Behold the Earth Mourns (1960) en Bahadur Tejani se Day After Tomorrow (1971) as die eerste roman wat deur 'n Suid-Afrikaanse en 'n Oos-Afrikaanse skrywe van Indiese herkoms in Engels gepubliseer is, en die wyse waarop hulle onderskeidelik die kwessies van burgerskap en legitimisasie benader. In daaropvolgende verhale van Suid-Afrika, onderskei ek tussen narratiewe at hul onstaan in die apartheidsjare gehad het, naamlik The Hajji and Other Stories deur Ahmed Essop, Jesus is Indian and Other Stories (1989) deur Agnes Sam en Coolie Doctor: An Autobiography by Dr. Goonam deur K. Goonam; uit die post-apartheid era kom The Wedding (2001) deur Imraan Covadia en The Lotus People (2002) deur Aziz Hassim, asook Song of the Atman (2006) deur Ronnie Govender. Ek kyk hoe die verhale in die eerste kategorie spanning beskryf tussen die apartheidstaat — en die gevolglike anti-apartheidnasionalisme in 'n eenheidskeppende "swart" identiteit — om die aandag te vestig op die wyse waarop die tekste sowel apartheid- as anti-apartheid strategieë kompliseer deur tegelykertyd versoeningsmoontlikhede en verdeelheid uit te beeld. Post-apartheid verhale, daarenteen, loof eerder etniese selfbemagtiging met die klem op kulturele outentisiteit in reaksie op die post-apartheid bevordering van 'n "reënboognasie", as om 'n homogene "swartheid" voor te staan. Op dieselfde manier bestudeer ek die daaropvolgende Oos-Afrikaanse verhale onder twee kategorieë. In die eerste kategorie sluit ek In an Brown Mantle (1972) deur Peter Nazareth en The Gunny Sack (1989) deur M.G. Vassanjiin, as twee romans wat Asiërs se koloniale geskiedenis en hul toetrede tot die post-onafhanklikheid bedeling uitbeeld (verbeeld) (imagine), met die klem op die wyse waarop hierdie oorgang begrippe van samehorigheid kompliseer. In die tweede kategorie kyk ek na The Feast of the Nine Virgins (1995) deur Jameela Siddiqi, No Place Like Home (1996) deur Yasmin Alibhai en Migritude (2010) deur Shaila Patel as voorbeelde van post-1990 verhale wat probleme met die politieke teenreaksies en verskuiwings van Asiër-onderdane vanuit Oos-Afrika na wêreldstede aanspreek. As deel van die erkenning van die totaliserende en onderdrukkende kapasiteit van kultuur, vra die drie skrywers – as Indiërs en as wêreldburgers – die diaspora om sy rol in die opstook van politieke teenreaksie teen sy teenwoordigheid in Oos-Afrika onder oënskou te neem.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/80354
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