Special issue of Asiatic, June 2012
Expatriation, Immigration and Return in Recent South Asian Fiction
Guest Editor: Professor Fakrul Alam, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
In the first phase of South Asian fiction written in English, its writers were rooted in India and wrote entirely about the subcontinent and its people based on their vision of the quotidian experience of Indians. In their very different ways, Mulk Raj Anand, R. K. Narayan and Raja Rao authored novels about people and places in colonial India to represent distinctive Indian ways of life. It was perhaps Kamala Markandaya’s The Nowhere Man (1972) that began a phase of the South Asian novel in English where characters from the subcontinent are set in overseas locales to depict the complexities of acculturation, but it was only in the 1980s that a generation of writers emerged who were mostly bent on telling diasporic stories. Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses (1988) no doubt attracted disproportionate attention due to its controversial treatment of Asian immigrants in England, but many other novelists of the subcontinent preoccupied themselves with tales set in the West that dealt with what Bharati Mukherjee had characterized in one of her nonfictional pieces as either “the aloofness of expatriation” or “the exuberance of immigration”. Any numbers of writers from the subcontinent were now attracted to fictionalizing diaspora. For example, the peripatetic Amitav Ghosh in the The Circle of Reason (1986) told stories of the outward flow of dispossessed people to the Middle East or beyond while the Pakistani born Bapsi Sidhwa, now settled in the United States, combined her experience of continents in An American Brat (1994), or Monica Ali, a writer of Bangladeshi origin, juxtaposed immigrant lives with deshi ones in Brick Lane (2003). In other words, there was great variety in the fiction of writers who had chosen to narrate stories of South Asian diasporas in their works.
A clutch of new novels that have been published in recent years, however, signal the arrival of a new phase of South Asian fiction in English where the novelists are fascinated by either the mythos of return or legendary tales of outward flows. Thus, Priya Basil’s The Obscure Logic of the Heart, Tishani Doshi’s The Pleasure Seekers, Shilpi Somaya Goda’s Secret Daughter and Roma Tearne’s The Swimmer, all published in 2010, have a few things in common: they are novels by writers of South Asian origin who have settled overseas or moved to the West in their childhood or are descendants of Indian families who have become immigrants for some time now; they are all novels written from a desire to overcome feelings of aloofness and loss incurred by diasporas and by a longing for reconciliation with what was left behind; they all straddle cultures and attempt to unite families and people across space, time and political and racial borders. In this they differ from a novel of disgruntled return, Mohsin Hamid’s 9/11 inspired The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Finally, two novels published in 2010, Amitav Ghosh’s The Sea of Poppies (2008) and Tabish Khair’s The Thing about Thugs (2010) indicate that South Asian novelists are now also drawn to tell tales of the outward flow of their people that have been occluded for long or that have acquired legendary status at this time.
For this special issue of the Asiatic, we seek essays of around 5,000 words on the novels that have been published in recent decades on the themes of expatriation, immigration and return in South Asian Fiction. Papers can be on these and other related themes:
Fictions/Novelists of the South Asian Diaspora
South Asian Fictions of Transnational Migration
Aloofness and Expatriation in South Asian Novels
The Mythos of Return in South Asian Fiction
Historical Fiction of the Outward Flow of South Asians
The themes listed above is meant to be suggestive and is no ways to be seen as exhaustive!
The deadline for submission is April 30, 2012. Please send email articles (using British spelling and the MLA Style) to the guest editor of the issue, Professor Fakrul Alam at email@example.com.
Inquiries could also be forwarded to the journal’s editor, Professor Mohammad A. Quayum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also invite author interviews, review articles and book reviews on the subject for this issue.
Fakrul Alam is Professor of English at the University of Dhaka. He has been a Fulbright Scholar and a Visiting Associate Professor at Clemson University, USA, and has also been Visiting Professor at India’s Jadavpur University and Visva-Bharati. He was a member of the jury of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for 2003 (Eurasia region) and is currently an adjudicator for the DSC South Asian Prize for Literature, 2011. He is also the author of Imperial Entanglements and Literature in English (Dhaka: writer’s ink, 2007); South Asian Writers in English (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2006); Jibananada Das: Selected Poems (Dhaka: UPL, 199); Bharati Mukherjee (Boston: Twayne’s Contemporary United States Authors, 1996) and Daniel Defoe: Colonial Propagandist (Dhaka: University of Dhaka Publications, 1989). He has been editor of Dhaka University Studies, Part A (Humanities) and the Asiatic Society Journal. His most recent work, which he has co-authored with Radha Chakravarty, is The Essential Tagore (Boston, Mass.: Harvard UP, April 2011 and Kolkata, Visva-Bharati, August, 2011). His translation of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Unfinished Memoirs will be published in January 2011 by University Press Ltd. in Bangladesh and Penguin Books elsewhere.