Canadian Literatures Beyond the Colour Line: Re-Reading the Category of South-Asian Canadian Literature
Lobb, Diana Frances
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This dissertation examines current academic approaches to reading South Asian-Canadian literature as a multicultural “other” to Canadian national literature and proposes an alternative reading strategy that allows for these texts to be read within a framework of South Asian diasporic subjectivities situated specifically at the Canadian location. Shifting from the idea that “Canada” names a particular national identity and national literary culture to the idea that “Canada” names a particular geographic terrain at which different cultural, social, and historical vectors intersect and are creolized allows for a more nuanced reading of South Asian-Canadian literature, both in terms of its relationship to the complex history of the South Asian diaspora and in terms of the complex history of South Asian encounters with the Canadian space. Reading prose, poetry, drama, and theatrical institutions as locations where a specifically South Asian-Canadian diasporic subjectivity is reflected, I am able to map a range of individual negotiations among the cultural vector of the “ancestral” past, the cultural vector of the influence of European colonialism, and the cultural vector of this place that demonstrate that the negotiation of South Asian-Canadian diasporic subjectivity and its reflection in literature cannot be understood as producing a homogenous or “authentic” cultural identity. Instead, the literary expression of South Asian-Canadian diasporic subjectivity argues that the outcome of negotiations between cultural vectors that take place in this location are as unique as the individuals who undertake those negotiations. These individual negotiations, I argue, need to be read collectively to trace out a continuum of possible expressions of South Asian-Canadian diasporic subjectivity, a continuum that emphasizes that the processes of negotiation are on-going and flexible. This dissertation challenges the assumption that Canadian literature can be contained within the limits of a Canadian nationalist mythology or ethnography. Instead of the literature of the Canadian “nation” or the Canadian “people,” Canadian literature is best understood as the literature produced in this location by all the “minority” populations, including the dominant “minority.” Reading Canadian literature, then, is reading the differential relationships to history and community that occur in this place and which are inscribed in these collectively Canadian texts.
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