This article explores the representation of non-elite immigrants from South Asia to the United States in the fiction of Kiran Desai and Ameena Hussein. The works of these two writers shift the conventional representation of South Asian immigration to the United States as a middle and upper class phenomenon to a representation of the ways that non-elite South Asian immigrant experiences connect with the experiences of immigrants from around the world whose mobility is limited and whose imagined version of their prospective host country is shaped by incomplete and even illusory information.
Immigration and Class in Contemporary South Asian/American Fiction
Walter S.H. Lim
In this comparative article focusing on the representation of the migration experience of two recent first-generation Asian-American authors, I consider the ways that Mukherjee and Lim's possession of important symbolic capital, their solid tertiary education, and excellent first language proficiency in English condition their portrayal of this transition from the old to the new country. If possessing such symbolic capital lends important support for any immigrant desire for American naturalization and belonging, does Mukherjee's portrayal of Jasmine's insertion into American social and cultural life and Lim's own professional positioning in the American academy register tensions and contradictions in their literary representation of the experience of successful assimilation? Do Mukherjee and Lim's prior identities as postcolonial subjects (India and Malaysia were once British colonies) inflect in distinctive ways their representation of assimilation and marginalization and home and homelessness in the American Promised Land that is the controlling telos of Asian immigrant desire?
On 20 June 2006, Andrew Irving and I took a class of students to the Montreal Holocaust Museum. The students were attending Irving’s course, “Deathly Encounters: The Anthropology of Death, Consciousness, and the Body,” at Concordia University. He had arranged for a guided tour of the museum exhibit and for the class to hear the testimony of one of Montreal’s large number of Holocaust survivors.
Julia D. Harrison
Touristic travel is about ‘going away’ and ‘coming home.’ In what follows I offer some reflection on how a group of middle and uppermiddle class Canadian tourists imagined ‘home’ in the context of their frequent travels ‘away’ – a group I have labelled ‘travel enthusiasts.’ I position these imaginings in relation to others who travel around the globe, those I am calling ‘transnationals’ – the migrants, the refugees, the exiles and the immigrants of the postmodern world.
Emily Eden and the Theatrics of Empire
This article examines the representation of Indian spaces in the 1830s/1840s travel writing of Emily Eden, sister of the Governor-General of India, and the ways in which these representations shape a fictional 'journey' into Victorian middle-class suburbia in her 1859 novel The Semi-Detached House. Eden's letters home set up an opposition between Indian spaces as essentially public and intrusive, and her remembered English spaces as the secure locations of private selfhood. However, this opposition is challenged by the theatricality of imperial ritual, which turns all spaces into stages of one form or another. These experiences inform Eden's fictional depiction of London suburbia, nearly twenty years later. The tropes of her travel writing are invoked to characterise a journey across class spaces, as the aristocratic protagonists of The Semi-Detached House venture into suburbia and encounter a different form of 'alien other': their bourgeois neighbours. A narrative of cross-class reconciliation ensues, whose apparent security is, however, undercut by the parallels between imperial ritual and bourgeois suburbia's staging of intimate family life.
Lady Annie Brassey’s Curated Collections
Alison Clark, Catherine Harvey, Louise Kenward, and Julian Porter
Lady Annie Brassey (1839–1887) was a well-known Victorian travel writer who was also a collector, photographer, ethnographer, zoologist, and botanist and who traveled around the world aboard the privately owned yacht the Sunbeam. During these voyages she amassed a collection of approximately six thousand objects. Much more than tourist souvenirs, the collection shows a rigorous academic understanding of the disciplines she was collecting within. The ethnographic material, which makes up one-third of the collection, has gained little attention. Using her travel writing as a primary source, this article will interrogate Brassey’s role as the maker of this collection, someone whose class allowed her to travel and to pursue museum collection, curation, and education to a near-professional level. Through three case studies this article will consider how she collected and curated her own museum and used her collection for public benefit.
Gazing Across Borders
Geographical, political, and historical contexts foreground the relationship between Americans of Mexican heritage and Mexican citizens. Contemporary US struggles over Mexican immigration and the focus on border studies also mark the significance of this relationship. This article analyzes chicano author Gary Keller's short story, "The Raza Who Scored Big in Anáhuac," with a specific focus on this crucial relationship. Employing the work of John Urry and others, this article takes a critical look at the mechanism of the 'gaze' and the way that it functions in heritage tourism. In doing so, it calls into question the presumed innocence of tourism and its constant companion, photography - an extension of the 'gaze.' Moving beyond the protagonist's illusion of the potential for a cultural connection across borders, this article culminates in an analysis of class, the final denominator between the Mexican American and the mexicano.
An Urban Journey into Violence and Back
A strange contradiction haunts the urban experience of Ahmedabad, a city strongly divided along class and communal lines. The city's Sabarmati river is traversed by seven modern bridges, which, instead of being a solution to the problem of separation, have assumed its very form. In ordinary life, as well as during extraordinary events, residents of the city use these bridges not only to span space and gain access to the other half of the city, but also to escape and confine, project and expiate, and even to remain hidden while in full view. This article describes experiences of separation in Ahmedabad and how these experiences become expressed in reference to its bridges. In other words, urban structures, intended to overcome physical space and represent the modern promise of connectivity, become, instead, embodiments of division.
The Travel Writing of Shan Shili (1856-1943)
The turn of the twentieth century witnessed a major sea-change in the Chinese cultural landscape: what was known earlier as xixue (Western learning) was becoming xinxue (new learning), advocated by reformists as a necessity for national survival; in 1905, the civil service examination was abolished and with it disappeared the career ladder of the literati class; soon after the fall of the Qing empire in 1911, the movement to abolish classical Chinese as the literary language would sweep the entire cultural scene. This volatile period was one in which the age-old authority of wen (words, culture) was fast waning; and with it the tradition of women’s learning epitomized by the cainü (talented women) would lose legitimacy as well.1 The next generation of women writers would write in an entirely different mode; many of them would no longer remember the existence of a longstanding women’s culture.
Food in Writing by Nineteenth-Century British Travellers to the Balkans
The interest in the narrative and ideological parameters of travel writing,1 which has been an important feature of the Western European and North American academic contexts over the last fifteen years or so, is undoubtedly a reflection of the unique position of the genre as an area thematising and problematising cultural difference and otherness and as a meeting point of varying discourses of gender, race/ethnicity, class, power, domination and counter-domination. Travel narratives have played a key role in current theoretical debates in postcolonial studies, feminism, cultural studies and comparative literature. To my mind, a considerable number of the critical texts that they have engendered in those fields, appear to privilege a particular analytical strategy focusing on the interpretation of what Laura E. Ciolkowski has termed ‘gender-coded visual power’ (1998: 343). This power operates through the travelling subject’s gaze, which is intent upon the construction of the relatively stationary object(s) of his/her observation. By persistently privileging the analysis of the gaze critics have tended to ignore and even erase other aspects of the complex processes of mediation and negotiation in which travellers and ‘travellees’ are involved.