Thursday, May 12, 2011

Abstract 2011 Hana Waisserová

Hana Waisserová, Masaryk University, Brno

South Asian transnational womanhood by Lahihi: Re-Writing South Asian gender roles?

Lahiri’s heroine Moushomi in The Namesake  represents a gendered voice of critical cosmopolitanism. She represents an ethnic cosmopolitan woman and postcolonial global migrant. Using her character, Lahiri opens debate on gendered belonging and naturalization within national, transnational and even nationless spaces. This paper focuses on transformation of SA heroine in cosmopolitan transcultural space, which allows for the existence of critical cosmopolitan gendered characters. It explores  Lahiri’s gendered-specific identities of  critical cosmopolitans who operate in Appadurai’s “ethnoscape in deterritorialized space.”  While cosmopolitanism has been stripped down to artificial aspects of a cultural construct and is criticised for hardly addressing the immigration identities in full complexity (Appadurai), it is also treated as a positive concept that appreciates differentiation rather than simple negations (Hall). Though cosmopolitanism is scrutinized and distinguished according to current needs of modern critical realms -- e.g., as vernacular (Bhabha), wounded (Kristeva), or subaltern (de Sousa Santos) -- this article focuses on critical cosmopolitan space that allows to reconstitue and re-imagine gendered scapes and identities as such. It implies the use of double consciousness, comparisons or self-reflections, but also critical internationalism and critical globalization, as well as a new reflection on reflection that is so characteristic for gendered writing and projections. Often the SA feminine subjectivity is constructed and interpreted as miraculous mixture of contradictions. Female constructs expose traditional dichotomies deeply embedded in Indian culture, yet, transnational heroines challenge traditional dichotomies when Indian women aspire to be powerless victimized women, and powerful goddesses at the same time.  Amrita Basu observes that local women of power speak from positions of moral superiority conditioned by their chastity, and they represent no challenge to patriarchal values (Basu 3-14). Transnational setting of global and contemporary context examines the heritage of colonial and nationalistic patriarchal pressures. The transnational setting allows for specific cultural, historical and political conditions to be delineated in the present, including possible re-evaluation of gender roles in the third world or the global bordereless space. Perhaps, Moushomi becomes a project of   historiographic metafiction (Hutcheon 105-123). Indirectly, she embodies the new gendered consciousness, pointing  out the problematic accounts of official colonial history, and it allows to rediscover the suppressed histories via constructs of memory, fantasy, narrative and myth. Hutcheon's concept allows for new perspectives on history and identities to rise out of culturally marginal positions, especially it stresses new perspectives on the indigenous/native woman (metafiction operates from mythological positions). Last but not least, the transnational imaginery shapes the images heavily influenced by nationalist discourse.  Plain, complaisant and subservient icon of good Indian womanhood (like Ashima in The Namesake) seems to show some empowerment and transnational features eventually or to transform due to transnational environment. Women tend to examine and adopt or oppose western values of self-reliance, independent thinking over eastern task persistence alike.  Perhaps, Moushomi is a self-made woman, who clumsily and passionately makes her choices while re-writing the gender roles from the position of the true transnational, though her woman's position in these redefining efforts is still ambivalent.

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