How do the concepts border,” exile,” and diaspora” shape individual and group identities across cultures? Taking this question as a point of departure, this wide-ranging volume explores the ways that people create and represent a home away from home. Throughout, the authors emphasize the multiple subjectivities, cultural displacements, and identity politics that have characterized the postcolonial and post-World War II eras. They simultaneously affirm and challenge previous understandings of these three terms, and they investigate their malleabilitythe extent to which they apply to diverse communities.
Once the idea of diaspora is dissociated from the historical experiences of a particular group of people, it becomes a universal designation, applicable to all displaced groups. This understanding of diaspora also allows for the creation of a nonnormative” intellectual community, one experienced by many contemporary critics and with which they identify. In the postcolonial context, a global middle voice” emerges that incorporates the critic and his or her identity as the participant-observer of the discourses on identity. As personal narratives transcend the autobiographical, they become indispensable guarantors of a free theoretical field, without a priori boundaries. The diaspora’s voice is thus national and cultural, but it lacks the nation or the geographical definition that would constrain its subject.
The essays in this volume approach the ideas of border, exile, and diaspora primarily as subjects of literary representations while recognizing the political stakes of diasporic identity. They synthesize the poetic with the political, but they also probe the existential consequences of displacement and cultural dislocation. The essays compel us to examine, within a dialogical complex, antagonistic but concurrent phenomena endowed with a new internal logic. This volume serves as a canvas representing the open-ended, discontinuous, and syncretic nature of the postmodern world. Rather than give definitive answers, the essays provide contingent responses to the myriad questions about culture, identity, and language embedded in modern history.