Title: Diaspora Theory and Transnationalism
Author: Himadri Lahiri
Publication: Orient BlackSwan: Hyderabad, 2019
Genre: Literary Theory
At the outset, this ‘book’ seems more like a PhD thesis divided into 5 distinguished chapters and an introduction as the prefix with a conclusion as the suffix. Himadri Lahiri, the author, has tried to communicate to the readers of this book that Diaspora Theory has been through many phases since the very discovery of it. He traces the notion of the diaspora a century ago and even before that. However, the author also realises (and realistically enough) that in a literary context, Diaspora Theory is relatively a new invention (or realisation, in better terms). An ideal read for the students of Masters (in India), the book transcends its purpose on many occasions. Nevertheless, the chapters are ordered in a systematic manner that lets the readers understand the perspectives of the author in a comprehensive manner.
Himadri Lahiri begins with various interpretations of the term ‘Diaspora’ and simplifies the meaning of it in an independent manner as well as in the literary context. He goes back to the early impressions of the term and comes to the current explanations of it in a back and forth manner. He decides to go with Michale Reis’ classification of the diaspora into three phases – early, modern and late. Going back to the Greek annals, the author explores various instances of diasporic experiences in historical perspective that comes to the contemporary experiences by various groups, communities and societies. However, the author fails to justify his own words, ‘Homeland is usually considered to be a bounded territory left behind.’ (46) Himadri continues to argue that the ‘Homeland’ is associated with personal and ancestral memory coupled with a strong desire to return and yet, surprisingly enough, he fails to recognise the ‘Diaspora within the nation — Kashmiri Pandits’ in his book!
In the second chapter of this book, the author describes various aspects associated with diaspora and the literature that exemplifies these diasporic elements. Though it may be considered very insignificant for many readers of this book and even the critics, the author seems too inclined to produce the evidence from a certain perspective. If it is (that I believe to be the case), the author must have highlighted the same in his title to make it easy for the readers to understand what to expect from the book. Bangladesh and Muslim immigrants take the centre stage as the book furthers to a conclusion that is narrowed in perspectives and ideas. Monica Ali’s Brick Lane finds an individual chapter and that, for me, countersigns the idea about the book being written from a very precise perspective rather than being a general guide for the readers who want to understand Diaspora and Diasporic in a literary context, especially, literary theory and criticism’s perspective.
“These are among the critical, shaping issues of our day that we bring to our study of literature.”
Allen Hibbard notes in his ‘editor’s preface’ to the book. However, as the book progresses and moves towards the conclusion, the readers who have a sense of literary texts and understand the gravity of literary and critical theory may note, and strikingly enough, that the author is more concerned and interested with a cultural and socio-political perspective of the issue of Diaspora rather than bringing it within the ambit of literary expression. Even in the cultural and political perspectives, we cannot close our eyes to any country’s need to secure its borders (and that the author notes). However, still, the diasporic concerns are there that might be the issues we need to ponder and debate to length.
To conclude the review of this book, I would like to quote some words from Himadri’s conclusion itself.
“Islamophobia is promoted and stereotyped images of Muslim immigrants are presented as a threat to the internal security and cultural well-being of Americans.”
These words find mention in Himadri’s subsection in the concluding chapter of the book, Diaspora Theory and Transnationalism, “Why Diaspora Studies?”. However, these lines only suggest that the author’s strict attention to a certain section of immigrations happening worldwide and diaspora in the literary context per se limit the periphery of book’s objectivity and the readers might not take the advantage as they could have. The author once again forgets that Islamophobia is true to an extent but so is the radical Islamic terrorism and that’s why many nations have put a blanket ban on Muslim’s travelling to their countries and have swept away the entire Muslim immigrant’s population. Therefore, the book, more or less, does not serve the purpose that it could have and it fails to capture the essence of Diaspora Theory and Transnationalism in an objective manner.
For the students studying post-graduation and beyond, this book might be useful in understanding a certain section of the diaspora theory – Islamic Immigration and the Muslim Diaspora. You can get a copy of the book from Amazon India by clicking the link below:
Review by Alok Mishra
Diaspora Theory and Transnationalism
- Content & Analysis
- Themes & Issues
- ELE Final Impression
The book is a very strict study of Muslim Diaspora and its presentation in literature. However, it fails to address the issues that it raises in the title and the introduction to the book.