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Book Review: The Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism


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Review by Sunanda, York University

Published in the Journal of Commonwealth
and Postcolonial Studies.

Published in: Education
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Book Review: The Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism

  1. 1. Journal of Commonwealth BOOK REVIEWS 115 and important, it is the political struggles that focus around it that give it Postcolonial Studies explanatory power. It is this connection that is missing and makes the book of little value. Editor: Works Cited Gautam Kundu (Georgia Southern University) Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Associate Editors: Spread of Nationalism. New York, London: Verso, 1983. Richard Flynn (Georgia Southern University) Hobsbawm, Eric J., and Terence O. Ranger, eds. The Invention of Tradition. Paulus Pimomo (Eastern Washington University) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. Kotler, Philip, Somkid Jatusripitac, and Suvit Maesincee. The Marketing of Book Review Editor: Rebecca Weaver-Hightower (University of North Dakota) Nations. New York: Free Press, 1997. Editorial Board: Pravina Cooper Margaret Bass (St. Lawrence University) California State University, Long Beach Deepika Petraglia-Bahri (Emory University) Timothy Brennan (University of Minnesota) Mary Lou Emery (University of Iowa) The Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalisfn , by Nyla Ali Khan. Vinay Lal (UCLA) New York: Routledge, 2005 . 132 pages. Neil Lazarus (University of Warwick) Bemth Lindfors (University of Texas at Austin) Saree Makdisi (University of California at Los Angeles) Pushpa Parekh (Spelman College) The starting point of Nyla Khan's The Fiction of Nationality in an Era of John Rooks (Morris College) Transnationalism is the paradox that transnationalism both demolishes and Robert Ross (University of Texas at Austin) extends the boundaries of nationalism in a xenophobic, essentialist, and Henry Schwarz (Georgetown University) a fundamentalist variety of neo-nationalism. The trans-territorization of David Stouck (Simon Fraser University) socioeconomic, political, and cultural practices leads to identity polarization between the "authentic" and "demonic" in diasporic communities. Khan studies Journal Design and Layout: these transnational practices as they impact the cannonical understanding of Elizabeth J. Deeley (Georgia Southern University) literary texts of four South Asian Anglophones writers, V. S. Naipaul, Manuscripts for publication must be written in English and submitted in duplicate. The Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, and Anita Desai. Khan attempts this reading approximate length should preferably be between 4,000-5,000 words (i.e., 14-18 typed, double- through a symbiosis of fiction and contemporary history, particularly the Ram spaced pages), and must follow the MLA Style Manual format. Manuscripts should be sent Janunabhoomi agitation of 1989. Her other major focus is on how transnational to: identities are related to the invention, transmission, and revision of nationalist histories. Specifically, she explores how South Asian identity is negotiated in The Editor Western spaces and aims to establish that writers "create an interstitial space Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies between cosmopolitan and the parochial where they might observe other Department of Literature and Philosophy Georgia Southern University resistance histories and political agendas in order to speak in a transnational P. O. Box 8023 discourse"(7). Statesboro, GA 30460-8023 Transnationalism in this analysis takes national identities as its centrifuge. Inevitably, this not only creates the idea of an "originary home" but also gives Subscriptions for this bi-annual journal should be sent to the same address. it a cultural and historical staffs. Thus, in the Indian context, transnational Annual rates are: "bigots" in the UK and USA were involved in a construction of a mythic Individuals: $20.00 history based on an assertion of "macuslinist virility and national tradition in Institutions: $40.00 a classically fascist form" which translates into the erasure of "Indus Valley"
  2. 2. 116 BOOK REVIEWS BOOK REVIEWS Civilization and its replacement by "Indus-Saraswati" Civilization, one of the the book rightly reminds us, nationalism is increasingly becoming a f: central controversies of South Asian historiography. in this age of transnationalism. In chapter II, Khan examines A mong the Believers: A n Islamic Journey in In a work like this, or for that matter in any work, it is inevitabl< which Naipaul traverses Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia "ripped personal politics would intrude. A theoretical position that would have apart culturally and economically by imperialism, nationalism, religious more attuned to her reading of fiction and history would have to estE revival and transnationalism" (6). She examines Naipaul's assertion that in multi-originary foundations of Indian syncretism instead of assertin€ these cases, Islam helps subjects to forge transnational identities as hegemonic "the ancient scriptures of Hinduism are associated with the advent c and essentialized as that of nation-states. Khan is at pains to show that the Aryan people from the northwest" (3). I find the very idea of acceptin; transnational identity always exists in a state of perpetual struggle. She or any other myth disquieting because they all demand essentialist reap argues that Naipaul overlooks the fact that territorialization of social identities of history and establish "monologic nationalist" identities. Yet right afte provides an alternative to loyalty to the nation-state. statement Khan says, "Hinduism is a syncretic tradition that has ev( In Chapter III, Khan deals with Rushdie's Satanic V erses to show that through a coiruningling of various cultures and traditions" (3), which ami Rushdie's agenda is complex and difficult to decipher all the more so since to saying that all Hindu scriptures are trans-territorial and of singular (A the various layers that constitute identity, the simultaneity of good and origin, but Hinduism is syncretic. evil, histories, locations, and personalities lead to a celebratory discourse On the plus side, this book is a contribution to the growing corp of hybridity. Rushdie, therefore, "encourages a nationalist self-imagining literary analysis that redefines the categories of "national" literature anc and a re-writing of history that incorporates profound cultural, religious help to reach that theoretical position where the South Asian subject wi and linguistic differences into the text" (8). In chapter IV, Khan examines be a dissected political but a diverse cultural, and even a global identity ] Amitava Ghosh's The Shadow Lines where oppositional nationalist and proto- also does well to point out that "in the age of globalization there has be( nationalist movements are shown to be as dark a threat to identities as was unprecedented reversion to local, fundamentalist, and fiercely anti-natioi colonialism. Here the issue is the erasure of regional or "subnationalistic" interests"(9). The idea that transnationalism can also be a regressive move: identities in the face of nationalistic ones. Khan is critical of Ghosh's view that can be the starting point of another literary analysis. In South Asia we Indian diasporic identity lacks a sense of homogeneity based as it is around a a kind of struggle for Independence; Khan establishes the parameters "proliferation of differences." In Chapter V, Khan looks at Desai's depiction struggle-the right to self-definition-that is almost as significant. A; of "unfair treatment" meted out to religious and linguistic minorities of the concludes, "I seek to reinterpret the repressive frameworks of colonia internal hierarchies entrenched by nationalism (13). Khan argues that in the nationalism, proto-nationalism, patriarchy, and universalism that essenti heterogeneity of transnationalism, cultural and linguistic authenticity is a the identities of postcolonial and transnational subjects" (107). "pipe dream," but these transnational authors explore myths in a process Interestingly, in her conclusion, Khan, writing about the "drama o of recuperation and thereby make audible the voices lost at the margins. book," mentions that she is a diasporic Muslim from Kashmir. Consid( All these "rebirths and renamings" take place in the realm of language and that trans/sub-nationalism is the theme of her work and my earlier come imagination. about personal politics, I have to mention that I am a diasporic Hindu Khan's success with the aims she delineates in her introduction is Jammu. The relationship of the writer and reviewer is as dramatic, cl, somewhat mixed. Perhaps the constraints in choosing her authors were too (in both the senses of the term), and hyphenated a relationship as is th severe: they had to be of Indian/South Asian origin, they should deal with Jammu-Kashmir. Objectively speaking, I admit that while negotiating a. South Asian identity and nationalities; they should he Anglophone, and should excruciating nationalistic, transnationalistic, religious, or regional param be canonical. So I certainly agree with her choice of authors, but not always of subjectivity, to even mention my brand of "sub-sub-nationalism" can 1 with her choice of novels. For example, Desai's In Custody is not too happy regressively localized as is transnationalism. To accept the limitations o a choice all the moreso because she ends up analyzing "the imperialism of subjectivities and positions as we engage in literary debates, is then ii Hindi in post-Partition India" that "relegates the poetic language of the lost last measure, the success of the writer of The Fiction of Nationality in an I Muslim empire, Urdu, to the background" (13). The novel does "highlight Transnationalism and perhaps its reviewer. the impoverishment of Muslim identity in post-1947 India," but to overlook the material and economic conditions of growth of English and Hindi and Sunanda Mc attribute them merely to constitutional and official patronage is to believe Y ork Unive that official nationalism is insurmountably overpowering. But, as the title of