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Diasporic Mediations: Between Home and Location

R. Radhakrishnan
Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Diasporic Mediations
    Book Description:

    In the heated, often rancorous debates that are the “culture wars,” identity politics has been at the center of both popular and academic discussion. In this series of meditations on the relationship between theory and practice, R. Radhakrishnan probes the intersections of poststructuralism and postcoloniality that lie at the heart of contemporary controversies over identity and difference.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8664-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxx)

    Finding a title for this collection has not been easy, mainly because each of the essays here is both its own autonomous context and part of a process: a process of change, adjustment, and negotiation. Naming a process is problematic: how and where does one get a normative entry into a process?

    The point-of-entry problem was resolved almost fortuitously by the single adjective “diasporic,” hence the present title,Diasporic Mediations. It became a way of acknowledging where I am: my present academic-immigrant location in the United States. Does my present location have a theme all its own, or is it...

  2. 1 The Changing Subject and the Politics of Theory
    (pp. 1-26)

    How does one change the subject?¹ Is the “one” the subject that changes itself? What are the limits of such a recursive, autotransformational project? To play a little on the very phrase, “changing the subject,” are we involved here in a facetiousdetouror digression, a form of inattention or irresponsibility whereby we are changing the subject? Or, are we talking about an epistemological “break” that simultaneously changes the subject and the very discourse in which change is being theorized? Is “change” the main theme of which the “subject” is the fleeting instance, or are we talking about the “subject”...

  3. 2 Toward an Effective Intellectual: Foucault or Gramsci?
    (pp. 27-61)

    Any attempt at theorizing politics in the poststructuralist context is immediately caught up in a contradiction. On the one hand we experience, more urgently than ever before, the need to posit a common and solidary humanity that faces global threats of unprecedented magnitude. On the other hand, our situation is characterized by an unbounded heterogeneity of subject positions, each of which is a world unto itself insofar as it is informed and semanticized by its own macropolitics. These subject positions are indeed so diverse and, as instances of a nonsynchronous global development, so hopelessly out of sync with one another...

  4. 3 Ethnic Identity and Poststructuralist Differance
    (pp. 62-79)

    Ethnic “identity” and “differance”: surely an untenable conjunction. Well, the purpose of this chapter is to suggest that such a conjunction is not only tenable, but also desirable and, in a sense, ineluctable. I also articulate the intersection of “ethnicity” with “difference” or “differance” and suggest ways in which this reciprocal “identification” can, on the one hand, historicize and situate the radical politics of “indeterminancy” while, on the other, situating the politics of empowerment as a transgression of the algorithm of “identity.”

    The constituency of “the ethnic” occupies quite literally a “pre-post”-erous space where it has to actualize, enfranchize, and...

  5. 4 Culture as Common Ground: Ethnicity and Beyond
    (pp. 80-95)

    My purpose here is to consider the textual structure of race in the contemporary American context and the implication of this structure in the larger cultural field. When I say “textual structure,” I wish to raise the following questions: What history is embodied in this structure? Who is the “subject/object” of such a text and what are the formal conventions that generate this text? Who reads and interprets this text and from what point of view? Given the ideology of race and its resurgence lately, what common interests and visions are being denied their sense of history, constituency, and self-representation?...

  6. 5 Canonicity and Theory: Toward a Poststructuralist Pedagogy
    (pp. 96-118)

    An essay on pedagogy should, I believe, begin in the classroom, so here are two situations as they occur in the classroom. After narrating these two scenarios, I will analyze them from a poststructuralist perspective, setting up the framework of the entire chapter in the process.

    The first situation is almost comical in its typicality. The teacher hands back papers, the student looks at the grade, reads through the comments scribbled by the teacher on the margins and between the lines, shakes her head in shock and astonishment, and finally gathers enough courage to go up to the teacher to...

  7. 6 Negotiating Subject Positions in an Uneven World
    (pp. 119-132)

    Among the politically progressive aspects of poststructuralist thought has been its capacity to enable a dialogic and often contestatory articulation between “history as representation” and “history as production.” The pressure has been particularly severe on the form known as “narrative,” for now it has to tell a story or represent a reality as though it were a transcendental signified, and at the same time foreground this very activity of representation as an unnatural mode of production. The authority of the narrative is thus schizophrenically divided between a commitment to a truth value that is anterior to the narrative intervention and...

  8. 7 Cultural Theory and the Politics of Location
    (pp. 133-154)

    It is unfortunate that we will not have the advantage of Raymond Williams’s insights into the changing nature of the Left in the Eastern bloc countries. It would seem that the optimism and the sense of agency that Williams strove to keep alive during difficult and daunting times, with the poverty of ideology, on the one hand, and the sense of determinism produced by technology, on the other, have in a sense found concrete historical shape in the emancipatory subaltern movements throughout Eastern Europe. Of course, there is a relationship of both affinity and asymmetry between Williams's projects of hope...

  9. 8 Postcoloniality and the Boundaries of Identity
    (pp. 155-184)

    Why is it that the term “postcoloniality” has found such urgent currency in the first world but is in fact hardly ever used within the formerly colonized worlds of South Asia and Africa?¹ What is the secret behind the academic formation called “postcoloniality” and its complicity with certain forms of avantgarde Eurocentric cultural theory? Is the entire world “postcolonial,” and if so, can every world citizen lay claim to an “equal postcoloniality,” that is, without any historical reference to the asymmetries that govern the relationship between the worlds of the former colonizers and the colonized? Is “postcoloniality” (notice the ontological-nominalist...

  10. 9 Nationalism, Gender, and the Narrative of Identity
    (pp. 185-202)

    In a recent essay entitled “The Nationalist Resolution of the Women’s Question,” Partha Chatterjee elaborates the complex relationship between women’s politics and the politics of Indian nationalism. His point is that while the women’s question “was a central issue in some of the most controversial debates over social reform in early and mid-nineteenth century Bengal,” this very issue disappeared from the public agenda by the end of the century. “From then onwards,” Chatterjee observes, “questions regarding the position of women in society do not arouse the same degree of passion as they did only a few decades before. The overwhelming...

  11. 10 Is the Ethnic “Authentic” in the Diaspora?
    (pp. 203-214)

    My eleven-year-old son asks me, “Am I Indian or American?” The question excites me, and I think of the not-too-distant future when we will discuss the works of Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison, Amitav Ghosh, Jamaica Kincaid, Bessie Head, Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston, and many others who have agonized over the question of identity through their multivalent narratives. I tell him he isbothand offer him brief and down-to-earth definitions of ethnicity and how it relates to nationality and citizenship. He follows me closely and says, “Yeah, Dad [or he might have said “Appa”], I am both,” and a...