At home in the diaspora: Domesticity and nationalism in postwar and contemporary Caribbean-British fiction

Kim Caroline Evelyn, University of Rhode Island

Abstract

This project investigates the ways in which home is conceptualized and represented in sixty years of the literature of the Caribbean diaspora in Britain by balancing texts from the post-World War II period with contemporary texts and considering how the diaspora has been imagined and reimagined. Making a home of a diaspora—typically considered as a collection of scattered and ostracized migrants—requires a conceptual leap, act of agency, and, sometimes, a flight of imagination. Through the imagery of domesticity and the rhetoric of nationalism, literary analyses of representations of diaspora allow us to explore the imagined constructs of diasporic homes. This project explores how each presents a way of claiming a place as home and illustrates the literary tradition's meaningful focus on migrants' ability to create homes or to claim oppression-resistant spaces and lay claim to the nation. In doing so, these texts illustrate that instead of necessarily being a marker of displacement, the diaspora has the potential to provide a sense of home to people removed from their countries of origin.^ After the Second World War, migration from the British West Indies (the contemporaneous term) to Britain, the "mother country," increased unprecedentedly as Britain held out the promise of belonging through its colonial hegemony and legal British nationality for colonial subjects, yet migrating black British subjects were overwhelmingly socially excluded. The governmental, political, and popular rhetoric of this exclusion contributed to the level of racism migrants encountered in all areas of life and by 1962 they had been reframed and redefined as invasive foreign immigrants through the debates, bills, acts, memoranda, government reports, editorials, and biased reporting. The literature of the Caribbean diaspora in Britain takes this up as a central thematic concern and, in representing the diaspora, depicts it as shaping Caribbean and black British identity while providing insight into a remarkable confrontation between colonial subjects and colonial power.^ Literary criticism concerning diaspora texts often focuses on psychological exile, authenticity, or the immigrant writer as a privileged intellectual abroad. Diaspora studies inclusive of the British Caribbean diaspora tend to fall into two groups: those with sociology-based foci on the dispersal of peoples longing for their nations of origin; or cultural studies-based examinations of the significance and experience of nation and multiculturalism. The cumulative result of these approaches has been an emphasis on fragmentation or rupture. This is important, yet the literature of the Caribbean diaspora also represents displacement as potentially unifying as the diaspora itself becomes a home to its members. "At Home in the Diaspora" rethinks experiences of diaspora and contends that migration is not plainly a matter of displacement because diasporic connections complicate the ways in which we can understand displacement.^

Subject Area

Black Studies|Literature, Caribbean|Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Kim Caroline Evelyn, "At home in the diaspora: Domesticity and nationalism in postwar and contemporary Caribbean-British fiction" (2015). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3688334.
http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/dissertations/AAI3688334

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