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Title: Bengal re-imagined : home, identity and the space of Bengal in contemporary fiction of the Bengali diaspora
Author: Chatterjee, Antara
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis examines the (re)constructions of Bengali identity and the rethinking of the Bengali home in the work of contemporary authors of Bengali origin, living in diaspora. It argues that 'Bengal' features importantly as a social, cultural, political and ideological space in the configurations of identity and the articulation of 'home', in the fiction of Jhumpa Lahiri, Tahmima Anam, Monica Ali and Amitav Ghosh. These authors write from different geographical and cultural settings and reveal different national and cultural affiliations. Despite these divergences, they show a common engagement with Bengal as a historically and culturally determined space and with the Bengali home as a contested and interrupted site. Through a choice of authors tracing their origins back to India and Bangladesh, as well as embedded in the different diasporic locations of the US and the UK, I demonstrate how these contemporary mappings of Bengaliness are distinguished according to affiliation and location. My thesis shows how Bengali identity and the Bengali home are reconstructed differently, based on different nationalistic and reli gious affiliations, thereby revealing different narratives within Bengaliness, disrupting any seamless construction or privileging any hegemonic narrative. Yet, despite divergences, these authors ' writings simultaneously reveal the similarities in the ways in which Bengaliness is imagined, thus arguing for a porous, connected Bengali narrative, uncontained within seamless, compartmentalised constructions of 'difference'. The thesis also demonstrates the centrality of the Bengali middle-class bhadralok cultural legacy, which evolved in the colonial period and has an intimate relationship with the emergence of Bengali modernity, in recuperations of Bengaliness even today. Bengali identity, even in diaspora, is constructed around the tropes which have historically defined the Bengali bhadralok. Yet, these authors' reclaiming of the bhadralok culture equally disrupts its hegemonic equation with the Hindu bhadralok of Calcutta, by positing Bengaliness and indeed bhadralok identity beyond these dominant parameters.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available