Gendering the diaspora: continuity and development in post-war Asian British women's writing

Ahmed, Yasmin. 2005. Gendering the diaspora: continuity and development in post-war Asian British women's writing. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis is concerned with selected works of fiction written by South Asian women in Britain and published during the post-war period. As several accounts of the Asian British population's formation evince, the male experience of expatriation has often been treated as representative of South Asian diasporisation in general. Similarly, the gender-blindness of some diasporic literary criticism has bestowed upon men's fiction a comparably paradigmatic status. My focus upon women's writing represents one attempt to examine the heterogeneity of the South Asian diaspora, in Britain.

In treating the selected texts as part of a corpus with its own forming tradition, I propose that South Asian diasporic women's fiction is divisible into two broad phases. The transition between the phases occurs in the early to mid- 1980s, and is coterminous with the publication of fictional works by the daughters of first-generation immigrants. In order to examine this inter-phase shift, I compare and contrast how works from each period engage with a range of thematic and aesthetic issues. Many concerns are treated similarly in both phases. Whatever developments are apparent tend to become so in the second phase, denoting an evolving engagement with Asian and British cultural identities, and their gendered underpinnings.

The topics to which this thesis' main chapters are dedicated are: South Asian constructions of womanhood; gender in (neo-)imperial and (neo-)national ideologies and contexts; myths of return and arrival; inter-generational developments in the family; class, division and solidarity; and hybridity in language and form. Each one, in some way, highlights how (far) women's experiences are determined by constructions of gender, in the 'homeland' and in the diaspora. By way of conclusion, I consider how the generalism of certain theories of cultural hybridity is confirmed or interrogated by the selected works of Asian British women's fiction.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


fiction, South Asian women in Britain, literary criticism, cultural identities, womanhood



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Date Deposited:

05 Jul 2023 15:47

Last Modified:

08 Aug 2023 13:12


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