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At home in India: Geographies of home in contemporary Indian novels

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At home in India: Geographies of home in contemporary Indian novels
Alexandra Fiona Barley

2007

Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, UNITED KINGDOM.

ABSTRACT

This thesis explores the geographies of home in contemporary Indian literature in English through an in-depth reading of mainstream Indian novels by a number of prominent writers including Anita Desai, Amit Chaudhuri, Shobha De, Shama Futehally, Raj Kamal Jha, Pankaj Mishra, Jaishree Misra and Rohinton Mistry. Concepts of home are explored including identity, self, nation, and how these are reflected in the narratives and genre of the novels. Chapter one introduces the thesis by outlining the thematic focus and reviewing the literature on home. Chapter two outlines the reading strategies used in the thesis: concepts of worldliness and affiliation, to examine the discourses of home in the novels. These provide the foundation for the subsequent exploration of home in the novels in chapters three, four and five, where each chapter considers 'home' at different scales: self, family, nation and diaspora. Chapter three examines the conflict of identity between the self and the nation in the novels showing the failure of the home. Chapter four considers the family and addresses how the Indian middle classes are adapting to changes in Indian society such as globalisation, and economic and cultural changes. These novels in this chapter demonstrate the ambivalence of the old middle class towards these changes expressed as feelings of fear and nostalgia. Chapter five explores how particular groups experience displacement and marginalisation in the nation on the grounds of caste, gender and religion. The focus of the novels in this chapter is on the 'State of Emergency' in the 1970s and the Hindu nationalism of the 1980s and 1990s rendering the changing political situation in India textually. Chapter six focuses on how the gendered discourses of daughter, wife and mother place limitations on the spatial mobilities of the female protagonists. Through attention to themes of courtship and marriage, the chapter also considers how these Indian novels destabilise the genre of domestic novels by portraying protagonists going against the grain of domestic discourses by not marrying, or by divorcing. Finally, the conclusion in Chapter Seven draws together these different threads of home by placing them in the wider South Asian context in literature and film, and ends with an examination of the film Monsoon Wedding showing how domestic themes are captured on screen.