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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2010

E 322 • Women Writers of the South Asian Diaspora-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34690 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
JES a216a

Course Description

"His finger trailed across the Atlantic, through Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and finally to the sprawling orange diamond that my mother once told me resembled a woman wearing a sari with her left arm extended. Various cities had been circled with lines drawn between them to indicate my parents' travels, and the place of their birth, Calcutta, was signified by a small silver star. I had only been there once and had no memory of the trip." --Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies

In narrating the distance between her 10-year-old narrator and the map, the silver star, and the image of a woman in a sari that represent her parents' homeland, Jhumpa Lahiri constructs a multifaceted image of the South Asian diaspora, one inflected by age, gender, generation, and nationality. In this course, we will critically engage this and other images and narratives of the South Asian diaspora through the work of South Asian women writers and artists living in North America. Through our discussions of contemporary novels, stories, essays, and films, we will explore a number of questions: What is the South Asian diaspora, and what does it mean to write as a woman from that complex location? How do gender, nationality, and location impact the ways in which writers and artists imagine the world and their own communities? The ways they define notions of home and belonging? To what extent is diaspora an abstract concept, and to what extent is it a material condition for South Asian women in North America? What possibilities are enabled and foreclosed by living and writing in the diaspora—in terms of culture, politics, desire, and forms of community and exchange? How are writers and artists imagining diaspora in relation to globalization and transnational flows of people, commodities, and ideas? In addressing these questions, we will consider the usefulness and the limitations of "diaspora"; how race, class, ethnicity, and nationality play into conceptions of home and community; exile and migration, particularly with respect to the forms of violence that force people to leave one home and the politics of immigration in the US; nationalism, sexualities, and queer diasporas; and relationships between memory and popular culture.

Grading Policy

Response Papers (25%): Each student will complete four 2-3-page response papers over the course of the semester. See assignment page for prompts, details, and due dates.

Mid-term Paper (20%): 5-6-page paper on one or more of the readings from the first half of the semester. Final Paper (30%): 6-8-page paper on one or more of the readings from the second half of the semester. Participation and Attendance (25%): Includes active in-class participation and weekly participation in online forums, as assigned. Attendance is required; and students missing more than 2 classes during the semester will lose 5% from their final grade for the class for each additional absence.


Bapsi Sidhwa, An American Brat; Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake; Kamila Shamsie, Kartography; Sorraya Khan, Noor; Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss; Ginu Kamani, Junglee Girl; Abha Dawesar, Babyji; Course packet of additional readings, available at Jenn's Copies (2200 Guadalupe).


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