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Other Cities: Novels of Immigration in London and Paris


Other Cities: Novels of Immigration in London and Paris compares the formal differences of 20th and 21st century British South Asian novels and French North African novels that depict the lives and spaces of urban immigrant communities while attending to historical contingency, legal archives, and public debates. This dissertation argues that novels of immigration bridge a transition from the categorical binaries of (post)coloniality to the multitudes of globalization. Fluctuations in legal and public discourse surrounding immigration profoundly affect the lived spaces of immigrant populations, and the literary rendering of these communities and neighborhoods reveals the volatile and productive forms of identity, solidarity, and radicalness that arise in the immigrant enclave. I examine not only the encounter between Europeans and postcolonial immigrants in the enclave, but also different kinds of immigrant figures—the intellectual and the laborer, the urban and the rural, the Caribbean and the South Asian, the Antillean and the North African, the Muslim and the Hindu. The confrontation between different categories of immigrants plays out not only in the content of novels of immigration, but also on the level of form. My research investigates the relationship between vacillations in the status of immigrants in 20th century Britain and France and shifts in novelistic style across eight novels. I analyze the depiction of South Asians in London in novels by Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, and Monica Ali, which are placed in comparison with French novels depicting North Africans in Paris by Rachid Boudjedra, Driss Chra?bi, Le?la Sebbar, and Le?la Marouane. By transposing, and thereby complicating, the postcolonial problematics of hybridity, hegemony, and subalternity onto the contemporary European metropole, my dissertation challenges the geographic divide between center and periphery in conceptions of global culture—from theories of economic world systems to recent discussions of world literature. Other Cities posits the novel of immigration as the most symptomatic literary category through which to read the contemporary anxieties endemic to postcoloniality and globalization.

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