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EN988: The Literature of the Asian Disapora

Swaminarayan Temple, London

At the heart of every diaspora, as Avtah Brah has argued, lies the image of a journey. These journeys and the stories they have engendered—of departures and arrivals, of allegiances across space and time, of cultural renegotiation and change—are the focal point of this module. The module invites us to think across cultures about the literature of Asian peoples in the English-speaking world. Examining fiction produced by and about Asians living in Britain, North America, and the Caribbean, and within Asia, it probes the similarities and differences in the experience of migration as understood by different Asian groups, as well as by members of the same ethnicity inhabiting different regions. We will approach these texts through several interlocking themes, which include the legacy and interpretation of history; conflict and war; memory and nostalgia; food; and the place of English in diasporic experiences. While diaspora in Britain will be an important part of our discussions, the comparative context will be paramount, with attention given to the specific contexts of different “host” and “target” areas for immigration and settlement. Set texts will be complemented by readings in Asian and Asian American Studies and postcolonial and globalization theory. (These readings will be provided in the form of a course reader or pdfs.)

Module Convenor: Dr Ross G. Forman

Office Hours: TBA.

London Jungle Book

Reading List of Primary Texts for Autumn 2015/6:

In alphabetical order:

Nadeem Aslam, The Blind Man’s Garden (2013)
Romesh Gunesekera, Reef (1994)
Xiaolu Guo, I Am China (2014)
Nora Okja Keller, Fox Girl (2003)
Harold Sonny Ladoo, No Pain Like This Body (1972)
Kazuo Ishiguro, A Pale View of Hills (1982)
Tao Lin, Taipei (2013)
Bhajju Shayam, The London Jungle Book (2004)
Miguel Syjuco, Ilustrado (2010)
Monique Truong, The Book of Salt (2004)
Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese (2006; graphic novel).

Lucky Plaza, SIngapore

Core Syllabus*

* Critical and theoretical readings for each week will be updated over the summer.

Week One: Introduction; Designing Diaspora


Avtah Brah, "Thinking through the Concept of Diaspora" from The Post-colonial Studies Reader (PDF Document)

Salman Rushdie, "Imaginary Homelands" (PDF Document)

Susan Stanford Friedman, "Migrations, Diasporas, and Borders" (PDF Document)

Bhajju Shayam, The London Jungle Book

Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese


Min Hyoung Song, "'How Good It Is to Be a Monkey': Comics, Racial Formation, and American Born Chinese(PDF Document)

Week Two: Looking Backwards Narrating the History of Diaspora:

Sonny Ladoo, No Pain Like This Body

Critical Reading:

Peter Such, "The Short Life and Sudden Death of Harold Ladoo" [at]

Emile Espinet, Review of No Pain Like This Body, Black Images: A Critical Quarterly on Black Arts and Culture 2.1 (1973): 60-62.(PDF Document)

Dennis Lee, "The Death of Harold Ladoo," boundary 2 5.1 (Autumn 1976): 213-228. (PDF Document)

Week Three: War and Memory: Kazuo Ishiguro, A Pale View of Hills

Critical Reading:

Stuart Hall, "Culture, Identity, and Diaspora." (PDF Document)

Rebecca L. Walkowitz, "Ishiguro's Floating Worlds" (PDF Document)

HANDOUT (PDF Document)

Week Four: Conflict and Gender: Nora Okja Keller, Fox Girl

Critical Reading:

Grace M. Cho, "Diaspora of Camptown: The Forgotten War's Monstrous Family" (PDF Document)

Week Five: Conflict, Food and Memory

Required Reading: Romesh Gunesekera, Reef

Required Critical Reading:
Anita Mannur, "Feeding Desire: Food Domesticity, and Challenges to Hetero-Patriarchy," Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies 10.1 (Spring 2003): 34-51.

Recommended: Minoli Salgado, "Romesh Gunesekera: Past Paradise," Writing Sri Lanka: Literature, Resistance, and the Politics of Place (London: Routledge, 2007) 147-165.

Week Six: Queering Diaspora: Monique Truong, The Book of Salt

Critical Reading:

David Eng, "The End(s) of Race (PDF Document)


Chris Coffman, "The Migrating Look: Visual Economies of Queer Desire in The Book of Salt (PDF Document)

Week Six: All about Afghanistan: Nadeem Aslam, The Blind Man's Garden

Critical Reading:

Pankaj Mishra, "Postcolonial Enchantment," Rev. of Blind Man's Garden (PDF Document)

Pankaj Mishra, from Temptations of the West

Week Seven: Histories across Time and Space: Miguel Syjuco, Ilustrado

Critical Reading:

Caroline Sy Hau, "'Patria é intereses': Reflections on the Origins and Changing Meanings of Ilustrado" (PDF Document)

New York Times Review (PDF Document)

Week Eight: From Asia to America: Tao Lin, Taipei

Critical reading: TBA

Week Ten: The Legacy of Tiananmen: GUO Xiaolu, I Am China

Guardian Interview with Guo Xiaolu (PDF Document)


Granta Podcast of Interview with Guo Xiaolu []

Singh Sisters

Indicative Bibliography/Background Reading

Sunil Amrith, Migration and Diaspora in Modern Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2011)
Avtar Brah, Cartographies of Desire: Contesting Identities (London: Routledge, 1996).
Jana Evans Braziel and Anita Mannur, Theorizing Diaspora: A Reader (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2003).
Judith Brown, Global South Asians: Introducing the Modern Diaspora (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006).
Rey Chow, , Writing Diaspora: Tactics of Intervention in Contemporary Cultural Studies (Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1993).
Robin Cohen, Global Disaporas: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2003).
Rajinder Dudrah, Bollywood Travels: Culture, Diaspora and Border Crossings in Popular Hindi Cinema (London: Routledge, 2012).
David L. Eng, The Feeling of Kinship: Queer Liberalism and the Racialization of Intimacy (Durham: Duke UP, 2010).
Susan Stanford Friedman, "Migrations, Diasporas, and Borders" in Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures, 3rd ed., ed. David G. Nicholls (New York: Modern Language Association, 2007) 260-293.
Gayatri Gopinath, Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures (Durham: Duke UP, 2005).
Anupama Jain, How to Be South Asian in America: Narratives of Ambivalence and Belonging (Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2011).
Ravindra K. Jain, Nation, Diaspora, Trans-nation: Reflections from India (London: Routledge, 2011).
Lisa Lowe, Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (Durham: Duke UP, 1996).
Martin Manalansan, Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora (Durham: Duke UP, 2003).
Anita Mannur, Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture (Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2010).
Saloni Mathur, ed., The Migrant’s Time: Rethinking Art History and Diaspora (New Haven: Yale UP, 2011).
V.S. Naipaul, The Overcrowded Barracoon and Other Articles (London: Deutsch, 1972).
Susheila Nasta, Home Truths: Fictions about the South Asian Diaspora in Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002).
Amit Rai, Untimely Bollywood: Globalization and India's New Media Assemblage (Durham: Duke UP, 2009).
R. Radhakrishnan, "Between Living and Telling: Ethnicity in the Age of Transnationalism," ADE Bulletin 143 (Fall 2007): 18-25.
---. Diasporic Mediations: Between Home and Location (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1996).
Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands: Essays 1981-1991 (Cambridge: Granta, 1991).
Jonathan Sell, ed. Metaphor and Diaspora in Contemporary Writing (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
Antonio T Tiongson, Jr, Eduardo Gutierrez, and Ricardo Gutierrez, eds., Positively No Filipinos Allowed: Building Communities and Discourse (Philadelphia, PA, Temple UP, 2006).
Rebecca Walkowitz, Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism beyond the Nation (New York: Columbia UP, 2006).
Steven G. Yao, Foreign Accents: Chinese American Verse from Exclusion to Postethnicity (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010).