A Sense Of Place Essays In Post Colonial Literatures


1. Introduction
1.1 Brief introduction to home and belonging as a general idea
1.2 Procedure and approach of my analyses

2. Theories and concepts of Home & Identity
2.1 `Traditional' concepts of home and belonging
2.2 Fluid concepts- `diaspora' identities
2.3 Concept of living `in-between' identities
2.4 Hybrid identities

3. Migration and home — the importance of home in Small Island

4. Traditional concepts of home and belonging in Small Island 8 and in White Teeth

5. Fluid concepts- `diaspora identities', living `in-between identities' and `hybrid identities' in White Teeth compared to `in-between identities' in Small Island

6. Conclusion and outlook

1 . Introduction

1 .1 . Brief introduction to home and belonging as a general idea

Home has a significant function in our lives. Thinking of home we associate notions like shelter and comfort and when we come home we want to feel safe and welcome. John McLeod argues in this sense that "to be 'at home' is to occupy a location where we are welcome, where we can be with people very much like ourselves." 1 We are looking for who we are, where we come from and try to find our place in life. When one is born in a country but moves to another where is one's home country then? This question is hard to answer, because migration is always a process which implies a struggle of identities. When the 2nd generation is born in the host country- where do they belong if the host country does not accept them as full members? The term home is highly complicated in a complex and multicultural world like ours.

1 .2 . Procedure and approach of my analyses

I have centered my term paper on an attempt to identify and characterize the concepts of home and belonging in postcolonial literature.

Comparing how the idea of home and belonging is presented in the novels White Teeth by Zadie Smith2 and Small Island by Andrea Levy3, I have tried a text- extrinsic approach. Furthermore, I have analysed the authors' intentions with regard to the time of publication and the time of the narrative. However, the main aspect of my analyses is which concepts of home and belonging exist and which of them can be found in the novels of my comparison. I have chosen White Teeth because it is a novel that deals with the colonial past and the postcolonial present and I have selected Small Island because it is a novel that deals with migration in the past. Small Island is set at the beginning of migration when many colonized people came to England. Andrea Levy presents different views, the White and Black British point of view at the beginning of migration. My motivation to compare both novels is to go back to the beginning of colonial migration and to show the difference between the concepts from the past to the present.

2 Theories and concepts of Home and Identity

2 .1 Traditional concepts of home and belonging

In this chapter, I focus on home and belonging as a static concept and on home and belonging as a mental construction in the sense of home as a 'mythic place'. At the end of this chapter, I shortly present home and belonging in nationalist representation.

Traditionally home and belonging can be defined as the place where our ancestors used to live, the place of our origin. Consequently, this definition is dedicated to the past without regard where one lives right now. As a result, it is a very passive and static concept, and home is a fixed place. This traditional idea implies that people define their identity according to their roots.

John McLeod argues in this sense:

The concept of 'home' often performs an important function in our lives. It can act as a valuable means of orientation by giving us a sense of our place in the world. It tells us where we originated from and where we belong.4

But so many people have left their homelands in the course of colonization and up to the present time. They have to get along in the host country even though they feel somehow still committed to their old country. Furthermore, for plenty of first generation immigrants it is easier to idealize their home country and see it as the only real home, than to assimilate into the new host country. According to John McLeod, Robert Cohen, Avtar Brah and Salman Rushdie5 home can be imagined in diaspora communities as a "Mythic Place" or an "Imaginary Homeland".

Migrants see their home country as idyllic place of security and shelter where they are welcome and where the people are like them (race, nationality, religion etc). Migrants often experience discrimination against them in their host country. One way to deal with this experience is to idealize their home country and to see their host country only as a place of temporary residence. As Avtar Brah puts it: "Home is a mythic place of desire in the diasporic imagination."6 According to this idea home is a mental image:

In this formulation, home becomes primarily a mental construction built from the incomplete o dds and end s of m emory th at survive fro m th e p ast. It ex ists in a fractured, discontinuous relationship with the present.7

In this regard, migrants might have an ideal mental image of home, which differs widely from reality. They might have glorified their home so that it might not be possible to return home without disillusion them because their home in reality is not the home of their imagination:

"In this sense it is a place of no-return, even if it is possible to visit the geographical territory that is seen as the place of 'origin'."8

Home and belonging are important in nationalist representation as well. For example John McLeod describes home as a relevant concept of nationalist representation: "Community, belonging, a sense of rootedness in the land, home- each is relevant to the construction and purpose of nationalist representation."9 So in a nationalist representation home and belonging are defined in terms of belonging to a nation. This concept of home and belonging can be regarded as an extreme form of traditional concept. According to McLeod "nations are imagined communities and evoke a feeling of belonging, home and community for the people."10 Furthermore, he argues "every definition of identity is always defined in relation to something else," and "nations place borders that separate the people 'within' from different peoples outside". So according to John McLeod home and belonging in a nationalist representation is bound to the nation one is born in and is defined in relation to other nations whose people have a different identity.

2 .2 Fluid concepts- 'Diaspora' Identities

It would be nice and simple if we were all pure. If we all came from where our parents, grandparents and beyond came from. If we all just took on our forefathers' culture. Wouldn't it be nice if we could say that all Africans are Black and all English are white?11

This quotation by Andrea Levy expresses that in a multicultural world like ours the old static concept does not fit for everybody. There must be the possibility to create new concepts of home and belonging for those people who live in-between cultures.

One very common concept found in postcolonial literature is the concept of 'Diaspora Identity'. In "Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies" by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin the following definition of diaspora can be found: "Diasporas, the voluntary or forcible movement of peoples from their homelands into new regions, is a central historical fact of colonization. [...] The widespread effects of this migration [...] continue on a global scale."12 John McLeod 13 uses a quotation by Robert Cohen to explain diaspora:

Diasporas as communities of people living together in one country who 'ac knowledge' that 'the old country'- a notion often buried deep in language, religion, custom or folklore-always has some claim on their loyalty and emotions. 14

Diaspora identities include several generations of immigrants- the first generation immigrants who have experienced migration as well as their descendants who have not experienced migration. Therefore, the term diaspora identities fits better than migrant identities:

"[...] it is more accurate to talk about 'diaspora identities'; not all of those who live in a diaspora, or share an emotional connection to the 'old country', have experienced migration."15 Diaspora identities can be subdivided into two groups: One group are the first generation immigrants and the other group are their descendants- the second generation immigrants and further generations.


1 John McLeod, Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press, 2000) p. 210.

2 Zadie Smith, White Teeth (London: Penguin Books, 2001), [12000].

3 Andrea Levy, Small Island (London: Review, Headline Book Publishing, 2004).

4 John McLeod, Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press, 2000), p. 210.

5 Cf. ibid., pp. 208-210.

6 Avtar Brah, Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities (London; New York, Routledge, 1997) p. 192 in John McLeod, Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press, 2000), p. 210.

7 John McLeod, Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press, 2000), p.211.

8 Avtar Brah, Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities (London; New York, Routledge, 1997) p. 192. in John McLeod, Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press, 2000), p. 210.

9 John McLeod, Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press, 2000), pp.71-72.

10 Ibid., p.74.

11 Andrea Levy, ' This is my England#$ The Guardian (February19, 2000) in "'Pivoting the Center':The Fiction of Andrea Levy" by Maria Helena Lima in Write Black Write British: From Post Colonial to Black British Literature, ed. by Kadija Sesay (Hertford:Hansib, 2005) p.72.

12 Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths; Helen Tiffin, Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies (London; New York: Routledge, 1998) pp. 68-70.

13 John McLeod, Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press, 2000) p. 207.

14 Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas: An Introduction (UCL Press, 1997) p. ix, in John McLeod, Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press, 2000) p. 207.

15 John McLeod, Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press, 2000) p. 207.

Literature And The Human Experience
Fall 2009

Professor: Annette Lucksinger, M.A.        Class location: JBWN 130A
Office: Premont Hall 217                           Class time: TTh 2:30-4:45
Office hours: Tues. 2:00-3:15                   Voice mail: 428-1231
Th. 11:00-12:00 & by appt.                       Office phone: 637-1963
Email: malucks@stedwards.edu                Campus mailbox: 863

required books & materials:
• Reading packet for CULF 1318.06
• Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
• The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
• Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
• The Kite Runner, Khalid Hosseini
• Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey

course objectives:
The objectives of this course are two-fold: 1) that you become a better student of
literature, a more engaged and thoughtful reader, and 2) that you gain insight into the
significance of place, to a variety of peoples and in immeasurable ways. By the end of the
semester, it is expected that you will have successfully met the following objectives:

• become more comfortable with and adept at reading, analyzing and thinking about
• expanded your study of literary genres
• expanded your cultural literacy through the readings, lectures and discussions
• improved as a writer
• developed a stronger sense of place and community at St. Edward’s and in Austin
• considered your moral responsibility to places and the impact that personal and
cultural forces can have on place
• come to a clearer understanding of “sense of place” and its importance

course description:
During the course of the semester we will read works from several different genres: novels,
creative nonfiction, poetry, drama and essays. We will focus on a variety of aspects of
place, beginning with a discussion of how individuals connect to places (i.e., one’s sense of
place). From there, we will examine cultural understandings of landscapes, how people
impact the places in which they live, and finally what our responsibility to place entails.
These concepts are outlined more fully below and will give you a sense of the progression
of the course:

Defining sense of place:
Sense of place can be a fairly elusive term that is difficult to define. But
as we will see this semester, stories are inextricably linked to our feelings
toward places. So we will begin our quest for a definition by hearing your
stories and discussing your personal connections to the places that you know
well. We will also discuss our shared place of Austin, Texas, our perceptions
of it and how those views have been shaped. At the same time, we will be
reading literature that investigates the complex relationships between people
and place.

Cultural ties to places:
We will consider the ways that a place can impact the culture(s) that grows
up in its midst. To what extent do things such as weather, terrain, and the
history of a place shape the culture and the day-to-day lives of individuals who
live there? How does the physical nature of the land affect cultural values and
mindsets? The readings in this unit will examine the many, sometimes subtle,
ways that people are shaped by the places in which they live.

Culture’s impact on place:
This unit also looks closely at the interplay between place and culture, but it
takes a more activist bent. Readings focus on current views and
uses of the land and how these interactions affect or alter one’s sense of
place. By the end of the semester, each of you will complete an independent
project, in which you will actively engage with a place that you feel holds some
significance, whether personal or cultural. At the same time, we will be
discussing readings that center around the ethics of place and that lead us to
question our moral responsibility to act rightly towards places.

As you can see, these ideas are not mutually exclusive. Instead, our conversations about
place will slip across these concepts as we discuss recurring themes. Hopefully this will
add depth to our understanding of place and its importance.

course grade:
Your final grade for the course will be based on the quality of the following work:
Exam 1 20%
Exam 2 20%
Paper assignment 20%
Final paper/project 15%
Journal writing 10%
Daily reading quizzes, participation, hmwk 15%

field journals:
You will be given journal assignments throughout the semester. The due dates for these
are listed on the course calendar. Journals are designed to encourage you to reflect on the
readings – and to apply our readings and discussions to a place of your own choosing.
Detailed instructions will be given for each assignment. Because the purpose of these
journals is to delve more deeply into the ideas presented in the course, they will be graded
based on completion, development of ideas, and quality of thought rather than grammar
and mechanics.
Journals will be evaluated as exceptional (10), good (9), satisfactory (8), fair (7), poor (6),
incomplete or vague (5), etc. Late journals will not be accepted.

policy for late or missed work:
Late work will NOT be accepted. Reading quizzes and exams may not be made
up. All assignments are due in class and will NOT be accepted later in any form (email,
mailbox, office, etc.). If you think you will miss class for some reason, you may turn in
copies of assignments that are due that day BEFORE class by leaving it in my campus
mailbox in the Main Building (CM 863), having a friend bring it to class or by emailing it.
(In cases of a documented emergency, this policy may be adjusted.)

academic honesty:
All work you turn in must be your own. You may receive an F for an assignment or for
the course for turning in work that is not your own. This penalty is strongly enforced.

extra credit:
In addition to dropping your lowest quiz and journal grade, extra credit opportunities will
be announced throughout the semester. To earn credit, you will need to write a brief
report after attending the event, film, lecture, reading, etc. These reports should be
approximately one typed page long and include a summary of the event, followed by a
critical analysis of it. Feel free to suggest extra credit opportunities if you hear of them
and think they would fit within the focus of our class. You may turn in up to 3 extra
credit assignments over the course of the semester.

attendance policy:
Attendance is required and will be taken each class day. You may be dropped from the
course for excessive absences. Your regular attendance and participation adds to the class
dynamic, creates a tighter community, and makes the course much more fun and
engaging. Your success in the course relies heavily on your being here. In addition,
participation is part of your grade for the course and remember that assignments must be
turned in during class or they will not be accepted. Finally, reading quizzes will be given
at the beginning of each class and they cannot be made up, nor will I repeat questions for
latecomers so don’t be late!

special accommodations:
I am very willing to work with you if you have a disability that requires special
accommodations for you to be successful in the course. If you have (or suspect that you
might have) a medical, psychiatric or learning disability and require accommodations in
this class, please let me know early in the semester so that your needs can be met. You
will need to provide documentation to Student Disability Services in the Academic
Planning and Support, Moody Hall 155.

contacting me:
Email is the best way to reach me. Please feel absolutely free to email me anytime you
have a question, suggestion, or just want to discuss something outside of class. I check my
email throughout the day. (I typically check my voice mail just once a week.) I’m also
happy to meet with you during office hours to discuss any aspect of the class. If you are
unable to meet during my office hour, let me know and we’ll arrange a time that works
for both of us.

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