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Migration, culture and transnational identities

De
236 pages
A common feature of all human histories is migration. The migration of individuals implies the migration of cultures. Cultural migration produces transitional and transnational identities. This transnationness itself is not a state, but rather a stage in a seemingly interminable process of "becoming".
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Edward O. Ako & Sarah Anyang Agbor (eds)MIGRATION, CULTURE
AND TRANSNATIONAL IDENTITIES
Critical Essays
A common feature of all human histories is migration. Though the phenomenon
is as old as humanity itself, the pace has been accelerated in the twenty-first MIGRATION, CULTURE century by the significant developments witnessed in the domains of transport
and communication.
AND These developments naturally imply the coming together of the local and
the foreign, of ‘here’ and ‘there’ and ultimately of the ‘known’ self and the
unknown ‘other’. Furthermore, migration is not only made easier and more TRANSNATIONAL IDENTITIES
desirable as a result, but actually becomes inevitable. This is because movement
of the individual itself becomes unnecessary; the ‘there’ is set compellingly
against the ‘here’. The result of this movement and counter-movement is a
world in constant, and growing flux and transnationness. Critical Essays
The migration of individuals implies the migration of cultures. Cultural
migration produces transitional and transnational identities. This trans-
nationness itself is not a state, but rather a stage in a seemingly interminable
process of ‘becoming’.
Edward O. Ako obtained a Ph.D in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois,
Urbana-Champaign (1982); a M.A . in African American Studies from Atlanta University, Georgia
(1978) and a Licence ès Lettres Bilingues from the University of Yaounde in 1975. He has held a
number of administrative and academic positions in the Universities of Yaounde and Maroua in
Cameroon. He was a Fulbright Scholar at Pennsylvania State University in 1984/85 and a Visiting
International Scholar at Dickinson College, Pennsylvania, in 2001. He is the author/editor of three
books and over thirty articles which have appeared in newspapers in Cameroon, Germany, France,
Turkey, the U.S.A and South Africa.
Sarah Anyang Agbor is a graduate of the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria where she
obtained her doctorate in 1998. She joined the University of Yaounde-1 as an assistant lecturer in
1999 where she is currently an Associate Professor. She was later Fulbright Scholar in Residence
(SIR) fellow in 2004-2005 at the University of Scranton, PA and taught Modern African Prose
and Modern African Drama respectively. She is a visiting faculty to the University of Maroua,
Cameroon. Her articles have appeared in various publications in Nigeria, Cameroon, Britain and
the USA. Her book Critical Perspectives in Commonwealth Literature was published in Germany
in 2010. Her research interests include oral literature, African literature, gender, memory and
migration in Postcolonial Literatures in English.
Tis book is published thanks to a grant
from the University of Maroua publications Committee.
24 €
ISBN : 978-2-343-01275-9
H-CAMEROUN_GF_AKO_MIGRATION-CULTURE-TRANSNATIONAL-IDENTITIES-CRITICAL-ESSAYS.indd 1 19/06/13 18:10
Edward O. Ako
MIGRATION, CULTURE AND TRANSNATIONAL IDENTITIES
Critical Essays & Sarah Anyang Agbor (eds)






MIGRATION, CULTURE
AND TRANSNATIONAL IDENTITIES



Edward O. Ako & Sarah Anyang Agbor (eds)



MIGRATION, CULTURE
AND TRANSNATIONAL IDENTITIES

Critical essays
































































© L’Harmattan, 2013
5-7, rue de l’Ecole-Polytechnique, 75005 Paris

http://www.librairieharmattan.com
diffusion.harmattan@wanadoo.fr
harmattan1@wanadoo.fr

ISBN : 978-2-343-01275-9
EAN : 9782343012759
Contents
LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS ......................................................................7
INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................11
THE CARIBBEAN TO THE METROPOLIS: IMMIGRATION AND
“THE ‘HIGH ANXIETY’ OF BELONGING” IN CARYL PHILLIPS’S IN
THE FALLING SNOW JAWHAR AHMED DHOUIB.............................17
THINKING CARIBBEAN TRANSNATIONAL IDENTITY A NEW IN
CONTEMPORARY SHORT FICTION MARIA ALONSO ALONSO...31
SHAME AND (SELF) PUNISHMENT: TRAUMA AND DIASPORIC
IDENTITY IN FADIA FAQIR’S MY NAME IS SALMA ANA-BEATRIZ
PEREZ..........................................................................................................55
DIASPORA SPACE: THE DIALECTICS OF “LONGING” AND
“BELONGING” IN GEORGE LAMMING’S THE EMIGRANTS AND V.S
NAIPAUL’S HALF A LIFE SARAH ANYANG AGBOR ........................79
WRITING MEMORIES, CONTESTING IDENTITIES: READING
MISTRY AND BADAMI SHAILY MUDGAL ........................................99
WHICH OTHER WAY? MIGRATION AND WAYS OF SEEING IN V.
S. NAIPAUL GERALDINE SINYUY ....................................................121
OTHERING THE SELF: THE JOURNEY MOTIF IN V.S. NAIPAUL’S
THE MIMIC MEN EDWIN NTUMFON TANGWA .............................135
DIALOGIC DIASPORA: SOUL TOURISTS BY BERNARDINE
EVARISTO EMILIJA LIPOVSEK........................................................157
THE CONCEPT OF HOME AND THE COMPETING IDENTITIES
FOR THE VISITING RETURNEE IN NURUDDIN FARAH’S LINKS
KESERO TUNAI.......................................................................................165
NOW THAT THE BUFFALO IS GONE: EXILE, ISOLATION AND
REPRESENTATION IN CONTEMPORARY NATIVE CANADIAN
LITERATURE ELLEN ROSNER FEIG................................................183
BIBLIOGRAPHY ..................................................................................201
INDEX....................................................................................................223
5
LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS
Jawhar Ahmed Dhouib had his Ph.D in English Language and
Literature, University of Liège, Belgium and University of Sfax,
Tunisia. He is currently an Assistant professor of English Literature at
the University of Gabès, Tunisia. His main research interests are in
Anglophone Caribbean literature and contemporary black writing in
Britain with special focus on the works of Caryl Phillips.
María Alonso Alonso earned her graduate and postgraduate
degrees in English and Hispanic Studies at the Universidade de Vigo
(Spain). She is currently working as an assistant teacher in the areas
of language and literature at the Universidade de Vigo (Spain). Her
main academic interests centre upon transnational identities and the
literature produced by Caribbean diasporic authors, as well as on
plurilingual education and foreign language teaching. She is also an
awarded short fiction writer and one of her short stories -María a
Lobiqueira- won in 2012 one of the Modesto R. Firgueiredo literary
prizes, one of the most prestigious literary competitions in Galician
with almost four decades years of history. Some of her other creative
writing works, including flash-fiction, short stories and poetry, have
been published in different journals of literary creation.
Ana-Beatriz Pérez is Ph.D student in English and Postcolonial
Literatures at the Department of English and German Philology,
University of Zaragoza, Spain. Her main research interests are
Cultural, Gender and Postcolonial Studies, and diasporic literature in
particular. She has recently obtained honours for her Masters on
Textual and Cultural Studies in English with her dissertation “The
Pain of Unbelonging: Intergenerational Conflict in Zadie Smith’s
White Teeth.” She belongs to the research team led by Prof. Susana
Oneaga currently working on ethics and trauma in contemporary
narrative in English.
Sarah Anyang Agbor is a graduate of the University of Ibadan,
Oyo State Nigeria where she obtained her doctorate in 1998. She
joined the University of Yaounde 1 as an assistant lecturer in 1999
where she is currently an Associate Professor. She was later Fulbright
Scholar in Residence (SIR) fellow in 2004-2005 at the University of
Scranton, PA and taught Modern African Prose and Modern African
7
Drama respectively. She is a visiting faculty to the University of
Maroua, Cameroon. Her articles have appeared in various publications
in Nigeria, Cameroon, Britain and the USA. Her book Critical
Perspectives in Commonwealth Literature was published in Germany
in 2010. Her research interests include oral literature, African
literature, gender, memory and migration in Postcolonial Literatures
in English.
Shaily Mudgal currently works at Lontar Foundation (Research
and Documentation), Jakarta in association with Wikimedia. She has
taught English at International University, Jakarta, Indonesia,
Undergraduate College, University of Rajasthan, Alwar and at
Graduate College, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. Between 2004-
2005 she was Fellow: Academic Support and Curriculum
Development at Indian NGO Bodh Shiksha Samiti, Jaipur. From 2005
to 2007 Mugdal was Consultant and Academic Coordinator at Indian
NGO for Education and Development. She has published several
articles in international journals and participated in several
international conferences on language and literature.
Emilija Lipovsek was born in Belgrade, Serbia in 1975. She was
awarded mag. phil. title upon defending a thesis on the novels by
Zadie Smith at the Faculty of Philology in 2005. She is an English
Language Lecturer at the College of Tourism, Belgrade, Serbia. She
has participated in a number of international literature conferences
with presentations on postcolonial authors. She has published papers
on Zadie Smith, Monica Ali, and Caryl Phillips. She is a member of
EACLALS and PSA.
Ellen Rosner Feig (MA, MFA, JD, ABD) is a professor of
composition and literature at Bergen Community College in Paramus,
New Jersey. She serves as advisor of Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society
and as one of the directors of the Center for Peace, Justice and
Reconciliation where she focuses on genocide awareness and peace
education. Born in Montreal, Canada, Ellen has extensive knowledge
of the aboriginal community as her mother served as a teacher on an
Ojibwa reservation for over ten years.
Kesero Tunai obtained a Ph.D from the University of Hawai`i at
Manoa where he pursued Literary Studies and Creative Writing. He
taught Literature at Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya for fifteen
8
years and now teaches at Masinde Muliro University of Science and
Technology, Kakamega, Kenya. He has published creative writing,
and essays on the narrative in Nuruddin Farah’s novels. His 1997
M.A. Thesis (Kenyatta University) was on the Technique of Narration
in Farah’s novels – Sardines, Maps and Gifts. He is currently
researching on the Kenyan autobiography.
Geraldine Sinyuy is currently teaching English as a Foreign
Language at Government Technical College Bangoulap and is also an
assistant lecturer of Medical English at Université des Montagnes,
Bangangte. She is enrolled at the University of Yaoundé I where she
is researching for a Ph.D degree in Commonwealth Literary Studies.
She is also a creative writer and shows interest especially in poetry.
Edwin Ntumfon Tangwa teaches English as a Foreign Language
at government High School Omeng. He has taught in Amity
International College, Yaounde Cameroon. He has also been a
bilingual trainer at the Faculty of Arts, Letters and Social Sciences of
the University of Yaounde I where he is currently completing a Ph.D
Thesis on the Novels of V.S. Naipaul and Bessie Head. His research
interests are race, ethnicity and globalization.
9
INTRODUCTION
A common feature of all human histories is migration. Though the
phenomenon is as old as humanity itself, the pace has been accelerated
in the twenty-first century by the significant developments witnessed
in the domain of transport and communication. These developments
naturally imply the rapprochement of the local and the foreign, of
‘here’ and ‘there’ and ultimately of the ‘known’ self and the unknown
‘other’. Furthermore, migration is not only made easier and more
desirable as a result, but actually becomes inevitable. This is because
movement of the individual itself becomes unnecessary; the ‘there’ is
set compellingly against the ‘here’. The result of this movement and
counter-movement is a world in constant, and growing flux and
transnationness. The migration of individuals implies the migration of
cultures. Cultural migration produces transitional and transnational
identities. This transnationness itself is not a state; rather it is a stage
in a seemingly interminable process of ‘becoming’. Migration,
Culture and Transnational Identities offers a broad perspective on the
major current debates in literary circles regarding the issues of
migration, culture and identity in this era of globalization through a
rich collection of insightful articles tackling a wide range of issues
relating to and resulting from migration and its cultural implications.
Focusing on the production of short fiction from Caribbean
diasporic communities, which has created literary manifestations in
order to establish transnational cultural centers while still addressing
their place of origin, María Alonso Alonso in “Thinking Caribbean
Transnational Identity Anew in Contemporary Short Fiction”
interrogates critical transformations and representations that diasporic
communities undergo due to their transnational experience. She
further analyses the role of Caribbean diasporic voices when
appropriating historical discourses in order to represent their origins,
examines the way in which Caribbean communities negotiate and
define their identity within the host-culture when addressing their
transnational condition.
While Alonso views the creation of disporic transnational cultural
centers as the ultimate end of the migration endeavour, Ana-Beatriz
Pérez in “Shame and (Self) Punishment: Trauma and Diasporic
11
Identity in Fadia Faqir’s My Name is Salma” argues that the traumatic
experiences of exiles are omnipresent in diasporic writings. Using the
example of Fadia Faqir’s protagonist, Salma Perez sees the diasporic
condition as ‘exile’. The road to freedom, he continues, is sometimes
concomitant with being in different kinds of prisons. He uses the
dichotomy between the protagonist’s two opposing identities, Sally
and Salma, to show how trauma and the fact of having been formerly
imprisoned, both literally and metaphorically, deny her the possibility
of fully integrating into the host society and developing a hybrid
British-Asian identity. The ever present past becomes a source of
trauma that impedes the development of a coherent hybrid identity. He
also analyses the way in which Faqir’s novel considers the past as a
mental condition and the colonial simulacrum that Salma experiences
in England in order to show how the diasporic subject, as represented
by this female character, may enjoy moments of stable identity, but
only to be constantly threatened by the recurrence of her traumatic
past.
Sarah Anyang Agbor takes up the argument about the incoherence
of diasporic identities by focusing on their fluidity and unstableness.
In “Diasporic Space: The Dialectic of ‘Longing’ and ‘Belonging’ in
V.S Naipaul’s Half a Life and George Lamming’s The Emigrant” she
argues that the experience of dislocation determines and delineates
diasporic experiences; that characters in the selected texts are caught
in the dialectic of ‘longing’ and ‘belonging’, ‘inclusion and
‘exclusion’ by which the ‘home’ is defined. Moreover, the cultural
identities they carry necessarily conflict with the new realities,
become confused and fluid and this fluidity becomes the basis for a
further quest. Unlike Alonso, she sees diasporic migration as bringing
the migrant closer to the ‘margin’ because Characters suffer
disillusionment and alienation as the break from the homeland to the
‘motherland’ (new nation) does not bring fulfillment. On the issue of
fulfillment (home), she raises similar concerns as Perez but unlike
Perez who blames the elusiveness of home in the diaspora on a
traumatic past, she argues that attachment to the homeland and
nostalgia for home leads to what is called Diaspora melancholia.
Jawhar Ahmed Dhouib compares the passivity of the pioneer
generation of West Indian immigrants towards the blatant racism of
12
English society to the stiff resistance mounted by the ‘second
generation’ immigrants to similar forms of antagonism. In “From the
Caribbean to the Metropolis: Immigration and “the ‘High Anxiety’ of
Belonging” in Caryl Phillips’s In the Falling Snow” he examines the
crucial role played by the latter in transforming the long-preserved
white face of Britain into a multi-cultural society, celebrating
Britishness rather than embracing Englishness. He argues that even
though this second generation and their children sought to stamp out
the racism directed against their parents, yet remained sandwiched
between the race-constructed ‘polarities’ of black and British. Even
though discourse on ‘race’ seems to fall apart with this new
generation, Dhouib argues that racism against those from migrant and
non-white backgrounds has merely taken a veiled, less conspicuous
shape, invisible mostly to this younger generation, yet still sensed by
their parents. He therefore concludes that although brutal forms of
racism that inflicted the ‘Windrushers’ have abated with the following
generations, the virus of racism is still circulating freely in the body of
‘the English patient,’ yet following veins rather than arteries.
Away from the crisis of belonging raised by Agbor and Dhouib,
Sharma does not locate Indian diaspora essentially in crisis, but
mostly in dilemma regarding conceptions of identity. “Writing
Memories, Contesting Identities: Reading Mistry and Badami” flows
from the authorial perspective of confidence in memories and ethnic
connectedness that a migrant feels with home-land while in a new
nation. Progressing from this position she locates a diasporic writer in
the interstitial spaces of new nation, referred to in Bhabha’s
terminology as the Third Space, where alternative and complementary
aspects of identity are not ignored and where the shifting nature of
reality can be understood to make meaning under most appropriate
conditions. This Third Space, she points out, becomes the ground for
writers to negotiate their identities in the national space of host-nation,
on multiple levels of reality constructed through history, culture,
politics, and languages.
Geraldine Sinyuy in “Which Other Way? Migration and Ways of
Seeing in V. S. Naipaul” examines the phenomenon of migration in
some of Naipaul’s works and posits that mere voyage does not
guarantee success in a foreign or new land. Arrival in the London
13
metropolis, she argues, is marked by disappointment and the euphoria
of departure is only matched by the unsettling sense of loss and
disillusionment as Naipaul and his characters seek ever elusive ways
of inscribing their selves in an unfriendly metropolis that others them.
From an altogether different perspective, Edwin Ntumfon Tangwa
in “Othering the ‘Self’: The Journey Motif in Naipaul’s The Mimic
Men” argues that Naipaul is concerned with showing how the
migration of the colonial subject into the metropolis invariably sets up
the other self compellingly in the centre to contest the discourse of
racial superiority that pervades colonizer/colonized relations. Ralph
Singh’s journey to London is read as a fusion of the margin into the
centre; a phenomenon that dis-orders the colonial ‘order’ and its
hierarchies. This marginalization of the centre is a consequence of the
‘invasion’ of the centre by the margin through the journey motif.
Tangwa argues that geographical migration and racial meaning(s) in
The Mimic Men correlate significantly as the crisis of racial rejection
is resolved via the adoption of Homi Bhabha’s “hybrid Third Space”.
Emiliija Lipovsek’s article “Dialogic Diaspora: Soul Tourists by
Bernardine Evaristo” is an extensive exploration of the question of
diasporic identity negotiation with a particular focus on the ways in
which colonial memory is interconnected with the European past
through the unusual encounters described in Bernardine Evaristo’s
novel. She analyses the link between Mikhail Bakhtin’s term
heteroglossia and various characters appearing en route. She goes
further to argue that different narrative forms in the book, including
prose, verse, and letters are in constant dialogue representing diverse
voices on the history of diasporic identity. Using Mikhail Bakhtin’s
concept of chronotope her article examines connections between
numerous places and times the couple (Jessie and Stanley) come
across on their travel and argues that while travelling from one in-
between space to another and stopping over in search of hybrid
identity, their final destination remains unknown.
If the final destination of Evaristo’s characters remains unknown,
Kesero Tunai in “The Concept of Home and the Competing Identities
for the Visiting Returnee in Nuruddin Farah’s Links” examines the
middle-distance phenomenon of the returnee who finds it hard re-
14
inscribing himself in his original home after leaving his “immigrant
home”. Tunai’s preoccupation is not so much with the colonial subject
finding fulfillment in the diaspora as with finding a place in an earlier-
abandoned ‘home’. He therefore examines the meaning of ‘home’ for
one returning to a country of his birth that has many ‘homeless’
people scattered across the globe and asks whether physical home in
terms of a building assist one in concretizing a home identity. He
further looks at the idea of a home in the mid-1990s Mogadisio, how
the immigrant Jeebleh conceptualizes ‘home’ and how he configures
an identity in “a country in exile”. He concludes that home can be
more than one place and for Jeebleh in Links, home is not just one
place.
In “Now That the Buffalo is Gone: Exile, Isolation and
Representation in Contemporary Native Canadian Literature” Ellen
Rosner Feig examines the works of contemporary Native Canadian
authors who challenge the status quo and argues that unlike their
predecessors who had tales of warriors kidnapping white women,
scalping their husbands and destroying their communities, these
writers propose realist narratives of the fight against exile and
isolation, the appropriation of the past and the “integration of native
words” as a form of de-colonialization. She sees this form of writing
as another form of counter-discourse, a way of writing back and
reasserting a native Canadian identity through the only means open to
them, namely literature. She therefore reviews the literary works that
relate the stories of the silenced by analyzing the new narrative
structure which combines the old "trickster" tale with the more
difficult reality of involuntary exile, isolation from culture and
misrepresentation of community.
Irrespective of the critical methods that the contributors have
adopted, each essay clearly indicates how the protagonists, whether
from the Caribbean or Asia, whether returnees or native Canadians,
negotiate and define their identities in their new “home”; how each
grapples with diasporic melancholia. The essays are intended to be a
contribution to the continuing ‘conversation’ on one of the salient
features of our time: migration and its dis (contents)
Edward Oben Ako, Sarah Anyang Agbor.
15
THE CARIBBEAN TO THE METROPOLIS: IMMIGRATION
AND “THE ‘HIGH ANXIETY’ OF BELONGING” IN CARYL
PHILLIPS’S IN THE FALLING SNOW
Jawhar Ahmed Dhouib
The presence of the Anglophone Caribbean diaspora in Britain has
not only influenced early immigrants, but has also profoundly shaped
the lives of their descendants. Caribbean-born writer Caryl Phillips
has evoked the ‘Windrush Generation’ in several of his works of
nonfiction, especially in the prologue of The Atlantic Sound, A New
World Order and his latest collection of essays entitled Colour Me
English. In his previous writings of fiction and drama, namely in The
Final Passage and Strange Fruit, Phillips has equally brought into the
limelight the experience of pioneer West Indian immigrants, those
who embarked on the Windrush and entered the ‘Mother Country’
holding a British passport. As a complement to his previous works,
Phillips extends out the scope of interest in his latest novel In the
Falling Snow, first published in 2009, to cover the generations of
England-born children and mixed-race grandchildren of West Indian
immigrants in Britain.
In this essay, I would like to focus on Phillips’s In the Falling
Snow in an attempt to foreground his ongoing interest in, and may be
tribute to, the pioneer generation of West Indian immigrants. Through
the experiences of Earl Gordon, his son Keith and his grandson
Laurie, In the Falling Snow offers insight into the sensibilities of each
of these three generations. The argument I would like to advance is
that while the first West Indian arrivals remained passive towards the
blatant racism of English society, their children, even though they
experienced similar forms of antagonism, mounted stiff resistance to
discrimination. I will seek to address the specificities of the so-called
‘second generation’ and the substantial role the offspring of
immigrants, like Phillips himself, have played in transforming the
long-preserved white face of Britain into a multicultural society,
celebrating Britishness rather than embracing Englishness. In my
discussion, I will also examine Keith’s son, Laurie, as an epitome of a
hybrid generation born to black and white parents in Britain. Even
17
though discourse on ‘race’ seems to fall apart with this new
generation, it is my argument, here, that racism against those from
migrant and non-white backgrounds has merely taken a veiled, less
conspicuous shape, invisible mostly to this younger generation, yet
still sensed by their parents.
The experience of West Indian emigrant Earl Gordon, who arrived
in England in the 1960s, captures the anxieties of a generation caught
in the crossfire between utopian dreams about the good heartedness of
the ‘Mother Country’ and “Keep Britain White” anti-immigrants
slogans. Following the death of his father, Earl’s sister Leona
encourages him to move to England for there will be no reason to stay
on the island. Earl’s voyage is equally motivated by the experience of
his eldest brother, Desmond, who escapes the West Indian island
supposedly “to pick oranges in Florida” (276), but never returns again.
Earl’s migration is also prompted by his closest friend Ralph who
decides “to pull himself together and make a start on his big journey
to England” (273), holding a promise to return home after five years.
Thus, left alone on the Caribbean island after the death of his father,
the escape of his brother and the departure of his best friend, Earl has
little choice but to join Ralph in Yorkshire.
The experiences of Earl, Ralph and other West Indian immigrants
that the readers meet in the course of the story, like Baron, a Jamaican
who has been “in England since forever. Maybe longer than this”
(291), translate the predicament of the first generation of immigrants.
Armed with his British passport and “dreams locked up in the law
book and the dictionary” (274), Earl starts his new life in England
working in an iron foundry to end up as a janitor at the university.
Earl’s inability to pursue higher studies while in England is suggestive
of his failure in keeping true to his mother’s expectations to join
university after losing the island scholarship for studying abroad. If
we take into account the prominence of English universities, we can
discern that Earl’s admittance as a janitor, not as a student at
university, is indicative of a discriminatory policy privileging ‘White
Only’ classes to mixed-race ones. The conspicuous absence of blacks
from English academia in the 1960s, and still in the twenty-first
century, bears witness to the marginal position reserved for West
Indian old/newcomers exclusively recruited for menial jobs.
18
Like Leila and Michael in The Final Passage, Earl, Ralph and the
other fellow West Indian emigrants in In the Falling Snow are in a
way victims of the discrepancy between the image of the ‘Mother
Country,’ the product of their imagination and also of colonial
education, and the reality they discovered once there. Phillips
highlights that the contrast between what immigrants expected and
what they actually found is sensed as soon as their vessels set anchor
in England. For example, on his first night in England, Earl Gordon
finds shelter at Ralph’s place at the top of a house in an attic room
with his friend on a single bed and himself on “a mattress in the
corner” (292). However, it is not until Earl starts looking for a room to
preserve the privacy of his friend that he becomes aware of the
difficulty facing the coloured person in finding decent housing in
England:
It seem like everybody in the factory, and everybody in the
pub, saying the same thing about how is only prejudiced
landlords in England, and these same landlords who insist on
“European Only” keeping back the coloured man from progress
because without a decent place to live then we can’t bring over
our wives or girlfriends and start to live properly. (303)
In fact, the problem of housing constitutes one of the main
challenges that faced West Indian emigrants and that applies to many
other subsequent immigrants, not because of a lack of financial means
on their part, but rather due to racist attitudes against foreigners. To a
certain extent, Earl’s housing problem evokes the homelessness of
Nigerian David Oluwale in Foreigners: Three English Lives.
Commenting on Oluwale’s bohemian life in the streets of Leeds,
Phillips notes in a recent article entitled “The City by the Water”
(2010) that “clearly some of Oluwale’s problems could have been
solved if he had either found a roof for himself or left the city
altogether” (6). Likewise, when Leila and her husband started to look
for a room in London, their search was often halted by the ‘honesty’
of tags reading ‘No vacancies for coloureds’. ‘No blacks’. ‘No
coloureds’” (FP 156). This being the case, we can discern that the
difficulty of finding a room in England, whether for Leila in The Final
Passage or Earl in In the Falling Snow, is not specific to West Indian
immigrants of the 1950s. Prejudice was inflicted indiscriminately
upon ‘coloured’ immigrants lumped “all together as lowly Jamaicans”
19
(Dabydeen 1998, n.p.) with little regard to their differences, as
evidenced by the case of Nigerian Oluwale in Foreigners. The
cramped flatlets in the Mandela Centre that West Indian immigrants
are encouraged to reside in with partly subsidized bills and state-
supported lodgings remind readers of the low-class Montparnasse
banlieues (suburbs) and Bidonvilles (can town) in Paris reserved for
the first generation of African and North African immigrants. In this
vein, John McLeod observes in Beginning Postcolonialism (2000) that
“too often diaspora peoples have been ghettoized and excluded from
feeling they belong to the ‘new country’” (208). Even though ‘race-
constructed’ accommodation is supposedly meant to help immigrants
make ends meet, this policy equally ensures that immigrants will be
physically ‘concentrated’ together with their own people and
spiritually in touch with the homeland, as suggested by the “airline
poster of a beach in Barbados” (261) at the entry of the Mandela
Centre consistently reminding West Indians of the necessity of return.
Even though the airline poster seems to be a minor detail, it
nonetheless betrays, at once, the English deadly unwillingness to
welcome these immigrants in white neighbourhoods and the desire to
‘contain’ them within the confines of these flatlets.
Phillips’s tendency to disclose the bleakness of the ‘colour bar’
episode in post-World War II British history is made even more
conspicuous in the novel with racist children wearing “motorbike
chain necklaces,” carrying “flick knives” and “iron bars” before
starting “‘a nigger run’ for the night” (295). In the Falling Snow
brings under scrutiny anti-black racism by taking a closer look at
Earl’s close friend Ralph who bore the brunt of being called “coon,”
“sambo,” “nigger” and “spade” and died after being chased and
aggressively attacked by a gang of three white boys. If we try to
connect the tragic fate of Solomon/Gabriel in A Distant Shore, David
Oluwale in Foreigners, Ralph and even Earl who died in England
although in different circumstances in In the Falling Snow, one may
possibly argue that Phillips’s choice of sad endings translates his
attitude towards the passivity of these immigrants to the different
forms of racism directed against them. For this reason, I think that the
fatal end of these black male characters may be read as an indirect
critique of the passivity that marked the Windrushers, and by
extension early African immigrants in Britain, since their reaction to
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the different forms of racism, antagonism and discrimination was
personal rather than communal. Significantly, Bénédicte Ledent in a
recent article entitled “‘Look Liberty in the Face’: Determinism and
Free Will in Caryl Phillips’s Foreigners: Three English Lives” offers a
scrutinizing analysis of the tragic demise of black male characters in
Phillips’s writing, with special focus on Foreigners.
Individual self-defense strategy has proved incapable of
constituting a solid basis for resistance. As I will try to argue in the
second part, Phillips suggests that it is not until English-born blacks
started to take the lead in the late 1970s that militancy garnered
legitimacy, shifting focus from their parents’ race-based problems to a
discourse on identity formation.
In what Phillips refers to in The European Tribe as the “classic
three-stage pattern” (123) of immigration, the ‘second generation’
corresponds to the “family reunification” phase whereby pioneer
single males of the first generation start re-constructing their families
either by calling relatives from the Caribbean to join them or by
making new relationships in Britain. In this sense, we can reasonably
refer to the ‘second generation’ as those born or bred in England two
decades after the first arrival of West Indian immigrants. Before
pursuing further, I find it necessary to interrogate the label ‘second
generation’ that I have hitherto inserted between inverted commas. If
we are to take it for granted that black Britons represent a ‘second
generation’ of immigrants, this implies that these people are not
British, but rather belong, like their parents to the Anglophone
Caribbean. Commenting on the discrepancy between the first
generation of immigrants and their children, Phillips observes in A
New World Order that “whereas they could sustain themselves with
the dream of one day ‘going home,’ we were already at home. We had
nowhere else to go and we needed to tell British society this” (242).
Little surprise, then, that Keith “had no memory of any kind of
tropical life before England” (41), at least if compared to the
generation of the first arrivals, like his father and his friend Ralph. For
this reason, I think that the term ‘second generation’ is rather
misleading as it does not capture the specificity of this England-born
generation and as it inserts another “relationship of entailment,” to use
Mark Stein’s notion, to the West Indies, not to England, as their
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‘original’ homeland. Thus, if the classification of early immigrants as
‘foreigners’ can possibly find reason in that they left the Caribbean for
England, the so-called ‘second generation’ cannot fit under the same
heading since for Keith and his generation England is home and not
the tropics.
However, advocating being English in a predominantly white
society unprepared to accept this fact has proved to be problematic for
both parties. If racial intolerance represented the main challenge that
faced the Windrushers, it is a crisis of identity that marked their
offspring’s generation growing up during the 1970s, conjoining the
‘polarities’ of black and English in a predominantly white culture. It is
important to note that like many of his generation, Phillips grew up in
Leeds “riddled with the cultural confusions of being black and
British” (ET 2) and target to the ‘problem question’ “where are you
really from” (NWO 303 emphasis in original), which also appears in
the “Homeward Bound” section of The Atlantic Sound.
The institutional and social reluctance from the late 1960s until the
mid 1980s to admit that black Britons have the same rights and duties
as their white British compatriots added salt to the injury rather than
healed the wounds of racism. Indeed, on many occasions the situation
of young black Britons was similar to that of their fathers. In fact, the
incessant reluctance to admit young black Britons to schools and the
repetitive attempts to deprive them of joining prestigious universities
is not restricted to the post-World War II era. This stubborn refusal is
rather anchored to the English historical exclusionary practice
favouring the ‘self’ over the ‘other’. It is a legacy from colonial times
to hold the beacon of knowledge, of Enlightenment, so that non-
whites remain enveloped in benightedness and ignominy, forever at
the mercy of England’s ‘devout’ missionaries and ‘erudite’ scholars.
Yet, out of the profound sense that this generation belongs to England
and that black Britons merit more than what they are being offered,
the response of the younger generation was different, which marks a
break from the passivity that stigmatized the ‘Windrushers’ and
declares the beginning of black resistance in Britain.
Nevertheless, the example Phillips sets through Keith as
representative of the new generation in the novel does not fit into the
model of the rebel typical of the period. Keith’s curriculum vitae
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