Representation of identity as cultural citizenship practice: positioning Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair, and Gurinder Chadha in the context of postcolonial theory

Modgill, Arti (2016) Representation of identity as cultural citizenship practice: positioning Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair, and Gurinder Chadha in the context of postcolonial theory. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Recent research on cultural citizenship focuses on issues of identity and belonging in multicultural societies and examines the political, economic, and cultural aspects of community membership in local, national, and transnational groups. Postcolonial research into colonial and neocolonial representations of individual and national cultural identities offers a means of interrogating hegemonic discursive practices of Orientalism, neocolonialism and globalization as they relate to the representation of cultural citizenship.

This dissertation positions the representation of Indian cultural identities in the films of Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair, and Gurinder Chadha as practices of cultural citizenship that attempt to reposition the Indian as a local identity in three Western multicultural societies: Canada, the US and the UK. It draws on postcolonial, gender, and literary theory to textually analyze the discourses underlying the filmic representations of marginalized identities by incorporating the theories of Said, Spivak, Mohanty, and Bhabha into a socio-cultural analysis of Indian identity construction.

The study utilizes the Lacanian theory of the mirror stage within the canonical writings of postcolonial theorists like hooks, Said, Fanon, and Bhabha, all of whom use Lacan’s work to describe the splitting of the subject from the Other in order to illustrate the production of the derogatory figure of the Indian as inscribed in Orientalist, and Western/ Eurocentric discourses. This figure is precisely that produced in and consumed through Bollywood films. Chapter one offers an analysis of the Lacanian subject formation as a moment in which the spectator of these films views the cinematic representation of the imago of Indian cultural identity—which in these films can be read as sociocultural constructions of local non-alien figures with community memberships in the adopted homelands—as practices of cultural citizenship acquisition affecting both the alienation of the characters and the spectators.

My second chapter, by revising the feminist perspectives of Spivak and Mohanty, strategically locates the subject position of these diasporic filmmakers as intellectuals to relate the representation of Indian cultural identity as a cultural practice within the praxis of Western film. In doing so, it aims to unearth the Indian woman in the West as the cousin of the subaltern woman, positioning her vis-à-vis a Western and local identity within a multicultural society. In my exploration of the filmmakers’ practices of cultural citizenship I relate their community membership to the concept of Dharma as a culturally grounded feminist and postcolonial writing back to the subordinate representation of female Indians in their multiple locations.

In the third chapter I offer that cultural citizenship as a practice of representation of visible minorities constructed by these filmmakers offers a necessary splintering of the dominant national identities of their multicultural societies that illuminates the hybridity of cultural identities and the plurality of national identities. The filmmakers achieve this revision by positioning the Indian as local of, rather than Other to, multicultural society. The discussion of Canadian multiculturalism in this chapter illustrates that these filmmakers’ representations of plurality in their construction of national identities, splinters the representation of white monocultural national identities prevalent in Western multicultural nations.

My thesis contributes to the fields of postcolonial, literary, and cultural theory in the following ways: a) I add to the discussion of Lacan’s subject formation, and the mirroring of the Other and the alienation of the immigrant, by examining the imago as a reflection of identity which can offer spectators a moment of belonging within an adopted homeland as a cultural citizenship practice; b) I add to the debate on cultural citizenship by relating the historic concept of Dharma to my discussion of the intellectual production of female identities and explicate how its counter-narrative challenges to the gender roles of Indian men and women. Ultimately I conclude that the representation of Indian cultural identity by these filmmakers and the representation of the imago as external spectral image of the Indian, immigrant, or visible Other, discloses a discursive strategy of social cohesion in its challenging representation of plural national identities which are local, multiracial, and multicultural.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: McGuirk, Bernard
Wright, Colin
Keywords: Critical Theory, Postcolonial Theory, Film, Cultural Studies, Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair, Gurinder Chadha, Identity, Cultural Citizenship, Multiculturalism, Representation, Indian Cultural Identity, Belonging, Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, Chandra Mohanty, Homi Bhabha, Jacques Lacan, Imago, Subject Formation, Feminist Film, Gender, Ethnicity, National Identity, Plurality, Alienation, Immigrant, Social Cohesion, Canadian
Subjects: P Language and literature > PN Literature (General) > PN 80 Criticism
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies
Item ID: 38418
Depositing User: Modgill, Arti
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2016 06:40
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2018 09:14

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