|Abstract:||This dissertation interrogates two interrelated questions: First, what effect does power have on memory? Second, how does literature help us “locate” or make visible the processes of memory transmission within and between subaltern groups whose actions are patrolled and, at times, curtailed? These questions are central to the future trajectories of memory studies, where the transcultural turn tracing memories across national and cultural borders necessitates an understanding of how people navigate overlapping local, national, and global networks of power that mandate forms of remembrance and forgetting. As Michael Rothberg observes, questions regarding power are paramount as memory studies expands from its Eurocentric roots to examine legacies of colonial trauma and migration (“Locating Transnational Memory” np). However, scholars have yet to address power’s effect on memory. Simultaneously, delineating institutional regulation of transcultural memory requires pinpointing memory’s intangible dynamics in order to identify sites that exemplify what Susannah Radstone defines as the “locatedness” of memories on the move while simultaneously acknowledging their inaccessibility (111). Given these concerns, my dissertation charts the repercussions of institutional power on memory in contemporary South Asian fiction by mapping the representative strategies authors deploy to depict transcultural memories suppressed by hegemonic framings of the past.
This project is interdisciplinary, employing methodologies from memory and trauma studies, world literature, and postcolonial theory, paying particular attention to how these fields illuminate transnational connections between subaltern groups. I draw on South Asian fiction produced in the US, Canada, England, and the subcontinent from the 1980s to the present in order to examine how the rise of neoliberalism, multiculturalism, and the impact of 9/11 together produce what Jasbir Puar terms a “racial amnesia” that “homogenize[s] and particularize[s] populations for control,” disbanding potential allegiances between minority groups to assimilate them into “civil” society, a phenomenon this literature interrogates (26). To counter this fracturing, I excavate the mnemonic possibilities of fiction by Amitav Ghosh, Mohsin Hamid, Hari Kunzru, and Bharati Mukherjee to demonstrate how such texts act as traveling sites of memory by providing glimpses of alternative pasts and futures not available to subaltern subjects in the present.