Salman Rushdie

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How does Rushdie view a diasporic identity in his works Imaginary Homelands, Shame and Satanic Verses?

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Rushdie throughout his works focuses on the curious position occupied by the migrant or the exile. The central issue is that Rushdie and other postcolonial thinkers of his ilk believe that the act of migration is one that profoundly changes the individual, transforming the relationship of the migrant with both his or her home country and new host country, and impacting their identity massively as a result. Issues such as "home" and "belonging" are crucial in this sense, as migrants find that their idea of "home" becomes detached from their home country, as they are not allowed to "belong" there anymore. However, at the same time, they definitely do not "belong" in their host country, and this is often unfortunately manifested through prejudice or racism. However, this new diaspora identity, although it is thought of negatively by many, is actually viewed as potentially a position of strength. Note the following quote from Imaginary Homelands:

Having been borne across the world, we are translated men. It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately to the notion that something can also be gained.

Rushdie argues in his works that a migrant is somebody who has suffered greatly, and who loses a lot through their "translation." This is captured in the following quote from Shame: is the fate of migrants to be stripped of history, to stand naked amidst the scorn of strangers upon whom they see rich clothing, the brocades of continuity and the eyebrows of belonging.

However, because migrants are not dressed in "continuity" and "belonging," they are able to see life in a different way from anybody else, which gives them greater insight and perspective, as they are able to combine aspects of both their home culture and their host culture in their life, which enables them to exploit their diaspora identity. In Rushdie's imagining therefore migrants with their diaspora identity occupy a curious position that is a site of great opportunity. This is captured in the following quote from Satanic Verses:

Exile is a dream of a glorious return. Exile is a vision of revolution: Elba, not St Helena. It is an endless paradox: looking forward by always looking back. The exile is a ball hurled high into the air.

Rushdie therefore argues that being a migrant is "a ball hurled high into the air," with massive potential and possibilities. What the migrant does with those possibilities is up to them, Rushdie believes.

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