At home in the metropole : gender and domesticity in contemporary migration fiction

Newns, Lucinda (2014) At home in the metropole : gender and domesticity in contemporary migration fiction. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis looks at a selection of novels by diasporic writers which engage significantly with the domestic sphere and its associated practices in their narratives of migration to Britain from postcolonial spaces. Employing a feminist postcolonial approach to works by Buchi Emecheta, Monica Ali, Andrea Levy, Abdulrazak Gurnah and Leila Aboulela, this thesis challenges dominant readings of migration fiction that have been shaped by postmodern and diasporic frameworks of displacement and rupture, emphasising instead placement, dwelling and (re)rooting as important features of the migratory process. It also aims to re-centre the domestic, private and ‘everyday’ in conceptions of home in current debates about migration, while also generating a productive theorisation of 'home' which synthesises its feminist and postcolonial critiques. My approach is about reading more than the allegorical into literary representations of home-spaces, as I trace the interdependence of public and private, domestic and political, across both form and content in the novels covered. Through my analysis of individual texts, I show how writers draw on the colonial and postcolonial politics of home and domesticity as discursive resources in their narratives of cross-cultural encounter, challenging the devaluation of the private sphere as a static, unproductive and uncreative space. I unpack how these texts engage with the domestic as a material space of inspiration, but also as a political space constructed by histories of colonialism and immigration, as well as by policy and academic scholarship, showing how they respond to and subvert these discourses. Through their engagement with familiar tropes of house and home, many of these works challenge representations of migrant women as passive recipients and reproducers of an externally defined ‘culture’. Instead, I argue, they offer alternative interior geographies which re-map both the British domestic space and that of the home-culture, reframing the home as an important carrier of meaning but one that is constantly in flux, remaking itself according to the needs and desires of those who dwell within its walls.

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