Rerouting diaspora theory with Canadian refugee fiction
The recent rerouting of the postcolonial canon to include diaspora theory and literature from settler colonies presents a productive challenge for English departments: diaspora’s awkward categorization as a geographical subset of postcolonial studies, alongside area literatures (‘South Asian’, ‘African’, etc.), highlights the limitations of national categories. The significance of this diasporic graft has been noted in the recent addition of ‘diaspora’ to The Postcolonial and Postimperial Literature and Culture Web site and in the subsection on diaspora in the new chapter ‘ReThinking the PostColonial’ in the 2002 edition of The Empire Writes Back. The historical intersection of diaspora and postcolonialism is apparent in migrations of European colonialists, forced migrations of the slave trade, and dispersed communities of indentured labourers. For more recent diasporas, usually associated with metropolitan centres, refugees, and immigrant-movements, the theoretical intersection between diaspora and postcolonialism hinges on discussions of identity: postcolonial analyses of hybridity join social science studies of diasporic identification in challenging essentialisms. Diasporic paradigms, as Rushdie’s quote used as an epigraph suggests, have been a helpful way of recognizing the political agency of refugees, since they trouble the ideas of citizenship and national belonging and offer to the non-citizened the freedom to be ‘out of place’.