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This project focuses on transnational subjectivities represented in literature of the African, Latin American and South Asian diasporas. Underpinned by foundational theories which view diaspora as a social category and transnationalism as a type of consciousness and mode of cultural production, its impetus is to explore imaginary constructions of similar and differing transnational migrant experiences, and to determine the value of representations of hybrid and fluid transnational subjectivities in an increasingly globalised world. Underlying the project is the view that critical appreciation of such fictional representations contributes to a more holistic understanding of the experiences and exigencies of diasporas in broader social and cultural terms. 

The basic tenet of intersectionality, which posits that oppression and discrimination are multidimensional, informs this project’s goal to examine various categories of transnational identities (such as race, class, ethnicity and gender), as well as systems of surveillance, policing and justice, which impinge on the migrant.  Insight into these categories and systems is necessary to resist the overlapping and intersecting structures which oppress and marginalise individual subjects and groups. To this end, the project seeks to examine how specific literary texts represent transnational or diasporic status as a specific stratum in contemporary social hierarchies. Contrapuntally, the liberatory and creative potential with regard to self-determination and hybrid cultural forms, which arise from diasporas, and which are often celebrated in these texts, will also be examined. 

The project will examine literature produced in the African, Latin American and South Asian diasporic contexts. Mainly, the project will utilise a comparative methodology which explores the respective literatures of these diasporas in relation to each other. The intention is to compare and contrast various transnational texts in order to describe the complex and paradoxical experiences of diaspora in a world of increasing mobility and de-territorialism, which yet, in certain locations, also faces increased regulation or prohibition of migration.

This project, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is located in the Department of English Literature at Rhodes University, South Africa.




Co-ordinator: Sam Naidu [Recipient Mellon Inclusive Professoriate Grant 2017 -2019]

Project Title: Intersecting Diasporas: A Comparative Study of Literature of the African, Latin American and South Asian Diasporas


Research Associate: Teresa Carrillo

Project Title: Nation Unbound:  Extra-territorial Governance and Citizenship in Greater Mexico (Book Manuscript)


Research Associate: Carol Leff

Project Title: The Afropolitan Flâneur: Literary Representations of the City and Contemporary Urban Identities in Selected African and Transnational Texts.

In 2019 Carol obtained her PhD by thesis titled “The Afropolitan Flâneur: Literary Representations of the City and Contemporary Urban Identities in Selected African and Transnational Texts”, written under the supervision of Prof Samantha Naidu.

Carol is the co-ordinator of a short course in creative writing at the Institute for the Study of the Englishes of Africa (ISEA), where she also works as administrator for the Institute, and is the secretary for the Shakespeare Society of Southern Africa. In 2019 she supervised two MA Creative Writing students based in the School of Languages and Literatures.


Post-Doctoral Fellow: Sean James Bosman

Project Title: The Rejection of Victimhood in Literature by Abdulrazak Gurnah, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Luis Alberto Urrea. 

Sean completed his PhD at the end of 2019, under the supervision of Prof Sam Naidu. His book, The Rejection of Victimhood in Literature by Abdulrazak Gurnah, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Luis Alberto Urrea, will be available as hardcover and ebook from Brill in October 2021. Sean will also be teaching in the Department in 2021. The courses include a second-year series on By The Sea by Abdulrazak Gurnah, and a third-year elective on Just Memory in War Literature. 


Post-Doctoral Fellow: Indrani Karmakar

Indrani Karmakar's postdoctoral work entails extending and revising her doctoral thesis into a monograph. Her monograph considers the representation of motherhood in Indian women's writing. She is expanding the scope of her research by considering women's writing from other South Asian countries and their diasporas worldwide.


Post-Doctoral Fellow: Andrea Thorpe

Project Title: Diasporic Subjectivities in South African Writing

Andrea has been an active member of the IDG, attending several local and international conferences and publishing extensively in highly regarded academic journals, ranging from Critical Art to Research in African Literatures. Her monograph, South African London, is forthcoming through Manchester University Press.


Former Post-Doctoral Fellow: Marzia Milazzo

Project Title: Colorblind Tools: Narrating Racial Power in the Americas and South Africa (Book Manuscript)


MA Candidate: Pamela Eapen

Project Title: Oral Stories of Arrival Amongst South Africa's Malayali Communities

Pamela is the latest recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon IDG MA Scholarship. She is currently in her second year.  


MA Candidate: Melissa Fühner 

Project Title: Moving Beyond The Border: The Portrayal of Child Migrants and Liminality in Nadifa Mohamed’s Black Mamba Boy, The Orchard of Lost Souls and The Fortune Men.

Melissa is a first year MA student. She is interested in literary portrayals of the effects of conflict-induced migration on child migrants in Africa. Her thesis examines Nadifa Mohamed's portrayal of the vulnerabilities and agencies of child migrants in Black Mamba BoyThe Orchard of Lost Souls and The Fortune Men.  


MA Candidate: Kayleigh Perumal

Project Title: Transnational Identities and Magical Realism in Monica Ali's Brick Lane and Helen Oyeyemi's The Icarus Girl.

Kayleigh Perumal was awarded her Masters, with distinction, at the beginning of 2021. Her thesis examines the connections between transnational identities and Magical Realism in Monica Ali’s Brick Lane and Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl.


Former MA Candidate: Niki Botes

Project Title: The Tyranny of Knowledge: Transnational Detectives in Amitav Ghosh's The Calcutta Chromosome and Kazuo Ishiguro's When We Were Orphans




The Intersecting Diasporas Colloquium was held at the Department of Literary Studies in English on 8 August 2018. Hosted by the IDG, the colloquium provided a platform for the group to interact and exchange ideas with scholars of diasporic and transnational literatures from various institutions across the country. The success of the colloquium has given rise to a special themed issue of the accredited journal Scrutiny 2, which will be edited by Prof Sam Naidu and is slated for publication in 2019.

The papers delivered at the colloquium included:

"Nguyen's ghosts in The Sympathizer: Collapsing binaries and signaling just memory" by Sean James Bosman

"In the aftermath of exile: Always Another Country by Sisonke Msimang (2017) and What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons (2017)" by Prof Johan Jacobs

"'From that Stranded Place': Street Children and Troubled Childhoods in Afropolitan Cape Town" by Carol Leff

"That/Not: South Africa and the Politics of Coevality" by Dr Khwezi Mkhize

"In Search of the 'Goodlife': Border Crossing and Agency in Luis Alberto Urrea's Into the Beautiful North and Graciela Limon's The River Flows North" by Prof Sam Naidu. Response presented by Prof Teresa Carrillo

"Trespassing borders, Transgressing boundaries: (Re)imagining Africa(ns) in the World" by Dr Aretha Phiri

"Stranded in Globality: Dinaw Mengestu's The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears" by Dr Mohammed Shabangu

"Apartheid in the Black British imaginary: Literary solidarities and political metaphors" by Dr Andrea Thorpe 

Last Modified: Wed, 07 Jul 2021 18:56:36 SAST