Sing who you are: music and identity in postcolonial British-South Asian literature
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis examines the role of music in British-South Asian postcolonial literature, asking how music relates to the possibility of constructing postcolonial identity. The focus is on novels that explore the postcolonial condition in India and the United Kingdom, as well as Pakistan and the United States: Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy (1993), Amit Chaudhuri's Afternoon Raag (1993), Suhayl Saadi's Psychoraag (2004), Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) and The Black Album (1995), and Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999). The analysed novels feature different kinds of music, from Indian classical to non-classical traditions, and from Western classical music to pop music and rock 'n' roll. Music is depicted as a cultural artefact and as a purely aestheticised art form at the same time. As a cultural artefact, music derives meaning from its socio-cultural context of production and serves as a frame of reference to explore postcolonial identities on their own terms. As purely aesthetic art, music escapes its contextual meaning. The transcendental qualities of music render music a space where identities can be expressed irrespective of origin and politics of location. Thereby, music in the novels marks a very productive space to imagine the postcolonial nation and to rewrite imperial history, to express the cultural hybridity of characters in-between nations, to analyse the state of the nation and life in the multicultural diaspora of contemporary Great Britain, and to explore the ramifications of cultural globalisation versus cultural imperialism. Analysing music's cultural meaning and aesthetic value in relation to postcolonial identity, this thesis opens up new frames of textual and cultural analysis that help understand the postcolonial condition from the interdisciplinary perspective of word and music studies.