jones/bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Sat Apr 15 14:42:28 MDT 1995

This is a comment on Ralph's last post, and it is meant for the list:
>James's experience of individualism in America (which he valued
>highly -- part of his anti-Stalinism) freed his psyche so that he
>could write his own autobiography of identity as a Trinidadian
>growing up under British colonialism who did not want to fit into
>existing society, the acknowledged masterpiece BEYOND A BOUNDARY.

>I must dig up a quote for you, but for the moment let me
>summarize.  James advised: write about what you know.  If you
>write about your authentic experience you will discover that other
>people have experienced some of the same problems you have, and
>that your individual experience is really a social force after

I don't know Ralph.  Identity politics is everywhere, and to me it often
sounds very contemptuous, though--to be very sure-- the working class
migrant/minority is always invoked.  Who doesn't want to fit into the
existing society? Most of the diaspora/post-colonial identity garbage now
available is about the trials and tribulations of select minorities
assimilating into a relatively priviliged position within the working
class, if not professional class.

One of my favorite examples of this is the novel by fellow Indian Bharati
Mukherjee *Jasmine*.  Her protagonist's assimilation into America coincides
with the transformation of America itself into a post-industrial, high-tech
world power.  As Jasmine's story is completed, she is headed off to a new
suburban island of wealth with a professional.  So, yes, here we have a
refusal to assimilate into a declining urban, rustbelt and farmland
America, but the America Mukherjee imagines for Jasmine is hardly the
classless society for which James fought.

And there is a difference, though both James and Mukherjee seem interested
in, as you put it, the "autobiography of identity."


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