Racialization and the Formation of Identity in Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies

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Title: Racialization and the Formation of Identity in Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies
Author: Sears, Tommie Adrienne
Advisors: Dr. Mike Grimwood, Committee Chair
Dr. Larysa Mykyta, Committee Member
Dr. Nick Halpern, Committee Member
Dr. Jennifer Ho, Committee Member
Abstract: This thesis examines how a history of racialization in the United States impacts the identity formation of the South Asian American characters in Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies. It also includes an examination of the ways in which South Asian Americans are often inaccurately labeled as 'foreign' and 'other' in relation to white Americans and the ways in which race often functions as an ineffective signifier of group homogeneity. To date relatively little has been written about race in South Asian American fiction, and in examining how racialization affects the South Asian Americans in Lahiri's stories I hope to contribute another element to the study of identity formation in South Asian American literature. In particular, this thesis focuses on the effects of racialization in three of the ten stories from Interpreter of Maladies' "When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine," "Interpreter of Maladies," and "Sexy," —because they encompass a variety of relationships and points of view. Part I of this thesis serves as an introduction to the history of South Asian Americans and of the emergence of "Asian America," while Part II is an analysis of the three aforementioned short stories from Lahiri's collection. While in each short story varying misperceptions of race are shown to affect South Asian American identity, an analysis of the stories shows that these misperceptions can be traced to the racialized history of South Asian Americans in the United States and the ambiguity that has resulted from trying to categorize individuals on the basis of race and ethnicity.
Date: 2006-05-04
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/11

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