In a Transnational World: Exploring Gendered Subjectivity, Mobility, and Consumption in Anita Desai's Fasting, Feasting

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Author: Angelia Poon
Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 5,974 words

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[(essay date April-July 2006) In the following essay, Poon contends that Fasting, Feasting calls into question theorized versions of globalization that posit transnational connectedness. Through literal and metaphoric representations of travel in the novel, Poon argues, Desai illustrates cultural, social, and gender inequalities that disrupt notions of universally fluid globalization.]

Triumphalist versions of globalization often celebrate the possibilities presented by increased mobility and travel in an interconnected world, foregrounding cosmopolitanism, the rise of global cities, and the pathways taken by elite classes of marketable professionals and business entrepreneurs. In the general euphoria of these romanticized visions of present and future reality, the world has become, through an intensification of the time-space compression that is the hallmark of the 'new globalized world,' a multiply-linked place of mutual benefit, deterritorialized identities, porous borders, hybrid cultures, and mobile capital. The cosmopolitan transnational implied by this paradigm of globalization negotiates deftly between different cultural contexts, languages and selves, and possesses the means to "flexibly" accumulate not only economic capital, but in Pierre Bourdieu's terms, cultural and social capital as well.1 The effects of globalization are far from uniform, of course. The methods of capital accumulation and the related processes of consumption in a globalized world vary significantly for different individuals and groups of people, many of whom are excluded or restricted from participating in certain circuits of exchange depending on the different permutations of gender, class, race, sexuality and nationality which determine access to power and privilege.

Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan deploy the term "transnational" to "address the asymmetries of the globalization process" ("Global Identities" 664), and they implicitly underscore the need for self-reflexivity in the use of the term when they examine how transnationalism has been appropriated to mean different things in different contexts.2 Thus they note, for example, how the emphasis on transnational flows in certain subject disciplines tends to neglect critical consideration of "aspects of modernity that seem fixed or immobile" (664). Indeed, the very language of "flow" itself--an inextricable part of the hegemonic conceptualization of globalization that often promotes ideas of cultural hybridity and economic interconnectedness at the expense of issues about domination and exploitation--requires critical scrutiny.3 Anna Tsing, for example, has underscored the need for a scholarly yet critical detachment that resists embracing such language and instead interrogates the way such apparent descriptions of the global economic and social landscape are not truthful reality, but rather localized cultural claims and characterizations of the world by particular parties with specific vested interests in notions of globality, the local, and the regional.4 Questions of travel and mobility are the focus of James Clifford's influential book, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, which looks at precisely the interplay between movement and fixity or the "routes" and "roots" of peoples and cultures. His argument for re-framing culture and cultural identity in terms of a notion of "dwelling-in-travel" is by now relatively familiar. Clifford turns the question of rootedness on its head, seeing it as...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100090481