Diaspora/Immigrant: Mapping the Concepts of ‘Refugee’, ‘Asylee’ and ‘Citizen’ In Contemporary Literature

Author Name

Srinita Bhattacharjee

Author Address

PhD. Research Scholar, Centre for the Study of the Indian Diaspora, University of Hyderabad, Contact details – [email protected]/ 08297240614


Illegal Immigration, Diaspora, Transnationalism, Dislocation, Identity, Nation-State, Citizenship, Alien


Diaspora studies examine the dispersions of populations and cultures across various geographical places and spaces.  In this paper, my aim is mainly veered at a critical inquiry into the lives and representations of the subaltern/undocumented/illegal immigrants in the ‘White’ West, as it figures in the fiction of the writers namely Marina Budhos (Tell Us We’re Home and Ask Me No Questions) and Benjamin Zephaniah (Refugee Boy). In the aforementioned narratives, the immigrant characters are caught in an illusion of belonging.  They are the ‘non-legal-citizens’ with a shadowy existence.  They are physically visible but simultaneously invisible in ‘papers’.  They are denied all those social and political rights and securities that are otherwise enjoyed by the Diaspora in the host-nation. 

Therefore the ‘paper’ becomes an important metaphor in acknowledging the identity of a diasporic individual, in the absence of which the individual no longer remains a diaspora.  The identity is at once depreciated to that of an illegal immigrant or an ‘alien’.  These narratives poignantly document the disjunction between what the migrants had expected to find in the developed nations and their actual experiences.  They realise that their dreams of belonging is a mirage and the hope of being recognised as a citizen of the host country is completely shattered when they are constantly reminded of their peripheral positions.

Diasporic theories are not only about celebrating hybridity but it should also bring in a renewed critical perspective on such experiences that cuts across cultures and are predicated upon class, race, age, gender and sexuality.  This work seeks to highlight the often-silenced narratives of the destitute immigrants in a transnational situation and thereby necessitate a sustained attention to the performance of undocumented immigrants which only seeks to underline the limitations of Diaspora as a concept.


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