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Extension English 1
« on: October 23, 2021, 07:39:21 am »
Hello, it would be greatly appreciated if someone could please provide me with some feedback on the following response. Thanks :)

Question: To what extent has your study of ideas and values in Literary Homelands enhanced your understanding of the relationship between marginalisation and empowerment? In your response, refer to The White Tiger and Burning Rice as your prescribed texts and at least ONE related text of your own choosing.

Marginalisation and empowerment share a paradoxical and antithetical relationship, as the manifestation of these concepts in reality forces one to exist as a product of the other. Texts often convey the complex experiences of marginalised groups who turn to artistic and aesthetic experiences that romanticise caged notions of a homeland. As a teacher who relinquished Singaporean citizenship for Australian citizenship, Eileen Chong’s suite of poems within “Burning Rice” (2012) is a celebration of the power of poetry as an art form that empowers the voice of those who are dissevered from the complex roots of their cultural ancestry through seemingly unbridgeable chasms. This agglomeration acts as a catalyst in dividing traditional Asian communitarian values and the individualism of the post-modern Asian diaspora, which in the case of Chong’s poems, seek to revive a bond with a traditional notion of a homeland, by re-appropriating and romanticising memories of communal labour as seen with specific poems such as ‘Burning Rice’ and ‘My Hakka Grandmother’. Similarly, Aravind Adiga’s novel, “The White Tiger,” (2008) an epistolary novel, offers the binary dynamic by creating literary homelands that reflects the respective contextual backdrops of post-liberal India. Adiga develops the character of Balram as a critique of the feudal caste system prevalent in India as a liberalised economic superpower that underscores the marginalisation of subaltern voices within an increasingly Western-influenced society. Similarly, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel “Americanah,” (2013) explores the rich tapestry of Nigeria, British and American life to reveal how prejudicial forces affect human beings trying to survive in new complicated societies. This is emulated through the meditation on the uprooting and displacement that is experienced by the titular figure (Ifemelu), which allows her to reflect on remnants of colonial discourse, originally placing her within a western array of marginalisation, to then a sense of empowerment through the privileging of the African voice. Therefore, whilst these three texts showcase an attempt to capture and hold onto their past homelands through idealised notions, they diverge in their respective outcomes to remind audiences that empowerment shares a ubiquitous relationship with individual contexts. Hence, it is to a large extent, that the study of ideas and values in literary homelands have enhanced my understanding of the inextricable nature between marginalisation and empowerment.

An examination of the boundedness of the literary homeland, perceived or otherwise, in Chong’s ‘Burning Rice’ and ‘My Hakka Grandmother’, and the attempts to move among and between them reveals the complex nature of the power structures that delineate Chong and the sense of empowerment that she experiences through the trajectories of food and people. Chong has an organic-ness that permeates throughout her poetry, given her complex relationship with her homeland, it is perhaps foreseeable that she has produced rich texts which complicate our view of homelands. The title ‘Burning Rice' is in present continuous tense, which highlights that the rice is not ‘burnt’, but rather ‘burning’, demonstrating the internal conflict of the persona to connect with her culture. Whilst there is an intent to do so, as the rice is burning, the connection is not happening organically, thus displaying her marginalisation. The impossibility of the scenario brings to the foreground the element of wish-fulfilment and longing, both of which permeate this piece, along with the desire for connection with historical homelands and processes. It is a deeper reflection of the persona’s desire to exercise greater control over her own identity, imagining a communal and predictable relationship between the ‘generations of men, women and children,' and herself. However, the use of sensory imagery in, ‘I smelt the charring’, connotes that the persona does not know how far she has drifted away from her cultural roots until she has ‘smelt’ the charring. There is a strong suggestion of personal involvement in this poem, but it also features critical inflections that indicate that much more is taking place. As critic Siobhan Hodge states, “Burning Rice identifies and observes closures and conflicts, with an occasionally bitter tone. Chong’s speakers are engaged in taking possession of figures and processes of creation, such as cooking, to create more optimistic conclusions for these isolated personas.” At the heart of Burning Rice is a meticulously crafted meditation on the complex web of attachments that configure the persona’s experiences of marginalisation. This is further explored through ‘My Hakka Grandmother’, where Chong’s geographical, chronological and linguistic distance from her grandmother and Hakka ancestors is displaced in favour of an enforced, shared understanding: the grandmother features as a character, suited to the speaker’s desires, rather than as a speaking figure in her own right. Traversal of space frames the poem, but at all times the reader is aware that the speaker is only using figurative language: she cannot move, nor is this imagined unity possible. The acts of braiding hair, speaking together and sleeping are deceptively simple tasks but are linked inextricably with acts of sharing and equality. All of which are denied to the speaker, which then forces her to move ‘south and south’, and gradually drift away from her homeland, thus demonstrating her marginalisation, and thus to a large extent enhancing my understanding of how marginalisation and empowerment seek to co-exist within Chong and her poetry.

By indulging in the neocolonial imagination of the bourgeoisie city-dweller for whom villages, increasingly asphyxiated by Delhi’s expansion, produce servants who are deliberately silenced by their masters, Adiga describes an unbridgeable chasm between marginalised, impoverished populations and empowered wealthy elites who monkey colonisers. This is accentuated through zoomorphism where the rich are referred to as bears, storks, the mongoose and raven, whilst the poor are referred to as cockroaches, mosquitoes, spiders and lizards. This novel reveals the sordid reality of India – a clear picture of dark India where the poor lead a sordid life under flyovers, receive inhuman treatment from the rich and where caste disparities reign supreme. This is highlighted in, “each side is eternally trying to hoodwink the other side: and it has been this way since the start of time. The poor win a few battles (the peeing in the potted plants, the kicking of the pet dogs, etc.) but of course the rich have won the war for ten thousand years,” (pg 152) revealing the extent to which colonial structures of domination, marginalisation and exploitation are invariably nested within other pseudo-colonial structures. The politics of dominance and subordination is a conceived consequence for the poor, but the machinery of power politics for the elites. However, Balram is neither portrayed as a victim of circumstances nor vilified for his extreme actions throughout the novel. The line between satire and cultural exposure becomes somewhat blurred through Adiga’s second-person narration and a mix of an obsequious and sardonic tone, which promote a lingering sense of ambiguity for the titular figure. As Balram can adapt between homelands, he, in many ways, has no homeland, reinforcing the notion that ‘Balram Halwai is a vanished man,’ (pg 60) and thus, home and empowerment become an ecological niche which only at the end of the novel does he construct for himself. The rising tension between the privileged and the marginalised as the latter seek empowerment often highlights the onerous complexity that is implicit in the marginalised individuals' notion of homeland, which is at variance with the community’s conventional notions. Balram can represent the lower class neither at regional nor at national levels. Since, on the one hand, as a ‘big belly’ he is now a member of the dominant group in regional levels; on the other hand, by acquiring a hybrid identity and as a mimic man who values the West over the East, he is also marginalised from his homeland. This notion is exemplified through critic Lily Want, who states, “through Balram‘s adoption of a distinct social behaviour, he . . . participates in the processes by which existing institutions and structures of power are produced. In other words, there is no attempt to alter the existing categories and systems of thought even as he dialectically represents and reinforces class conflict and class distinction.” Marginalisation is further observed on (pg 13) where it states, “Balram Halwai alias...Munna”. Despite his poverty and his family’s relative disinterest, they do not give him a name. He is simply known as ‘Munna’, which translates to ‘boy’ in Hindi, a return to his earliest and in some senses most genuine identity, exhibiting the somewhat ephemeral marginalisation. However, not only are the power relationships multi-faceted and complex, but they are also dynamic rather than purely static. Characters such as Balram are pushed to the margins of their homeland and suddenly rebound and return with power, thus making them a ‘Mr. Ashok Sharma’; an empowered individual.

Migration involves a transcultural move between a periphery and a dominant metropolitan centre in which the migrant must struggle through new marginalisation. Americanah is paradigmatic by having two main characters, Ifemelu and Obinze struggling with their multifacetedness as Nigerians and as migrants in the US and Britain respectively. The novel humanises the story of the immigrant and empathises with his economic frustration and resorts to criminality such as identity theft, resulting in the marginalising of different cultural perspectives. Ifemelu and Obinze represent a new kind of immigrant, “raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction.” They aren’t fleeing war or starvation but the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness, to which Obinze responds to through the medium of crime. Where Obinze fails — soon enough, he is deported due to committing the crime of identity theft, Ifemelu thrives, in part because she seeks authenticity. The imaging of intolerance as a destructive phenomenon in Americanah also serves as its organizing trope in the novel, in the foregrounding of how global communities are destroyed, controlled, or created through self-defeating racial superiority narratives. In Americanah, Obinze is named after a Nigerian village located in the southeast of Nigeria near a town called Owerri. When she translates Ifemelu’s name, Obinze’s mother shows how important names are within the Nigerian tradition. By adopting someone else’s name, 'home’ disappears and compounds his invisibility from the inside. Ironically, Obinze becomes Obi, which in Igbo means “Heart”. Adichie may have chosen this name to keep Obinze as a true Igbo man, who despite the forced change of name, kept his African centrality. However, this idea is juxtaposed with Obinze committing a crime. However, where Obinze's coping mechanisms to adaptation and finding methods of empowerment fail, Ifemelu creates a blog entitled ‘Raceteenth, or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known As Negroes) By a Non-American Black’, which is a medium through which the privileging of the African voice is observed, as seen in posts titled, “A Michelle Obama Shout-Out Plus Hair as a Race Metaphor”. In doing so, Adichie has represented different cultural perspectives through the creation of voices and points of view, which has allowed me to understand, to a large extent, how marginalisation experienced by two individuals can be refashioned to either result in success, and empowerment or failure.

For immigrant authors of African, Singaporean or Indian descent, as seen with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Eileen Chong, Aravind Adiga, the impact of post-nationalism and the continued subjugation of their native cultures through post-colonialism focus the writer's pens on subjects of dispersal, either forced or voluntary and the impact it has in deliberately silencing them.