Coming Home: Mobile Women, Non-Linear Temporalities, South Asian Diasporic Texts

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Susan Edmunds


Globalization, Mobile Woman, Non-Linear Temporality, Queer Diaspora, Transnational Feminism, Transnational Modernism

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Coming Home examines a set of feminist and proto-feminist texts across multiple genres and mediums (fiction, memoir and film) by women cultural producers in the South Asian diaspora over the last two decades. Common to these texts is the trope of the mobile woman who travels through non-linear space and time. The trope of the mobile woman has been a site of contestation between western colonial and liberal feminist scripts of rescue and patrilineal nationalist scripts of return in South Asia since the colonial times. In my dissertation, I argue that these apparently competing scripts of rescue and return, which have proliferated in the South Asian diaspora during the nineties and the 9/11 decade, are in fact ideologically twin narratives. Both prescribe a linear, singular, and fixed "home" for the mobile South Asian woman, and both rely on a linear and teleological understanding of modernity and temporality. With the intensification of neo-liberal capitalism and fundamentalist nationalist discourses of home and nation in South Asian political economies during the last two decades, these narratives of rescue and return have been increasingly used to justify colonial and xenophobic nationalist projects against the gendered, sexualized, and racialized Other in South Asian (alongside other ethnic) communities in both the global North and the global South. There has also been a disturbing revival of these scripts as interpretive frameworks within the reception of Third World women's cultural texts in the global North after 9/11. In turn, I examine how, and to what end and extent, my chosen cultural texts deploy non-linear temporal aesthetics to defamiliarize the trope of the South Asian woman as mobile/immobile woman, as witness-bearer, and as cultural producer in narratives of rescue and return. I contend that the non-linear temporal aesthetics--time-travel, palimpsestic memory, and non-metric chronotopes--in my chosen cultural texts are not inherently subversive, but when deployed within decolonial feminist frameworks, they can become powerful analytical and political strategies for disrupting both rescue and return scripts

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