Cosmopolitan imagination in Salman Rushdie and Ha Jin

  • Zhenling LI

Student thesis: PhD Thesis (Lingnan)


Indian subcontinent postcolonial diaspora and Chinese diaspora constitute two of the most remarkable types of diaspora in the modern era. In order to gain a better understanding of contemporary diasporic experience, this study chooses from each group one of the most representative diasporic writers—Salman Rushdie and Ha Jin respectively—and analyses their fictional writings within the theoretical framework of cosmopolitanism, a concept closely related to transnational experience of contemporary diaspora. In view of their wide spectrum of diasporic writing and the distinct transitions made in terms of subject matter in the latter phase of their respective careers, this study divides the works of each into two parts and works on the reasonable hypothesis that each part is representative of a different mode of cosmopolitanism.

As this study demonstrates, while Rushdie enacts a metropolitan scenario of migrancy and occupies an interstitial space of hybridity to synthesize the two worlds in his earlier works on post-war India and Britain, in his later fiction on postmillennial America he elaborates on a condition of constant border-crossing and repositioning, from which a tentative engagement between an envisioned global and a rooted local emerges. Ha Jin, on the other hand, makes efforts to reconstruct Chineseness from a transnational and globalized perspective, thus bringing globality and universal humanity in his earlier writings on China and Chinese people, while in his more recent works on the Chinese immigrant experience in the U.S. , he develops a transnational geography of cultural and lingual transcendence, in which both national and ethnic identity based on a more conformist collective imagination is rejected.

Both writers’ diasporic writings are contextualized within the contemporary reality of globalization; their imagination of cosmopolitanism elucidates the intersections between diasporic life and globalization, thus epitomizing a contemporary culture marked by such phenomena as globalization, migration, mobility, transformation, transgression, world citizenship, one-world consciousness, and universal hospitality. My thesis illustrates how both writers’ appeal for connection and communication in contemporary culture serves as the antithesis of the ongoing political rivalry and economic disparity that prevail around the globe, thus promoting further reflections on the complex contemporary realities of what it means to be a truly independent and migrant soul.

Date of Award27 Apr 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorEric Neil STRAND (Supervisor) & Michael Anthony INGHAM (Supervisor)

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