Abstract

The relationship between migration and creativity and the ways in which physical dislocation inflects writers' creative output are well-explored issues in diaspora studies. In shifting its focus from diasporic subject formation within literary texts to the exploration of the material histories and lives of diasporic subjects, diaspora studies has de-emphasized texts' formal aesthetics. My article addresses precisely the relation between geography and writing in Meena Alexander's poetry and essay collections The Shock of Arrival (1996) and Poetics of Dislocation (2009)—texts that explore the author's diasporic travels and her shocking realization that she is perceived as a racialized minority in the United States. As I argue, Alexander's arrival in America paradoxically entails her return to Indian history and her grappling with the broader postcolonial history that has shaped her identity. Her two texts, I contend, trouble traditional narratives of arrival and assimilation, reconfiguring arrival as a point of departure for new explorations of diasporic identities and shared histories.

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