The Female Migrant narrative in Postcolonial Cinema
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This research attempts to uncover the gaps that lie between the dominant narratives in film and feminist scholarship through an intersectional approach in understanding of the female migrant identity in the 21st century. The main research question investigated in this thesis is How does Mira Nair explore female migrant narratives in her postcolonial films, the Namesake and Mississippi Masala. The migrant women narrative here is explored as a hybrid identity, especially pertinent in the articulation of postcolonial cinema of Nair. The thesis focuses on questions of gender, race, colonialism and the South Asian Diaspora particularly in Mira Nair's films The Namesake and Mississippi Masala which make visible the much longer history of colonialism and their interconnections with migrant identities. The research question is grounded in the theories of Homi Bhabha’s Hybrid Identities and the Third Space (1990, 1994, 1996) and Chandra Talpade Mohanty’s Under Western Eyes” Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles (2003). The theories allow the understanding of female migrant identities explored as hybrid identities in their “in-betweenness” (Third Space) within Nair’s postcolonial cinema. Though parallel research has been conducted in Subeshini Moodley's 2004 MA thesis using postcolonial feminisms through accented cinema, my own research diverges from her hypothesis using ‘migrant women’ as a category of analysis within postcolonial cinema. This thesis extends upon Moodley’s research by focusing on the specific category of migrant women within the broader group of Third World Women. The reason for this choice is to highlight the intersectional oppressions operating within the migrant subjectivities and how gender complicates the dynamic while crossing borders of nation, culture and race. While Postcolonial Theory and film both engage with the language of representation, postcolonial cinema connects histories of colonialism to present day racial politics and remains an apt framework to understand the narrative of female migrant identities. The research methodology chosen to investigate the central research question is Discourse Analysis (DA) through a case study of the two films within the framework of postcolonial cinema. The main findings of this thesis illustrate that Mira Nair through the cultural representation of migrant women in her postcolonial films is able to give a speaking voice to historically silenced figures. Thus, using a postcolonial analysis female migrant identities are represented as a central subject telling their own stories and how such hybrid identities in their interstitial spaces challenge essentialist notions of culture and identity. Finally, Nair's narratives of migrant women in her postcolonial films articulate new possibilities of seeing and understanding marginalized identities.