From the Postcolonial to the Transnational: Issues of Identity in Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost

Cook, Victoria Maria (2001) From the Postcolonial to the Transnational: Issues of Identity in Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Anil’s Ghost, by Michael Ondaatje, is set in present day Sri Lanka against the background of civil war. This dissertation addresses some of the issues of identity that are raised in the narrative of Anil's Ghost through a close analysis of the text, paying particular attention to the way in which Ondaatje examines identity as both a "construct" and a "process". The approach used is one that draws on postcolonial theory and takes a "transnational" perspective.

The central argument asserts that Ondaatje's text moves beyond the concept of a postcolonial literature of "resistance", into an area that requires a theory of "process" rather than "product". Transnationalism is shown here to be just such a theory - in that it captures something of this fluidity - and therefore to be very suitable for the analysis of Ondaatje's discourse. The main focus of this research, then, is to demonstrate a transnational conceptual matrix as being an appropriate framework for the examination of identity in Anil's Ghost - in so doing it puts forward transnationalism as a positive means for the articulation of difference and fragmentation in the construction of an holistic, multi-cultural identity.

Three main themes are addressed in the course of this argument, with regard to the way in which they impact on issues of identification: naming, and its association with mapping; the relationship between language and identity; the interaction between memory and dislocation. These themes are examined in the light of Ondaatje's paradigm of "the returning stranger" (Powells 2) and underpinned by the application of transnational theory, as put forward by critics such as Paul Giles. This dissertation explores issues of identity in Anil’s Ghost, which traverse cultural and national boundaries and encompass both central and marginal positions, through the application of a transnational methodology.

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