Reshaping identities: The second generations of immigrants in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (2000) and Zia Haider Rahman’s In the Light of What We Know (2014)
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How identities are reshaped and reconstructed through the influence of history and the ways in which the second generation of immigrants react and adapt within the transnational space is the central focus of this dissertation. It is well to remember that these adaptations and transformations are always of a fluid nature. I use the term ‘transnationalism’ to associate it with migration and to include the movement of people, goods as well as ideas and ideologies, beyond the borders set by nation-states. Transnational studies look at deterritorialized regions and subjects where there is a continuous process of reshaping identities and new subjectivities are created. Transnational studies combine the debate on origins as it borrows from post-colonial studies but goes on to look at the ways in which these roots and histories are put through new processes of globalization. This thesis looks at two novels to demonstrate this process: White Teeth (2000) by Zadie Smith and In the Light of What We Know (2014) by Zia Haider Rahman. These two novels represent England as the hub for the interconnectivity between generations of immigrants who now live in the transnational city space which is tainted with the colonial past. The novel White Teeth (2000) focuses on the Caribbean community with the inclusion of Bangladeshi characters named Millat and Majid: who go through the continuous reshaping of identities within the multicultural flux. On the other hand, Rahman’s novel portrays South Asian characters (represented by Zafar, who is from Bangladeshi and the unnamed Pakistani narrator) and focuses on their subjectivities as they are reshaped and influenced by transnational processes. With the examples from the novels, this dissertation also focuses on the subtle changes in the timeline of transnationalism through the characters’ identity reformation.