By Bryan Cheyette
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Extra info for Diasporas of the Mind: Jewish and Postcolonial Writing and the Nightmare of History
Instead of the dream of order, however, he finds himself in Mr Shylock’s boarding house, which is akin to the ‘shipwreck which all my life I had sought to avoid’ (7). indd 33 18/10/13 7:25 AM 34 DIASPORAS OF THE MIND Kenya, a ‘Frenchman from Morocco’, a Burmese student and a ‘Jewish youth, tall and prophetic in black’ (14). One critic has reduced these assorted figures to ‘wandering Jews’, descended from Shakespeare’s ‘quintessential outcast’ (Greene 152), whereas others have read Singh’s emulation of Shylock as prefiguring the mimicry that is said to ‘destabilize colonial discourse’ (Ashcroft et al.
Indd 29 18/10/13 7:25 AM 30 DIASPORAS OF THE MIND someone who is both inside and outside his or her community’ is no longer just a ‘Jewish characteristic’ (Said 2003: 53). But the line between universalizing Jewish history and superseding it can be quite thin. In fact, much of this book explores the tension between those who construct Jews as ‘world-historical victims’ or the quintessential insider/outsider, enabling other victims of history or ambivalent others to speak, and those who wish to go beyond Jewish history in the name of more contemporaneous histories.
Indd 16 18/10/13 7:25 AM I ntrod u ction 17 But the decoupling of her metaphorical thinking from the history and experience of diaspora can lead to abstraction. Arendt conceived of the ‘masses’ in modern times as being either literal or metaphorical refugees, having the central experience of ‘loneliness’, and the sense of being uprooted and superfluous, of having no recognized place among a common community. According to Arendt, these conditions led to totalitarianism, not least because such ‘world alienation’ meant that ‘the masses’ could no longer distinguish between what was real and what was imagined (Canovan 1974: 25).