The Concept of Identity Through Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Namesake’

  • Abstract:

    The Namesake (2003), by the Indian American writer Jhumpa Lahiri discusses the concept of identity as associated with postcolonial concepts such as hybridity, transculturation, and migration. In this regard, Stuart Hall’s notion of identity – as the continuous play of history, culture and power- and Homi K. Bhabha’s concept of “third dimension” – as the common ground for negotiation and transformation, which is neither assimilation nor otherness but represents the history of coalition building and the transnational and cultural diasporic connection- are seems two important sources to understand the novel. The novel focuses on the notion of shifting identities, the portrayal of the characters as torn between respecting their family traditions and an Americanized way of life and exploration of the “Third Space” where they create their identity as transnational. By representing her characters at the crossroad where both local and global spaces meet and constant negation between different aspects of lives appear, Lahiri depicts a transnational space for the Indian immigrants in the United States. Although the immigrants’ tenacity in clinging to the past is obvious in such space, a constant negotiation between different identities, recasting the fixed identities is seen as inevitable in The Namesake. Lahiri represents her characters struggling to balance the two worlds that involve the issues of immigration, race, class and culture, because she accepts that “identities are never unified, in late modern times, inreasingly fragmented and fractured; never singular but multiply constructed across different, often intersecting and antogonistic, discourses, practices and positions” [4]. They are subject to a radical historicization, and are constantly in the process of change and transformation.