Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

English

Supervisor

Dr. Nandi Bhatia

Abstract

My dissertation examines two events in Canada’s past that have played formative roles in the debate about the place of the South Asian diaspora within the Canadian nation. The first is the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which 352 British subjects of South Asian origin aboard a Japanese ship – the Komagata Maru – were denied entry into Canada and forced to return to India. The second is the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182, an event that claimed the lives of almost 300 Canadian citizens, most of South Asian origin, who were traveling from Canada to India. My dissertation reads literary and cinematic reconstructions of the Komagata Maru and Air India cases as crucial sites of healing as well as archives in which the historical memories of diasporic groups are recorded. Drawing on but also extending the work of Benedict Anderson who argues that nations are imagined communities formed by both remembering and forgetting, I suggest that works of fiction can counteract the nation’s tendency to forget. In this specific instance, I argue that certain kinds of fiction can prevent the Canadian nation from “forgetting” the Komagata Maru and Air India cases and, in so doing, can contribute to the project of shaping the nation in more inclusive ways by insisting that certain acts, with all the consequences that followed from those acts, did take place.


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