Longing and Belonging, Exile and Home in Shirley Geok-lin Limâ€™s <i>Joss and Gold</i>
In Abdul R. JanMohammedâ€™s seminal work â€œWorldliness-Without-World, Homelessness-as-Home: Toward a Definition of the Specular Border Intellectual,â€ he poignantly explores the themes of home, exile and homelessness through an analysis of Edward Saidâ€™s and Richard Wrightâ€™s works. He explains that both the syncretic intellectual and the specular border intellectual are posited between at least two different cultures.Â
Â Â "The syncretic intellectual, more 'atÂ home' in bothÂ culturesÂ than his or herÂ specular counterpart, is able to combine Â elements of the two cultures in order to articulate new syncretic forms and experiencesâ€¦.
Â Â By contrast, the specular border intellectual, while perhaps equally familiar with two cultures, finds himself or herself unable or unwilling to be at home in these societies. Caught between several cultures or groups, none of which are deemed sufficiently enabling or productive, the specular intellectual subjects the cultures to analytic scrutiny rather than combining them; he or she utilizes his or her interstitial cultural space as a vantage point from which to define, implicitly or explicitly, other, utopian possibilities of group formation. (97)"
Set against the backdrop of the 1969 race riots in Malaysia, the multifaceted 1980s United States and the â€œsecond-most globalized country in the worldâ€ (Holden 2) Singapore, Shirley Limâ€™s first novel Joss and Gold traces the female protagonist Li Anâ€™s trajectory to find a sense of home and belonging in multivalent Malaysia and Singapore. Utilizing JanMohamedâ€™s theory of the syncretic and specular intellectual, this paper intends to examine the themes of longing and belonging, exile and home in Shirley Limâ€™s Joss and Gold, and focuses on Li Anâ€™s journey from an emotionally homeless orphan, a specular, to a syncretic intellectual.
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