e-ISSN 2231-8534
ISSN 0128-7702

Home / Regular Issue / JSSH Vol. 30 (4) Dec. 2022 / JSSH-8589-2022


Cultural Translation, Hybrid Identity, and Third Space in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies

Behzad Pourgharib and Moussa Pourya Asl

Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, Volume 30, Issue 4, December 2022


Keywords: Culture, diaspora, Homi Bhabha, identity, Jhumpa Lahiri

Published on: 15 December 2022

The phenomena of migration, displacement, and social integration have greatly impacted discourses on the interpretation of cultural translation, which is widely perceived as an ongoing reciprocal process of exchange, integration, and transformation. Drawing upon Homi K. Bhabha’s theoretical notions, such as liminality, hybridity, and third space, the present study explores the poetics and politics of cultural translation in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies (1999). More specifically, we examine the multiple ways in which the existing similarities and differences between dominant and marginal cultures influence diasporic individuals and communities and the various ways the migrants respond to their conflicting conditions in the diaspora. A close reading of the three stories of “Mrs. Sen’s,” “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” and “The Third and Final Continent” reveals that while the liminal situation has the potential to become a site of conflicts in the lives of the migrant subjects, it germinates a condition of hybridity that embraces the diversity of cultures and their blurry borders with one another in the third space. This pattern is perfectly demonstrated through the three characters of Mrs. Sen, Lilia’s mother, and Mala. Their heterogeneous experiences of integration underscore the idea that when two disparate cultural realities confront one another, the female characters welcome a new space where they succeed in negotiating and translating their cultures.

  • Agnew, V. (2005). Diaspora, memory, and identity: A search for home. University of Toronto Press.

  • Alfonso-Forero, A. M. (2011). Translating postcolonial pasts: Immigration and identity in the fiction of Bharati Mukherjee, Elizabeth Nunez, and Jhumpa Lahiri [Doctoral dissertation, The University of Miami]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

  • Alvarez, A. M. (2021). Believe me, do not believe me: Jhumpa Lahiri and the royal family of Oudh. Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses, 83(Nov), 67-76.

  • Anuar, N. A. N. B., & Asl, M. P. (2021). Gender and sexual identity in Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: A Cixousian analysis of Hijra’s resistance and remaking of the self. Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities, 29(4), 2335-2352.

  • Anuar, N. A. N. B., & Asl, M. P. (2022). Rewriting of gender and sexuality in Tanwi Nandini Islam’s Bright Lines: A Cixousian approach. In M. P. Asl (Ed.), Gender, place, and identity of South Asian women (pp. 131-151). IGI Global.

  • Anuar, N. A. N., & Asl, M. P. (2022). Gender, resistance, and identity: Women’s rewriting of the self in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Before We Visit the Goddess. Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities, 30(3), 1201-1221.

  • Apap, C. (2016). Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Sexy” and the ethical mapping of subjectivity. MELUS, 41(2), 55-75.

  • Asl, M. P. (2018). Fabrication of a desired truth: The oblivion of a Naxalite woman in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland. Asian Ethnicity, 19(3), 383-401.

  • Asl, M. P. (Ed.). (2022). Gender, place, and identity of South Asian women. IGI Global.

  • Asl, M. P., & Abdullah, N. F. L. (2017). Circulation of the discourse of American nationalism through allegiance to consumer citizenship in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake. GEMA Online Journal of Language Studies, 17(2), 54-68.

  • Asl, M. P., Abdullah, N. F. L., & Yaapar, M. S. (2016). Mechanisms of mobility in a capitalist culture: The localisation of the eye of (global) authority in the novel and the film of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake. Kemanusiaan, 23(supp. 2), 137-159.

  • Asl, M. P., Abdullah, N. F. L., & Yaapar, M. S. (2018). Sexual politics of the gaze and objectification of the (immigrant) woman in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies. American Studies in Scandinavia, 50(2), 89-109.

  • Asl, M. P., Abdullah, N. F. L., & Yaapar, M. S. (2020). Panoptic spaces and the framings of South Asian diaspora in Jhumpa Lahiri’s selected short stories. Cogent Arts & Humanities, 7(1), 1-13.

  • Baker, M., & Saldanha, G. (Eds.). (2019). Routledge encyclopedia of translation studies (3rd ed.). Routledge.

  • Bandyopadhyay, D. (2009). Negotiating borders of culture Jhumpa Lahiri’s fiction. Journal of Literature, Culture and Media Studies, 1(1), 97-108.

  • Bhabha, H. K. (1990). DissemiNation: Time, narrative, and the margins of the modern nation. In H. K. Bhabha (Ed.), Nation and narration (pp. 199-244). Routledge.

  • Bhabha, H. K. (1994). The location of culture. Routledge.

  • Bhattacharya, M. (2022). The partition: A heterotopic transcendence in self-identity of the Bengali women migrants. In M. P. Asl (Ed.), Gender, place, and identity of South Asian women (pp. 44-67). IGI Global.

  • Brada-Williams, N. (2004). Reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies” as a short story cycle. MELUS, 29(3/4), 451-464.

  • Caesar, J. (2005). American spaces in the fiction of Jhumpa Lahiri. ESC: English Studies in Canada, 1(1), 50-68.

  • Cardozo, K. M. (2012). Mediating the particular and the general: Ethnicity and intertextuality in Jhumpa Lahiri’s oeuvre. In L. Dhingra & F. Cheung (Eds.), Naming Jhumpa Lahiri: Canons and controversies (pp. 1-26). Lexington Books.

  • Chambers, I. (1993). Migrancy, culture, identity (1st ed.). Routledge.

  • Chandorkar, L. (2017). The Indian diaspora in America as reflected in Jhumpa Lahiri’s fiction. History and Sociology of South Asia, 11(2), 204-211.

  • Chatterjee, K. (2016). Negotiating homelessness through culinary imagination: The metaphor of food in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies. Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, 8(1), 197-205.

  • Dhingra, L., & Cheung, F. (2012). Naming Jhumpa Lahiri: Canons and controversies. Lexington Books.

  • Diamond, L. K. (2021). Interpreter of Maladies: Stories. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 1-4.

  • Field, R. E. (2004). Writing the second generation: Negotiating cultural borderlands in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake. South Asian Review, 25(2), 165-177.

  • Hallward, P. (2001). Absolutely postcolonial: Writing between the singular and the specific. Manchester University Press.

  • Hoogvelt, A. (1997). Globalization and the postcolonial world: The new political economy of development. Palgrave.

  • Keikhosrokiani, P., & Asl, M. P. (Eds.). (2022). Handbook of research on opinion mining and text analytics on literary works and social media. IGI Global.

  • Koshy, S. (2011). Minority cosmopolitanism. PMLA/Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 126(3), 592-609.

  • Kraidy, M. (2006). Hybridity, or the cultural logic of globalization. Temple University Press.

  • Kuortti, J., & Nyman, J. (Eds.). (2007). Reconstructing hybridity: Post-colonial studies in transition. Rodopi.

  • Lahiri, J. (1999). Interpreter of Maladies. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

  • Lamb, S. E. (2009). Aging and the Indian diaspora: Cosmopolitan families in India and abroad. Indiana University Press.

  • Lewis, S. (2001). Lahiri’s interpreter of Maladies. The Explicator, 59(4), 219-221.

  • Lutzoni, S. (2017). Jhumpa Lahiri and the grammar of a multi-layered identity. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 38(1), 108-118.

  • Moynihan, S. M. (2012). Affect, history, and the ironies of community and solidarity in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies. In L. Dhingra & F. Cheung (Eds.), Naming Jhumpa Lahiri: Canons and controversies (pp. 97-116). Lexington Books.

  • Nair, C. T. (2015). Politics of in-between spaces: Diasporic travails in Jhumpa Lahiri’s fiction. An International Journal of Asian Literatures, Cultures and Englishes, 9(1), 137-145.

  • Neutill, R. (2012). Intimate awakening, Jhumpa Lahiri, diasporic loss, and the responsibilities of the interpreter. In L. Dhingra & F. Cheung (Eds.), Naming Jhumpa Lahiri: Canons and controversies (pp. 117-134). Lexington Books.

  • Pourgharib, B., Hamkhiyal, S., & Asl, M. P. (2022). A non-orientalist representation of Pakistan in contemporary western travelogues. GEMA Online Journal of Language Studies, 22(3), 103-118.

  • Ranaweera, N. (2022). The maternal presence in diasporic women’s lives in the works of Amulya Malladi and Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni: A focus on gender, identity, and place. In M. P. Asl (Ed.), Gender, place, and identity of South Asian women (pp. 89-108). IGI Global.

  • Rastogi, A. (2015). Cultural hybridity in the select fictions of Jhumpa Lahiri. International Journal of Novel Research in Humanity and Social Sciences, 2(5), 1-4.

  • Ruia, R. (2012). A mouthful of silence and the place of nostalgia in diaspora writing: home and belonging in the short fiction of Bharati Mukherjee and Jhumpa Lahiri [Doctoral dissertation, University of Manchester]. E-theses Online Service.

  • Rutherford, J. (1990). The third space: Interview with Homi Bhabha. In J. Rutherford (Ed.), Identity: Community, culture, difference (Vol. 1990, pp. 207-221). Lawrence and Wishart.

  • Shankar, L. D. (2009). Not too spicy: Exotic mistresses of cultural translation in the fiction of Chitra Divakaruni and Jhumpa Lahiri. In N. Iyer & B. Zare (Eds.), Other tongues: Rethinking the language debates in India (pp. 23-53). Rodopi.

  • Singh, A., Skerrett, J. T., & Hogan, R. E. (Eds.). (1996). Memory and cultural politics: New approaches to American ethnic literature. Northeastern University Press.

  • Swarup, A., & Devi, N. (2012). Food as an important vehicle in Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies”. Indian Streams Research Journal, 2(4), 1-5.

  • Trivedi, H. (2007). Translating culture vs. cultural translation. In P. St-Pierre & P. C. Kar (Eds.), In Translation-Reflections, refractions, transformations (Vol. 71, pp. 277-287). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

  • Wolf, M. (2008). Interference from the third space? The construction of cultural identity through translation. In M. Muñoz-Calvo, C. Buesa-Gómez, & M. A. Ruiz-Moneva (Eds.), New trends in translation and cultural identity. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

ISSN 0128-7702

e-ISSN 2231-8534

Article ID


Download Full Article PDF

Share this article

Related Articles