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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

DOI: https://doi.org/10.47836/pjssh.30.4.10

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.

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