Diasporas and Diversities: Selected Essays, Edited by Niaz Zaman, IUB, ISBN978-984-34-1273-7, 2016
Keeping in view the dichotomy of diversity within unity and unity within diversity, the Department of English, Independent University Bangladesh (IUB) organized a three-day-long conference in November 2015. From the papers presented in the conference, eleven were selected for the book entitled Diasporas and Diversities: Selected Essays.
The work begins with 'Language Matters: English in a Multicultural World', the keynote paper of the conference delivered by Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam which explores how language is instrumental in synthesizing cultures. Islam argues that language is a vehicle which enables humans to share knowledge across a wide range of regions and spectrums. Premised upon the universal nature of languages as changeable, the keynote paper discusses the way English has travelled across the world and permeated local cultures. During its voyages, and despite all efforts made by grammarians and lexicographers to standardize it, English has continuously lost its monoculturalist attributes so that gradually different varieties emerged while it was being used as a lingua franca. A passionate promoter of multiculturalism, Professor Islam maintains that languages change, evolve and gather momentum as they travel beyond standardized fortifications. Citing Shakespeare's Anglicization of foreign language words and terms stemming from sources such as Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Germanic, Spanish Old Norse and Celtic languages, Islam shows how accommodation, adaptation, approximation and assimilation can enrich a language. His paper also highlights the way globalization has caused the phenomenal growth and expansion of the English language: the number of Chinese students learning English far outweighs the total number of people speaking English in Europe; thirty-four countries in four continents have English as their official language, and a significantly high proportion of the world population use English as a second language! Islam apprehends that the dominance of English will inevitably endanger many languages of the world; he also feels that English teaching in our parts of the world should focus on linking local cultures and sparking the creative imagination of learners. He believes that teaching methodology prescribed by any outside agency will contribute to the perpetuation of a language hierarchy.
Alongside the keynote paper, the anthology collects ten more research and critical papers of the conference that are kaleidoscopic in terms of ideas, approaches and attitudes. For instance, Mohammad Kaoser Ahmed's 'Yes, the Subaltern Can Speak: Deconstructing Gender Hegemony in Selina Hossain's Ghumkature Ishwar' helps us dive into the world of subaltern studies. Incessantly afflicted by patriarchal trauma, the female characters of Hossain's novel are seen by Ahmed to be bold and quick to protest against the treatment they receive from men. Ahmed investigates critically the dynamics that have empowered the women in the novel and sees them as determined to challenge conventionally enforced fatwas and the traditional argument of biological determinism that posits men are superior to women because of their biological composition.
In his essay 'Endgame: War and Trauma on the Absurd Stage', Md. Tanvir Ahsan depicts the traumas of victors and the vanquished that result from warfare. With clinical precision, the author throws light on how the horrific holocausts of World War II traumatized victims in their immediate locality and even beyond in works such as Samuel Becket's Endgame.
In 'Spiritual Metaphors: East-West Connectivity Synthesizing Eastern and Western Approaches to Spirituality,” Haroonuzzaman shows how the human search for the mystic side of life is quite pervasive despite the presence of humans in geographically diverse locations. This essay epitomizes the spiritual philosophy of 'Man in God' to show how the syncretic Baulism of the East strikes the same chord as that of the western transcendentalists. In today's strife-torn world, this idea of binding disparate areas through spirituality could bring about peace, overcoming differences.
Parallel to the contributions on diasporas, a number of essays dealing with other areas have also curved out niches in the anthology. While Mohammad Shafiqul Islam is busy exploring the human psyche, images of modern city life and overall degeneration in Kaiser Haq's Pariah and Other Poems, Razia Sultana Khan focuses on the world of fairy tales. Mohammad Shafiqul Islam's essay 'Nostalgia, Contemporaneity and Cynicism: Kaiser Haq's Pariah and Other Poems' show how the poet portrays minor but significant incidents of everyday life subtly. In her contribution, Razia Sultana Khan finds significant resemblances in fairy tales produced in varied geographical locations. Her essay 'It's All in the Plot: Using Fairy Tales to Teach Plot Construction' shows us how in-depth analyses of fairy tales help learners understand the way plots are constructed in fictions.
Diasporas and Diversities has been edited meticulously. No doubt the hard work and the professionalism of the editors have resulted in a work that will be of immense benefit to those who are engaged in the study of literature and cultures as well as English teaching.
The reviewer teaches English at Independent University Bangladesh