M. G. Vassanji’s evocative short fiction delves into the complex and intertwined tapestry of cultures that Indian Ocean communities represent. His characters lead border and nomadic lives and they occupy in-transit subject positions. Signs of constant navigation between different cultural contexts abound in stories about diasporic subjects who try to negotiate the in-between worlds they inhabit by crossing identity thresholds, such as the ones built around the secular- religious, Western-Eastern, and present-past divide. This article explores the potential that the Indian Ocean experience offers and seeks to unravel the extent to which Indian Ocean migration can effect transformation within more rigid narratives of national belonging. Vassanji’s short stories, in general, and When She Was Queen, in more detail, are analyzed, as this genre lends itself to explore a wide range of characters, whose complex affiliations represent a challenge to more rigid identity categorizations, adding a strong sense of collectivity. Vassanji’s short fiction explores the intrinsic diversity that defines the Western Indian Ocean world and the nomadic potential it has transplanted to Western contexts such as Canada and the USA and it offers a vantage point to observe the complex subjective processes of double displacement and the problematic negotiations of intergenerational and transcultural dealings, affecting those who are recurrently doomed to a state of homelessness.


Deleuze and Guattari, diaspora, homelessness, in-between, Indian Ocean, Vassanji

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)