Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Gwen Raaberg


As a contribution to the theory of cognitive mapping, the dissertation examines the ways in which contemporary novels by women writers of diasporic literature offer new conceptual maps of the present global space. This study argues there is a need for alternative mapping strategies that locate the female diasporic subject within the new global political economy. Fredric Jameson's theory of cognitive mapping and Arjun Appadurai's model of global flows provide a useful framework for mapping global space, yet each must be filtered through a feminist critique and modified by a feminist politics. Ultimately, the dissertation argues for a feminist theory of cognitive mapping that considers women's multiple experiences of identity and how these experiences define the diasporic subject in relation to the various global flows (of people, capital, technology, information, or ideologies of state).

Surveying three novels written by writers of diasporic literature—Zadie Smith's White Teeth, Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters, and Michelle Cliffs No Telephone to Heaven, the dissertation discusses how these novels function as narratives and provide cognitive maps which help us re-conceptualize social and political structures and women's places within them. White Teeth examines Bengali and Caribbean women's experience of multiculturalism in London in light of British immigration policy spanning from 1948 to 1981. The novel maps the disjunctive relationship between global flows that both empower and disempower women. Jessica Hagedorns's Dogeaters captures the experiences of women in the Philippines exploited by foreign capital and by their own domestic ruling class and bombarded by American pop culture. Yet, given the disjunctive relationship between the global flows, globalization effectively provides women with new possibilities for resisting ideological and repressive state apparatuses. Still focusing on neo-imperialism, Michelle Cliffs No Telephone to Heaven highlights, through the political awakening of its fairskinned Jamaican protagonist, how global flows work in conjunction to conspire against developing nations, particularly against those within the nation who are most vulnerable. Each of the novels provides a cognitive map of global space highlighting a global system that is ultimately a space of contestation as well as possibilities.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access