Xiwen Mai

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Published in 1991, Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali‘s collection A Nostalgist‘s Map of America is a book about the poet‘s travel in America. From ―"the dead center of Pennsylvania" to Indian reservations in New Mexico, the collection weaves multiple landscapes, texts, and emotions into a map of America, on which the poet‘s traveling routes lead to thinking about language, identity, colonial and neocolonial politics. While critics like Lawrence Needham, Jeannie Chiu, and Rajini Srikanth, in reading the collection, have all focused on his themes of nostalgia, melancholy, and loss as an exile, this paper argues that Ali‘s ―"map of America" actually demonstrates a cosmopolitanism, a poetics that foregrounds a sentiment of compassion across cultural boundaries and implies a critique of power. To show that, I read Ali‘s poems in the context of postwar American travel poetry in order to study how his cosmopolitanism extends into new territories questions raised by such poets as Elizabeth Bishop, and how it invites a remapping of the world by calling attention to people, locations and cultures marginalized in dominating discourses. Also, I will draw on Homi Bhabha‘s theorizing of an ―"unhomely" condition in Location of Culture and examine how Ali highlights an ―"unhomely" travel that troubles textual, geographical and cultural boundaries and invites us to rethink the meaning of ―"home" and the ―"foreign."


Presented at Graduate English Association New Voices Conference 2007, pp. 1-13.