Home, Factory, World: Domestic and Global Fictions in the work of Lavanya Sankaran
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Lavanya Sankaran’s The Hope Factory (2013) weaves together two narratives. One is the story of a Bangalore factory owner struggling to enter into the world of transnational capitalism. The second is the story of the everyday struggles of one of his household’s servants, a struggling single mother. On the surface, such a division tacitly reinforces the gendered language of globalization theory, in which markets are “penetrated” and “dominated.” I argue, however, that the use of domestic fiction – generically associated with women characters and readers – to explore globalization, necessarily challenges more conventional, masculinist approaches. As J.K. Gibson-Graham point out, much globalization discourse fails to take into account the reality that there is no tidy division between life and work, nor between economic and affective relationships. Yet as Sankaran’s fiction illustrates, experiences and perceptions of globalization impact the most intimate moments of our lives, and intimate decisions, such as whom to marry, ripple out into the world. I contend that domestic fiction such as Sankaran’s therefore challenges ideas of world literature by insisting on gendered intimacy and specificity, but also risks becoming global literature, with “a problem-based monocultural aesthetic agenda that elicits transnational engagement” (Emily Apter, The Translation Zone, 99).