Interrogating Ralph Singh as Floating Signifier: A Study of Displacement and Diaspora in V.S. Naipaul’s The Mimic Men




Floating signifier, Non-linguistic, Displacement, Diaspora, Rootlessness, Sign, Nonlinguistic sign, Alienation, Disorder


Claude Levi Strauss coined the term 'floating signifier' by which he means “to represent an undetermined quantity of signification, in itself void of meaning and thus opt to receive any meaning” (Levi Strauss p. 56). Fundamentally, the term refers to the disorientation of the connection between the signifier and the signified in the Saussurian sense. Its reception as a non-linguistic sign is quite popular nowadays. This paper seeks to investigate the portrayal of Ralph Singh, the protagonist of V. S Naipaul’s novel; The Mimic Men (1967), and interpret all the possible factors that justify him as a non-linguistic floating signifier. Ralph Ranjit Kripal Singh or Ralph Singh is a Hindu born, lives in a fictitious Caribbean Island, Isabella. He later goes to England for his education, where he marries an English woman named Sandra. He comes back to Isabella and then travels back to England again. Ralph feels displaced from his real root to be a part of the country which he could not relate himself to and eventually metamorphoses into a ‘sign’. In the novel, wherever he travels, Ralph strives to make his life meaningful and significant. But every time his effort ends up in an insignificant way. So, throughout the novel, Ralph Singh behaves as a floating signifier but wishes to be signified. This paper also explores the relationship between displacement and diaspora, and its correlation to the floating signifier. The final purpose of this article is to ignite the discourse of the diaspora from an entirely different perspective.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


Bhabha, Homi. “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse.” The MIT Press, Otober, vol. 28, 1984, p. 125., doi:10.2307/778467.

Chandler, Daniel, and David Chandler. Semiotics for Beginners. Cobley & Jansz. 2005

Farkas, Johan, and Jannick Schou. “Fake News as a Floating Signifier: Hegemony, Antagonism and the Politics of Falsehood.” Javnost - The Public, vol. 25, no. 3, 2018, pp. 298–314.,

Gradinaru, Camelia. “GIFs as Floating Signifiers.” Sign Systems Studies, vol. 46, no. 2/3, 2018, pp. 294–318., doi:10.12697/sss.2018.46.2-3.05.

Levi-Strauss, Claude. “Introduction to the Work of Marcel Mauss.” Routledge. 2013, doi:10.4324/9781315005102.

Mehlman, Jeffrey. “The ‘Floating Signifier’: From Levi-Strauss to Lacan.” Yale French Studies, no. 48, 1972, p. 10., doi:10.2307/2929621.

Mehni, Masoumeh, et al. “Trauma of Displacement in V.S. Naipaul’s the Mimic Men.” Asian Social Science, vol. 11, no. 24, 2015, doi:10.5539/ass.V11n24p95.

Sen, S. Macbeth. Unique Publishers, 2017.

Moraes, Silvia Elisabeth. “Global Citizenship as a Floating Signifier: Lessons from UK Universities.” International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning, vol. 6, no. 2, 2014, pp. 27–42.,

Naipaul, Vidiadhar Surajprasad. The Mimic Men. Penguin Books, 1969.

Naipaul, V. S. A House for Mr Biswas. Penguin, 1992.

Saussure, Ferdinand de. Course in General Linguistics. Columbia University Press, 2011.

“Race: The Floating Signifier.” PsycEXTRA Dataset, 1996,

“Trafficking as a Floating Signifier: The View from Brazil.” Anti-Trafficking Review, no. 4, 2015, doi:10.14197/atr.201215411.



DOI: 10.53032/tcl.2023.8.1.06
Published: 2023-02-28

How to Cite

Bapi Karmakar. “Interrogating Ralph Singh As Floating Signifier: A Study of Displacement and Diaspora in V.S. Naipaul’s The Mimic Men”. The Creative Launcher, vol. 8, no. 1, Feb. 2023, pp. 48-56, doi:10.53032/tcl.2023.8.1.06.



Research Articles