Postcoloniality in Transition: Essays on Cosmopolitanism, Transnationalism, and Globalization [1 ed.] 9781647834906

The book explores the cataclysmic transitions in the discipline of postcolonial studies. It focuses on how the rise of a

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Postcoloniality in Transition: Essays on Cosmopolitanism, Transnationalism, and Globalization [1 ed.]

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Table of contents :
N. Rama Devi Murru - Introduction 11

Bill Ashcroft - Postcolonial Futures: Literature, Transformation, Globalization 29

M. S. Pandey - Redefining Identity: Globalization, Cultural Heterogeneity, and the Logics of Multiculturalism 49

Alan Johnson - Globalization, National Epic, and Dialectical Reading 66

Tabish Khair - The Mystery of the Missing Small Town in Current Internationally Visible Indian Fiction in English 88

Pravin K. Patel - Language and Lokation: Colonial Amnesia, Globalization and English Studies in India 95

Shreesha Udupa - Heterotopian Emplacements: Cosmopolitan Claims in Diasporic Literature 110

N. Rama Devi Murru (et al) - Round-Table Discussion on "Re-Positioning the Postcolonial: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Politics" 127

Ketu H. Katrak - Postcolonial Feminist Reading of Yael Farber’s Molora in Post-Apartheid South Africa 153

Shyam Babu - B rechtian Conceptualization of the “Dual Subject” and Karnad’s Hayavadana: Reflection on Self and Identity 173

Jibu Mathew George - Stories of Adults Told Through Children: The Case of Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things 191

Basil N. Darlong Diengdoh - The Transpersonal Nation: Diasporic Narrative in Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap 202

Hariom Singh and Vivek Singh - Imagining the Nation-State: Politicizing History and Historiography in Githa Hariharan’s In Times of Siege 219

Rashmi Rakheja - Horizons Extended: An Insight into the First Generation Immigrant Woman in The Namesake 229

Chinnadevi Singadi - If Saleem Sinai Had A Facebook Account: Revisiting The Postcolonial Puzzle in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children 236

Sunil Kumar - Women, (Non)State Ideology, and Global Politics in Afghanistan: A Study in Hosseini and Shakib’s Fiction 245

Mousumi Guha Banerjee - Enacting the Post-Colonial: Cinematic Representations of the New Woman in Aparna Sen’s Paromitar Akdin and 15 Park Avenue 268

List of Contributors 277

Index 281

Citation preview

N. Rama Devi Murru is Professor of English at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, formerly the Head of the Department of Indian and World Literatures and the Dean of the School of English Literary Studies. She is the author of The Novels of V S Naipaul: Quest for Order and Identity and has published several research papers in the area of Modern Fiction and New Literatures. She was also a visiting faculty at TUD, Technical University of Dresden, Germany in the year of 2010. Her areas of interest are World Literatures, New Literatures, Women’s Writing, Modern Fiction, and Critical Theory.



No.8, 3rd Cross Street CIT Colony, Mylapore Chennai, Tamil Nadu – 600004 First Published by Notion Press 2020 Copyright © Selection and editorial matter © N. Rama Devi Murru 2020; Individual chapters © their respective authors 2020 All Rights Reserved. ISBN 978-1-64783-490-6 This book has been published with all efforts taken to make the material error-free after the consent of the author. However, the author and the publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. While every effort has been made to avoid any mistake or omission, this publication is being sold on the condition and understanding that neither the author nor the publishers or printers would be liable in any manner to any person by reason of any mistake or omission in this publication or for any action taken or omitted to be taken or advice rendered or accepted on the basis of this work. For any defect in printing or binding the publishers will be liable only to replace the defective copy by another copy of this work then available.


Acknowledgements 9 Introduction 11

N. Rama Devi Murru

Part I: Issues And Debates

1. Postcolonial Futures: Literature, Transformation, Globalization

27 29

 Bill Ashcroft 2. Redefining Identity: Globalization, Cultural Heterogeneity, and the Logics of Multiculturalism


  M. S. Pandey 3. Globalization, National Epic, and Dialectical Reading


 Alan Johnson 4. The Mystery of the Missing Small Town in Current Internationally Visible Indian Fiction in English   Tabish Khair


6 Contents

5. Language and Lokation: Colonial Amnesia, Globalization and English Studies in India


  Pravin K. Patel 6. Heterotopian Emplacements: Cosmopolitan Claims in Diasporic Literature


  Shreesha Udupa

Part II: Round-Table Discussion

1. Re-Positioning the Postcolonial: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Politics

125 127

  N. Rama Devi Murru, Susie Tharu, Bill Ashcroft,   T. Nageswara Rao, Meena Alexander,   Tabish Khair, Rashmi D. Bhatnagar

Part III: Reading The Texts

1. A Postcolonial Feminist Reading of Yael Farber’s Molora in Post-Apartheid South Africa



  Ketu H. Katrak 2. Brechtian Conceptualization of the “Dual Subject” and Karnad’s Hayavadana: Reflection on Self and Identity


  Shyam Babu 3. Stories of Adults Told Through Children: The Case of Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things


 Jibu Mathew George 4. The Transpersonal Nation: Diasporic Narrative in Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap  Basil N. Darlong Diengdoh


Contents  7

5. Imagining the Nation-State: Politicizing History and Historiography in Githa Hariharan’s In Times of Siege


  Hariom Singh and Vivek Singh 6. Horizons Extended: An Insight into the First Generation Immigrant Woman in The Namesake


  Rashmi Rakheja 7. If Saleem Sinai Had A Facebook Account: Revisiting The Postcolonial Puzzle in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children


  Chinnadevi Singadi 8. Women, (Non)State Ideology, and Global Politics in Afghanistan: A Study in Hosseini and Shakib’s Fiction


  Sunil Kumar 9. Enacting the Post-Colonial: Cinematic Representations of the New Woman in Aparna Sen’s Paromitar Akdin and 15 Park Avenue 268   Mousumi Guha Banerjee List of Contributors


Index 281


Sincere thanks to all my friends and colleagues for their contributions to the anthology. My special thanks to Pravin K Patel for his help and support at all stages of preparation of this volume. I also thank Sheel Galada Parekh for the assistance at the editorial stage. My thanks to the publishers for bringing out the book beautifully.


N. Rama Devi Murru

The idea for this book originated from the International Conference on “Postcoloniality in Transition: Cosmopolitanism, Transnationalism, and Globalization” held at The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India in January 2013. Since the addition of more papers on recent topics related to the theme of the Conference would render the anthology more inclusive and up to date, some appropriate additions have been made. Since the publication of Orientalism (1978), Postcolonial Studies has become an indispensable reference, firstly because it has yielded a very precise critique of the Western metaphysics exposing the scandal of Eurocentrism and imperial metanarratives, and secondly because it has generated a series of studies that probe into the neglected dimensions of imperial domination and subaltern subject formation. Postcolonial Studies has broadened our understanding of the subaltern by digressing from political economy and by focussing on culture, and treating gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation in their intersections with the class as the fundamental zones of subjugation. This has resulted in rendering the post- of postcolonialism a “critical lens” through which the complicity between knowledge and power is examined in multiple domains of the past and the present. The field has tended to get

12 Introduction

preoccupied with all minority cultures including feminist writing in the third world, Dalit writing in India, literature of the diaspora and the dispossessed in the countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, and New Zealand while also developing an obsessive fixation with a stylish, if obscure, theory. In his endeavour to “world” postcolonialism further, Homi Bhabha has highlighted border crossing by including “transnational histories of migrants, the colonized, or political refugees” while Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman (1993) advocate the inclusion of “diasporic communities,” ethnic minorities, and the formerly colonized national cultures in order to expand its scope. With the inclusion of several essays by African Americans as “postcolonial” by Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin in their The Post-colonial Studies Reader (1995), Postcolonial Studies has been exonerated of the charge of being provincial. The term “postcolonial” has come under the scanner since the time it was used by Bill Ashcroft to refer to “all the culture affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day,” which not only posits colonization as some sort of continuum with hazy beginnings and no end, not even after a nation’s independence but also moves further to locate the literatures and politics of the whole world within its orbit. In the contemporary scenario of globalization and transnationalism, the concept of cosmopolitanism, a theory originating in classical Greece and later gaining currency as a utopian model in modernity under the Kantian influence, has been garnering renewed attention. A globalised economy, transnational corporations, migrant workers, as well as large-scale world travel have led theorists like Pnina Werbner (2008) to postulate the cosmopolitan worldview as an extension of the postcolonial and to coin a phrase like “a new cosmopolitan anthropology.” Werbner argues that the existence of a new “normative” cosmopolitanism entails three aspects: the democratisation of the international order, the creation of a “global public sphere” reflecting Jürgen Habermas’s modification of Kant’s Perpetual Peace, and, finally, “an emerging ethical response” to globalisation endorsing Ulrich Beck’s view. Werbner clarifies that Beck’s emphasis on a cosmopolitan consciousness as an “ethical response” is, from an anthropological perspective, particularly applicable to the

Introduction  13

rooted or vernacular forms, where an emergent consciousness of de facto cultural pluralism comes to the fore. Ignoring the inherent contradictions in “rooted’ or “vernacular” cosmopolitanism, Werbner asserts that its objective is “…to incorporate the Greek and Kantian ideas which first defined cosmopolitanism into a more complex and subtle understanding of what it means to be a cosmopolitan at the turn of the twenty-first century” (Werbner 2008, 3-6). To cope with these new circumstances and the changing global landscape, a synthesis of the intrinsic dichotomies of postcolonial and cosmopolitan theories in transnational, cultural interchange is essential. The contours of such a synthesis, according to Werbner, necessitates “first, the restless quest for the further horizon; second, the imperative of moral re-centring; and third, the constructing and transcending of difference” (15). In this concise representation, she confronts some of the fundamental tenets of postcolonial thought: “the restless quest for the further horizon suspiciously has imperialist overtones; “moral re-centring” calls into question the postmodern principle of moral relativism; and, most significantly, the notion of transcending of difference, i.e. to integrate the inevitability of difference into a more unified “cosmic” structure, where the quality of difference itself becomes a mark of commonality – challenges the poststructuralist rejection of developmental models with levels of higher “transcendence”, i.e., telos. At the same time, postcolonial theory, with all of its politicised attributes, will not be ready to abandon its copious deconstructions, critiques, and polemics in an act of “moral re-centring” or to desert its own ideological “Other” to any transcendent, unifying structure. Notwithstanding the outcome of the efforts put to achieve such a synthesis, the adaptation of classical cosmopolitanism to present-day processes of globalization and multiculturalism presents a unique opportunity, not only to engage directly on the fault lines of cultural interstices but also to robustly apply theory to ground reality, where, when amplified by true cosmopolitan concern and practice, the voice of the subaltern has the potential to actually be heard and the difference that defines her/him ultimately transcended. While the problem of cosmopolitanism comprises some of the most pressing present-

14 Introduction

day questions related to identity, ethnicity, nationalism, and globalization, the attitudes and practices of the cosmopolitan are indecipherable. This type of intellectual strategy is expected to leave the category of cosmopolitan entirely open, free of foreclosure by any set of academic, ethnic or meta-national discourses and allow it to have a commendable “epic dimension” which in fact rings in a dismissal of European confidence about its influence on Latin American and African works and the hostility to the legacy of decolonization, and an extension of aesthetic criteria such as complexity, subtlety and irony (Brennan 1997, 38-41). By continuing to follow the modernist trend set by Conrad, Joyce, and Woolf, postcolonial writers like Salman Rushdie and Kazuo Ishiguro promote “critical cosmopolitanism” which means “thinking beyond the nation but comparing, distinguishing, and judging among different versions of transnational thought; and valuing informal as well as transient models of community” (Walkowitz 2006, 2). Many postcolonial writers bring in this spirit of cosmopolitanism and also a suspicion of “planetary humanism” in their works by setting their works against the backdrops of international events that had had and still have a large scale impact on the world today, such as the two World Wars, immigration, the two 9/11 events (the fall of the Berlin wall and the attacks on the World Trade Centre), or the partition of India, and by focusing on the trivial or transient episodes of everyday life, thus representing a worldwide human living and global community. Their efforts clearly seem to be directed at rendering cosmopolitanism more realistic and firmly responsible, ethically and politically, so that the “rift between the world of globalised … and its countless subworlds of powerless, disenfranchised daily living” (Shoene 2009, 14) is bridged. Cosmopolitanism is often understood as the positive face of globalization or rather globalization is viewed as the necessary precondition of cosmopolitanism as it generates a ground upon which new forms of democratic activity can be built. Delanty (2000) and Held (1996, 2002) hold up cosmopolitan democracy and cosmopolitan law as morally positive innovations which though considered sometimes as utopian, should begin to play a more important role in times of globalization and transnationalism. Besides a political side, cosmopolitanism has another important face – the cultural face which has been focussed on by

Introduction  15

Appadurai (1986) who understands cosmopolitanism majorly as a transcultural phenomenon, where the manufacturing and use of certain products across cultures is the chief means by which the Other is experienced. Though these transcultural interactions often promote cosmopolitan outcomes, it is not necessary that mobility should be on a global scale, as moving through different parts of a city might also end up as a cosmopolitan experience sometimes. There are innumerable ways of being- and belonging-in-the-world, and cosmopolitanism matters because it not only enables us to understand the historically conditioned context of our existence but also equips us with the necessary tools to think global, beyond the limitations of culture and politics. Scholars like David Held sincerely feel that cosmopolitanism holds out the hope of a new type of citizenship, of a transnational nature, producing a cosmopolitan who is no longer “anchored in fixed borders and territories” but who pursues “basic democratic arrangements” transnationally (Hirst and Held 2002, n.p.). For Beck, the cosmopolitan outlook is a coerced and irreversible side effect of global interdependence: Cosmopolitanization is a non-linear, dialectical process in which the universal and the particular, the similar and the dissimilar, the global and the local are to be conceived, not as cultural polarities, but as interconnected and reciprocally interpenetrating principles. The experience of global interdependence and global risks alter the social and political character of societies within the nation states. What is distinctive about cosmopolitanization is that it is internal and that it is internalized from within national societies or local cultures. But it is also a cosmopolitanization of the self and of national consciousness, however, deformed (2006, 73).

Beck’s views are valuable to us because they connect forms of lifestyle – cosmopolitan – to various forms of modernity, i.e., to political conditions. Nussbaum’s essay, “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism” (1994) and the ensuing debates of Nussbaum and Cohen (1996) have reinvigorated the concept of cosmopolitanism and remind us of its inherent limitations and contradictions. On the one hand, it represents a tool for radical social imagination through projections of cosmopolitan democracy, law and citizenship (Held 1995), and,

16 Introduction

on the other hand, it is in danger of being an almost meaningless and glib catchphrase (Breckenridge et. al. 2000). While the inherently abstract utopian value of cosmopolitanism sounds highly promising, it also raises questions about its applicability to purposes of social enquiry given the diffuse and uncertain aura around it. To understand cosmopolitanism as embedded in structural conditions defined by fuzzy and vague notions of citizenship and the nation-state is to understand the possibility of transcendence of the present and the immediate as well as the limits of the social. For Appadurai (1990), the new dynamics of time-space compression in the “imagined world” gives rise to new dimensions which are indicative of the power of international flows that disregard the notions of national boundaries. In his essay “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy” (1990), he counters the functioning of a centre-periphery model for “a complex, overlapping, disjunctive order” (296) in the era of the new global cultural economy and transnational world relationships. Extending the logic of Benedict Anderson’s imagined national communities to the global scale, he formulates the notion of “imagined world” to describe the condition of contemporary world pertaining to the global economy, and transnational communities forged through networks of diaspora, migration, technology, electronic media, ideologies, and global capital. In this regard, he identifies five dimensions of global cultural flow: ethnoscapes* (people who move between nations and constitute the shifting world, such as tourists, immigrants, exiles, guestworkers, and refugees), technoscapes (global configuration of mechanical and informational technology, often linked to multinational corporations), financescapes (global capital, currency markets, national stock exchanges, national turnstiles), mediascapes (electronic and new media to produce and disseminate information, i.e. newspapers, magazines, television stations, and film production studios), and ideoscapes (the ideologies of states and the counter-ideologies of movements) (1990, 296-99). The above descriptions suggest what Rushdie notes in “Imaginary Homelands” about the “migrant condition”: “Our identity is at once plural and partial. Sometimes we feel that we straddle two cultures; at other times, that we fall between two stools…” (1992, 15). This notion gets a further emphasis in Homi

Introduction  17

Bhabha’s description of culture as transnational and translational, which bears resemblance to Appadurai’s formulation of ethnoscapes and mediascapes in the production of global culture. Bhabha writes, It [culture] is transnational because contemporary postcolonial discourses are rooted in specific histories of cultural displacement, whether they are the ‘middle passage’ of slavery and indenture, the ‘voyage out’ of the civilizing mission, the fraught accommodation of Third World migration to the West after the Second World War, or the traffic of economic and political refugees within and outside the Third World. Culture is translational because such spatial histories of displacement – now accompanied by the territorial ambitions of ‘global’ media technologies – make the question of how culture signifies, or what is signified by culture … (1994, 247).

What Bhabha suggests is that we have a condition of “cultural hybridity,” but he negates the concept that there were pure and original cultures that became hybrid. In addition, Bhabha, in his “Introduction” to The Location of Culture, proposes the “vernacular” or “the Trinidadian variety” of cosmopolitanism because it “emerges from the world of migrant boarding-houses and the habitations of national and diasporic minorities” (xvi), and is a state of being at home abroad or abroad at home. He explains it, with his personal experience, through the concept of “DissemiNation”: I have lived that moment of the scattering of the people that in other times and other places, in the nations of others, becomes a time of gathering. Gathering of exiles and émigrés and refugees; gathering on the edge of ‘foreign’ cultures; gatherings at the frontiers; gatherings in the ghettos or cafés of city centres; gathering in the half-life, half-light of foreign tongues, or in the uncanny fluency of another’s language; gathering the signs of approval and acceptance, degrees, discourses, disciplines; gathering the memories of underdevelopment, of other worlds lived retroactively; gathering the past in a ritual of revival; gathering the present. Also the gathering of people in the diaspora: indentured, migrant, interned; the gathering of incriminatory statistics, educational performance, legal statutes, immigration status (1994, 139).

18 Introduction

Also, most of the contemporary commentators and scholars of cosmopolitanism concern themselves with such motifs as rootlessness, movement, homelessness, nomadism, etc. While Said (1979) talks about the condition of homelessness, Deleuze and Guattari (1987) dwell on the nomad whose only real place of belonging is movement itself, and Melucci (1989) compares the actors of modern social movements to nomads as they lack long-term obligations. The metaphor of nomadism is one of the most common ways in which the tension between fixity and fluidity, sedentarism and dispersion are thematized. Since the early 1990s, a new dynamics of economic and cultural transformations have become part of the postcolonial discourse, with the world beginning to witness and get impacted by several domestic issues and vice versa. Major events and phenomena like terrorist attacks and the “war on terror,” the predominance of America in the “new world order,” and ethnic and tribal conflicts not only mark this phase of transition but have collaterally led to what is referred to as the postcolonial condition. In the post-1990s, with the world now rendered as a “single operational unit” in terms of economy and mass culture, a sense of urgency for debate on and re-engagement with such notions as a nation, democracy, terror, war, freedom, and the like has begun to prevail among the academia. The U.S. and the British interventions in the Third World and the Middle East pushed in a “neo-imperialist phase” that emphasised a sharp growth in a new Anglo-American nationalism articulating its economic and military power at the cost of the freedom and autonomy of people and places in the Third World. As Appadurai says, “The central problem of today’s global interactions is the tension between cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization,” and “most often, the homogenization argument subspeciates into either an argument about Americanization, or an argument about commoditization …” (1990, 295). The interdisciplinary nature of postcolonialism and cosmopolitanism due to their continual merging and overlapping in the recent times has given rise to myriad responses which in turn lead the way to new questions such as how do we, with our manifest differences, live together in the world? Can we talk

Introduction  19

about global ethics in the era of the war on terror? Are the politics and ethics of postcolonialism different and in need of different methodologies? Can there be a universal model of hospitality and forgiveness, irrespective of colonial violence? Some of the postcolonial critics such as Anthony Appiah reject globalization and multiculturalism and invest in the idea of cosmopolitanism. Placing cultural imperialism under scrutiny they ask, why is the post-9/11 world witnessing a discourse of the West and the rest? Is it necessary to recast postcolonial ethics in order to initiate a dialogue on the considerations of the self and the other? The essays in the present collection attempt to revisit many of these concerns, which have animated the new literatures in the recent years, and explore critically new territories such as the politics of knowledge production, the general geographies to literature, film, and also public space. The essays are grouped into two sections – Part I and Part III viz., Issues and Debates and Reading the Texts with Part II featuring a Round Table Session. The first section deals with papers that draw attention to predominant issues related to postcolonial studies over which debates continue to occur. The very first essay, “Postcolonial Futures: Literature, Transformation, Globalization” by Bill Ashcroft sets out to find answers to questions like what is the relationship between the postcolonial and the global? Will globalization supersede the postcolonial? Are they totally different enterprises, or do postcolonial studies offer strategies by which the flows of global populations and their relationships between the global and the local may be better understood? Ashcroft points out that globalization is a multidirectional and transcultural process, and it operates neither hierarchically nor centrifugally but “rhizomically.” To him, the postcolonial transformation is the key process that engages the local with the global and illuminates the emergence of multiple postcolonial modernities. The “postcolonial” as a critical lens facilitates the understanding of some of the key issues that we confront every day in our geopolitical present, but its success lies not in its limited approach but in its transformative and self-reflexive potential to review its theoretical and political limitations. When the “postcolonial” is integrated creatively into other paradigms like the “cosmopolitan,” the “transnational,” and the “global,” it not only shows up their inadequacies, but also its own constraints, thus providing a more nuanced explanation of the contemporary society.

20 Introduction

In “Redefining Identity: Globalization, Cultural Heterogeneity, and the Logics of Multiculturalism,” M S Pandey deals with one of the most discussed issues of the present times, ‘the politics of identity.’ The paper focuses its discussion on three novels – Manhattan Music by Meena Alexander, Riot by Shashi Tharoor, and The Point of Return by Siddhartha Deb, published in 1997, 2001, and 2002 respectively – and seeks to explain the failure of the logic of multiculturalism against the backdrop of the agonised lives lived by Indians as immigrants or as marginalised groups outside and within India. Alan Johnson’s paper, “Globalization, National Epic, and Dialectical Reading” opens with the statement that we can appreciate works of postcolonial literature only by reading them in relation to canonical texts and classic texts, which, to most of the postcolonial writers like Joyce, Walcott, Ghosh, are “changeable and perfectible” and crucial to any postcolonial writer’s attempt to forge a renovating idiom. Though the revisit involves the danger of sustaining the primacy of the former text at the expense of the newer forms of writing, it is indispensable for postcolonial writers that these voices are heard as revised visions of the past tending toward the future and as reinterpretable and re-deployable experiences. This alone will enable them to see how they had been misrepresented and to attempt to set the records and representations straight and render them authentic. The paper, thus, seeks to recommend that postcolonial literature must be celebrated in all its regional, linguistic, and cultural diversity, and must be read in conversation with such classic western texts as Heart of Darkness and Jane Eyre. Tabish Khair’s “The Mystery of the Missing Small Town in Current Internationally Visible Indian Fiction in English” examines how urban/ cosmopolitan spaces have become the primary Indian spaces in the recent Indian Fiction in English neglecting the small town settings completely. This trend, as he notes, is certainly a reflection of the current state of globalization as just another form of capitalism. “Language and Lokation: Colonial Amnesia, Globalization and English Studies in India” by Pravin K Patel takes up the idea of language-politics in terms of national culture and location. The paper focuses on the concepts of colonial amnesia, globalization and and the condition of English studies in India. Shreesha Udupa’s paper, “Heterotopian

Introduction  21

Emplacements: Cosmopolitan Claims in Diasporic Literature” traces the play of space-place dialectic in the discourse of cosmopolitanism that is emerging in recent diasporic writing and identifies the discourse as ensuing from two trajectories, one ecphrastic and the other cartographic. Udupa further argues they are symptomatic of two modes of thinking, muthos and logos, and concludes that the contemporary discourses of cosmopolitanism arising in the diasporic framework are essentially cartographic rather than ecphrastic. He focusses his reading on two texts, The Enchantress of Florence and The Shadow Lines by Rushdie and Ghosh respectively. Part II captures the responses of the panellists of a Round Table Session, titled “Re-positioning the Post-colonial: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Politics.” It seeks to explore the hidden possibilities of the postcolonial through questions posed to the panellists of the Session and their responses that not only make the positions of the panellists clear but also leave scope for further discussion. Part III includes papers which deal with a wide range of postcolonial texts to bring into perspective such concepts and issues as cosmopolitanism, globalization, multiculturalism, subalternity at the theoretical level and also a variety of ways of reading the implications in the context of the chosen text/s. The first paper in this section, Ketu H. Katrak’s “A Postcolonial Feminist Reading of Yael Farber’s Molora in Post Apartheid South Africa” undertakes a postcolonial feminist analysis of Molora, a creative adaptation of the Greek tragedy Oresteia set in post-apartheid times, by South African playwright Yael Farber. Katrak draws upon feminist theorizing on women’s ways of knowing and indigenous knowledge that is often “submerged” in situations of domination. She bases her argument on postcolonial feminist theorists Chandra Mohanty (Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity), Barbara Harlow (Resistance Literature), Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Imaginary Maps), and her own book, Politics of the Female Body: Postcolonial Women Writers. She also draws upon Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, as well as feminists “disciplining Foucault.” The paper “Brechtian Conceptualization of the ‘Dual Subject’ and Karnad’s Hayavadana: Reflection on Self and Identity” by Shyambabu discusses the

22 Introduction

Brechtian concept of multiple selves which Fredric Jameson refers to as ‘dualities of the subject’ in conjunction with the poststructuralists’ conceptualization of ‘incoherent subject’ and ‘fragmented self ’ and its implications in Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana. Jibu George Mathew looks at the ideological implications of telling a story about the adult world from the perspective of children, using their own language, which happens to be one of the most refreshing features of this Booker-winning novel, The God of Small Things, in his “Stories of Adults Told through Children: The Case of Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.” The paper also examines the dynamics of the child’s world, which enables the author to address larger questions related to family, class, caste, race, and gender. The next paper by Basil N Diengdoh’s “The Transpersonal Nation: Diasporic Narrative in Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap” explores how Tsiolkas’s narrative runs analogous to Bakhtinian heteroglossia – depicting a multiplicity of voices and perspectives that are either challenged, or reaffirmed, by the titular slap. The paper focuses on diasporic representations and the interpersonal relations of an emerging multicultural and multiethnic middle class in the contemporary Australian society. Hariom Singh and Vivek Singh study the malaise of colonialism that continues to persist in postcolonial India with a focus on two of Gita Hariharan’s historiographic novels in their paper, “Imagining the Nation State: Politicising History and Historiography in Githa Hariharan’s In Times of Siege.” In “Horizons Extended: An Insight into the First Generation Immigrant Woman in The Namesake,” Rashmi Rakheja deals with the tribulations of Ashima Ganguly in The Namesake. She attempts to capture those effects of globalization which result in a topographical shift and transnational migration, such as the sense of alienation, nostalgia, identity crisis, and generational differences, which affect the psyche of immigrants. Chinnadevi Singadi makes an attempt to construct a Facebook account for Saleem Sinai in her paper, “If Saleem had a Facebook Account: the Postcolonial Puzzle in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children” with the support

Introduction  23

of the events described in the pages of Rushdie’s novel. Sunil Kumar’s paper, “Women, (Non) State Ideology, and Global Politics in Afghanistan: A Study in Hosseini and Shakib’s Fiction” deals with the representation of women in Afghanistan in select novels of Hosseini and Shakib, exploring how the woman’s body plays an important role in sanctioning the government, in determining the country’s policies and politics. In the process, the paper also traces how woman’s existence is fated to remain between the hammer and the anvil, and how she has become the victim of the tradition-bound culture of that nation. The paper reveals that control over a woman’s body is essential for every Afghan male either for personal gratification or for material success. Moushumi Guha Banerjee, in her paper, “Enacting the Post-colonial: Cinematic Representations of the New Woman in Aparna Sen’s Paromitar Akdin and 15 Park Avenue” seeks to explore the resonances of the quintessential post-colonial New Woman’s voice that speaks up on the face of the once-hailedto-be-privileged colonizer or patriarch, and how, when it does, the centre ‘falls apart’ thereby creating and legitimizing a new and subversive world order. Given the extent and durability of change and the open and ongoing questions that ensue from discussions on the phenomena of cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, and globalization, postcolonial studies alone cannot be expected to provide answers or effect solutions, but it can certainly be expected to provide more informed histories and theories than those that currently guide public policy. The academia associated with postcolonial studies should recognize and acknowledge the fact that the field has been at least asking the right questions at the right points of time to take the discussions on these issues further. The book, Postcoloniality in Transition, makes an earnest attempt to offer a comprehensive account of these issues and debates that mark moments of transition in the paradigms of postcolonialism and the phenomena of cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, and globalization. It is further enriched by close readings of some of the seminal texts, providing clear and elaborate discussions and leaving adequate scope for further deliberations. With the texts selected for study by the contributors ranging from the genres of drama to fiction to films, the book attempts to provide a spacious canvas or backdrop against which the issues and debates over the themes in question are debated.

24 Introduction

Note: *However, Appadurai states that ethnoscapes do not reject the notion of “relatively stable communities and networks, of kinship, of friendship, of work and of leisure, as well as of birth, residence, and other filiative forms” (297).

Works cited: Anderson, Benedict. 1983. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso. Appadurai, A. 1986. “Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value.” In The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Appadurai. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 3-63. Appadurai, A. 1990. “Disjuncture and Difference in Global Cultural Economy.” Theory, Culture & Society, 7: 295-310. Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin. 1995. The Post-colonial Studies Reader. London: Routledge. Beck, U. 2000. “The Cosmopolitan Perspective: Sociology and the Second Age of Modernity.” The British Journal of Sociology, 51 (1): 79-105. —. 2006. The Cosmopolitan Vision. Cambridge: Polity. Bhabha, H. K. 1994. The Location of Culture. London; New York: Routledge. —. 1996. “Culture’s in-Between”. In Questions of Cultural Identity, eds. Stuart Hall & Paul du Gay. London: Sage Breckenridge, Carol A, Sheldon I Pollock, Homi K Bhabha and Dipesh Chakrabarty. 2002. Cosmopolitanism. NC, USA: Duke University Press. Brennan, T. 1997. At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Brown, W. 2008. Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Introduction  25

Delanty, Gerard. 2000. Citizenship in a global age:_Society, Culture, Politics. Buckingham: Open University Press. Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Derrida, J. 2001. On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness. London: Routledge. Held, David. 1995. Democracy and the Global Order:_From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance. Stanford: Stanford University Press. —. 1996. Models of Democracy. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Hirst, Paul_and_Held, David. 2002._Globalisation: The Argument of our Time._ URL: Opinion Piece. Accessed: 13 January 2014. Melucci A. 1989. Nomads of the Present. London: Hutchinson Radius. Nussbaum, M C. 1994. “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism.” Boston Review, 19 (50). 1-8. Nussbaum, M C. and Cohen, J, eds. 1996. For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism. Boston: Beacon Press. Palmer, D D. 1997. Structuralism and Poststructuralism for Beginners. Danbury CT: For Beginners LLC. Parker, David. 2003. “Diaspora, Dissidence and the Dangers of Cosmopolitanism.” Asian Studies Review, 27 (2). 155-169. Said, E. (1978) 1979. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books. Shoene, B. 2009. The Cosmopolitan Novel. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Spivak, G.C. 1988. Can the subaltern speak? In Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, edited by Cary Nelson. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Walkowitz, R. L. 2006. Cosmopolitan Style, Modernism beyond the nation. New York: Columbus University Press. Werbner, P, ed. 2008. Anthropology and the New Cosmopolitanism: Rooted, Feminist and Vernacular Perspectives. Oxford: Berg.

26 Introduction

Werbner, Richard. ed. 2002. Postcolonial Subjectivities in Africa. London: Zed Books Werbner, Pnina &_Henrike Donner. 2008. Anthropology and the New Cosmopolitanism:_Rooted, Feminist and Vernacular Perspectives. —. 2008. “Understanding Vernacular Cosmopolitanism”. URL: https://doi. org/10.1525/an.2006.47.5.7. Accessed: 15 January 2014. Williams, Patrick and Laura Chrisman. 1993. Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory: A Reader. London: Routledge.



Over twenty years ago, The Empire Writes Back was written to bring together the textual attentiveness of Commonwealth literature and sophisticated approaches to the contemporary theory that could evolve a way of reading the continuing cultural engagements of colonial societies. Looking back, it is hard to imagine a more frenetic or argumentative field of literary study than this one subsequently became. Indeed, it often seemed as though to enter the field you had to critique the very idea of the post-colonial, while its demise was trumpeted by a jostling succession of Cassandras. Yet post-colonial studies has not only flourished but has embraced its critics, channelling even their objections into the broad collective agenda of the creative cultural engagement with imperialism in all its forms. One of the curious features of this field has been the persistent question of its future, a question that seems to have arisen from the beginning alongside the prophecies of its immanent demise. Twelve years ago I published a book called Post-Colonial Futures (2001) and if I wrote another version today it would include a number of emerging issues as well as the staples of globalization, transculturalism and translation: it would include multiple modernities, world literature, cosmopolitanism, the sacred, the environment,

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and that future thinking critical to postcolonial studies – the utopianism. So, clearly, postcolonial theory is developing well beyond the historical realities of colonial contact. But the issue that continues to occupy people’s attention is the relationship of postcolonial theory to globalization. The debate around the relationship includes such questions as: What is the relationship between the postcolonial and the global? Will globalization studies supersede the postcolonial? Are they totally different enterprises, or do postcolonial studies offer strategies by which the flows of global populations and the relationships between global and local may be better understood? In fact, this is an argument I want to make. One of the unfortunate consequences of the rise of the postcolonial theory was that it became dragooned into the role of the Grand Theory of Global Cultural Diversity. It was expected to be a theory of everything, but its strength lay in its continued resistance to this universalising tendency and its focus on the cultural context of postcolonial literatures.Yet while we need to insist that postcolonial theory is not a theory of everything, one criticism needs to be contested – that somehow postcolonial theory’s relevance is diminished by its inability to account for the complexities of globalization. Hardt and Negri, for instance, argue that a global political consciousness must learn from but ultimately supersede postcolonial struggles. This supposes that the postcolonial and global are both chronologically and categorically sequential. But far from being disparate in their origin, postcolonial and globalization studies emerged at the same time during the 1980s and very soon a cultural turn occurred in globalization studies that was driven by the language of postcolonialism. Varied as the discourses of postcolonialism and globalization might be, according to Simon Gikandi (2001), … they have at least two important things in common: they are concerned with explaining forms of social and cultural organization whose ambition is to transcend the boundaries of the nation-state, and they seek to provide new vistas for understanding cultural flows that can no longer be explained by a homogenous Eurocentric narrative of development and social change (627).

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Scholars trying to understand social and cultural production in the new millennium were attracted to globalization theory because of its determination to reconcile local and global interests. As Arjun Appadurai puts it, global mediascapes and ideoscapes have become the site of tension between “cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization.” The great temptation is to see globalization purely in terms of neo-liberal economic dominance in which the global represents a simple top-down pressure conforming the world into a damaged simulacrum of Wall Street. But there is much globalization, by far the most interesting one being the cultural globalization, and the postcolonial interest in disjuncture, hybridity and cultural transition explain why the cultural turn in globalization theory in the 1990s was driven by the language of postcolonial discourse. While Appadurai talks about the “symbolic economy of the new global culture,” there is no doubt that “part of the attraction of postcolonial theory to questions of globalization lies precisely in its claim that culture, as a social and conceptual category, has escaped ‘the bounded nation-state society’ and has become the common property of the world” (Featherstone 1990, 2). Bhabha makes this point when he stresses that postcolonial theory makes a critical departure from “the traditions of sociology of underdevelopment and dependency theory”; as a mode of analysis, postcolonial theory “disavows any nationalist or nativist pedagogy that sets up the relations of the third world and first world in a binary structure of opposition, recognizing that the social boundaries between first and third worlds are far more complex” (Bhabha 1991, 63). What made post-colonial theory so useful was its ability to comprehend the postmodern movement of culture beyond the nation-state and at the same time to address the particularity of the (largely non-Western) local. This represented not just an appropriation of the language of the post-colonial but also an unprecedented rise to prominence of the Humanities, and literary study in particular, in the descriptions of global culture. It was through cultural practices that difference and hybridity, diffusion and the imaginary, concepts that undermined the Eurocentric narrative of modernity, were most evident.

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Not surprisingly, the interpolation of post-colonial theory in the analysis of globalization and the mainstreaming of cultural discourse has meant the reappearance of the local, though characteristically, now a local culture much more ambivalent and much more globally inflected than that rural backwater was dismissed by development theory. Besides their shared cultural grammar, however, the precise relationship between the postcolonial and the global is not clear. In what ways, for instance, might postcolonial reading practices inform our understanding of global relations? On one hand, globalization appears to be a continuation of that hierarchical power that characterised European imperialism. On the other hand, it constitutes the opposite, what Appadurai calls “a complex overlapping, disjunctive order that cannot any longer be understood in terms of existing centre-periphery models” (1996, 32). And for those who might argue that globalization is simply the Westernization or Americanization of the world, Appadurai makes a crucial distinction between older forms of modernity, whose goal was the rationalization of the world in Weberian terms, to the symbolic economy of a new global culture based on reciprocal rather than nonlinear relationships. But we can go further than this. Rather than making the post-colonial synonymous with cultural globalization, there are specific analytical tools developed within post-colonial theory that help us to understand the present global dispersal of modernity. The shared cultural grammar of globalization and postcolonial studies does not account for the strategic benefits postcolonial theory may offer to globalization studies, nor whether globalization is a particularly useful term for the humanities. But one thing remains certain, with all the talk of the crisis in humanities, it is the literary study that has triggered the re-shaping of global discourse. The example of postcolonial literatures, in their relation to imperial power, provides two significant strategies for growth and change – transformation and circulation. The first is based on the capacity of postcolonial writers to take dominant discourses and technologies, specifically the English language and literary genres and transform them into “local” manifestations of subjectivity. On the other hand, the circulation of

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creative technologies outside the control of the imperial powers demonstrates how “glocalization” might work. The interesting thing here is the relevance of the literary model for understanding global relations.

Transformation It is clear that the dissemination of modernity in imperial civilizing projects produced consequences as unexpected as those that occurred when English literature was deployed as the primary civilizing discourse of the British Empire. In fact, the appropriation and transformation of literature can be taken as a metonym for the ‘creative adaptation’ of Western modernity by colonized societies. Therefore, when Achille Mbembe states, “Like Islam and Christianity, colonization is a universalizing project. Its ultimate aim is to inscribe the colonized in the space of modernity” (Mbembe 2002, 634), we must ask: did it succeed? Did it “inscribe” the colonized in the space of modernity through a process of cultural disorientation, or did the colonized take hold of the pen and inscribe themselves in that space in a curious act of defiance modelled by post-colonial writers? The diffusion of global influence makes the relationship between the local and the global all the more complex, and as we know, the term “glocalization” more adequately describes the relationship between the local and the global as one of interaction and interpenetration rather than of binary opposites. The view that the local and the global should not be seen in a simple homogenizing power relationship, but that the local contributes to the character of the global, is now widely held. But how this occurs is less clear, and it is precisely this phenomenon that the processes of post-colonial transformation illuminate. We can begin to understand the relationship between the local and global by observing the dynamic of colonial engagements with dominant imperial discourses. The development of post-colonial literatures can be described in the following way: The appropriation by post-colonial societies of the language and genres of English literature entailed the continuous selection, reinterpretation, and reformulation of its themes, ideas and techniques. These brought about

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the continual transformation of the institution and practice of literature, with new forms of narrative and poetic language emerging. This appropriation and transformation were marked by a persistent ambivalence toward both the institution of literature and the colonizers themselves, an ambivalence that pivoted on the relationship between resistance and transformation. Now, this is precisely the process by which Western Modernity has been adapted and transformed by postcolonial societies. Despite the ambivalence towards both colonial culture and its ‘Literature’, the transformation was a particularly enterprising form of resistance that utilized the technologies of European modernity without being engulfed by them. In this way, postcolonial literatures stand as a metonym for alternative modernities: they are a specific practice, an enterprise engaged by agents who locate themselves in a discourse in a resistant, counter-discursive way through the transformation of dominant technologies. They are a specific example of how individual subjects could “change the world that is changing them” as Marshall Berman (1982) puts it in All that is Solid Melts into Air (16). This does not mean that they act independently of the forces acting upon them, but they act. Whereas the theory and practice of ‘development’ acts to force the local into globally normative patterns, ‘transformation’ shows that those patterns are adjusted to and by the requirements of local values and needs. Subsequently, the features of these alternative modernities may be re-circulated globally in a variety of ways. If we see post-colonial writers as agents of ‘alternative’ literatures we can see a similar dialectic between: (a) the colonial function of language education; (b) the cultural function of the canonical values of English Literature; (c) the economic aims of publishing companies capitalizing on post-colonial writing (Heinemann African Writers Series being the classic example); and (d) the interpolation of these dominant systems by writers appropriating and transforming literary language. The task of identifying the origin of resistance in these intersections can be futile, but transformative resistance flowers nevertheless because in the literary example, the writing constructs a world audience. By appropriating strategies of representation, organization and social change through access to global systems, local communities and

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marginal interest groups can both empower themselves and influence those global systems. By localizing and transforming technologies, the non-Western society may re-circulate those technologies globally. This corresponds, in fact, to a long-standing view of the development of cultures – one expressed a century ago by Emile Durkheim in what looks now like a very prescient statement: Nothing authorizes us to believe that different types of the population all go in the same direction. Human development should be represented not as a line on which societies stand one behind the other as if the most advanced were just following on from more rudimentary ones, but as a tree with many diverging branches. There is nothing to tell us that tomorrow’s civilization will be nothing but the continuation of what seems the noblest today, perhaps, on the contrary, it will be created by populations we judge to be inferior, such as the Chinese, who will give it a new and unexpected direction (L’Annee Sociologique, XII, 1913).

Circulation The principle that complements local transformation and adaptation is the circulation and re-circulation of locally adapted cultural production. These are just two ways in which the actual complexity of global relations can be analysed. A fascinating example of the ways in which global flows proceed in more complex ways than centre-periphery models can explain is the phenomenon of Bollywood. Cinema was born in Paris with the Lumière show that opened on 28th December 1885. Maurice Sestriere, the Lumière man was on his way to Australia, but owing to shipping routes between the colonies had to stop over in Bombay where he decided to screen the Lumière film. Thus virtually by an accident of history and imperial geography, the Indian film industry was born. But that industry, appropriating and transforming a technology from the West, became a profoundly different cultural phenomenon with a different range of effects upon other modernities outside the scope of Western modernity. This can be seen in a story told by Shyam Benegal, one of India’s most original filmmakers. He recalls how the Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima told him that

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… if there was one film that influenced him to the extent that he wanted to become a filmmaker it was the film Mother India. In Ethiopia, he said they would view films every month; his grandmother would gather her whole group, children and grandchildren, and they would all go to see Mother India. The story… which somehow expressed the deepest needs and aspirations of the Indian people, had a message not only for the Indian people but for people from outside India like Haile and his fellow Ethiopians (qtd. in Bose 2006, 20).

Quite apart from the questionable ideological sub-text of Mother India, the fascinating thing about this story is that it demonstrates the proliferation of a quintessentially modern technology with no reference to the West. Today Bollywood films, not always dubbed or sub-titled, are the entertainment of choice throughout Africa and Asia. The film becomes the way in which the deepest source of national and ethnic identity, an identity very often formed in opposition to the West, can be imagined and depicted, as metonymic of a transformed modernity. And it is transferred from India’s nationalist urtext – Mother India – to Ethiopia. The journey of the Bollywood film is not one that necessarily moves from Mumbai to audiences of diasporic Indians, it more often travels to audiences who respond not only to its lavish colour and musicality but to its capacity to represent an alternative way to celebrate cultural modernity. Modernity is plural, as is globalization.

Circulation and Power The perceptions we make from transformations of literature and film are augmented by the broader theories of transculturation which confirm Foucault’s observation made several decades ago: that power does not push downwards in a hierarchical fashion. “Power is everywhere, not because it embraces everything but because it comes from everywhere …. Power comes from below; that is, there is no binary and all-encompassing opposition between ruler and ruled at the root of power relations” (1980, 93). Imperial power, for instance, is transcultural, it circulates (through subjects as well as on them), and when it operates in language, speakers transform the language by interpolating their own styles of usage into its wider circulation. Despite the centripetal structure

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of the global economy in which re-packaged American debt can destroy world banks, alternative modernities circulate at the hands of agents who affect an insurgent and transformative resistance to power. My point is that postcolonial literatures provide the perfect model for this process. A rarely considered example of the circulation of modernity is that of Afromodernity. The African example is useful not only because it is commonly held to be the antithesis, or the Other, of modernity but also because “there has been a popular academic tendency to diminish, deny, or neglect the impact that African peoples, practices, and civilizations have had on the West’s development, as well as to forget the extent to which these populations have sought paths that have veered away from Western modernities even while being interlocked with them” (Hanchard 2001, 273). But in fact, the impact of Afro-modernity has been foundational. Benedict Anderson once said that American popular culture is the popular culture of the world. If that is so, we can say that the popular culture of the world derives from exiled African slaves, in whom popular music and culture has its roots. Whereas the cultural impact of Afro-modernity on Western modernity is clear in popular culture in its music, fashion, art, and even sport, a more subtle impact was that of the African diaspora on concepts of time. Whereas modernity had ‘disembedded’ time as Giddens puts it (1990), the emergence of what Hanchard calls ‘racial time’ may be said to have ‘re-embedded’ it. “Racial time is defined as an awareness of the inequalities of temporality that result from power relations between racially dominant and subordinate groups” (Hanchard 2001, 280), inequalities of temporal access to institutions, goods, services, resources, power and knowledge – effects that can be seen in the daily interactions of multi-racial societies (281). Ralph Ellison in Invisible Man expressed this concept of racial time as a feeling of being off the beat. Invisibility, let me explain, gives one a slightly different sense of time, you’re never quite on the beat. Sometimes you’re ahead and sometimes behind. Instead of the swift and imperceptible flowing of time, you are aware of its nodes, those points where time stands still or from which it leaps ahead. And you slip into the breaks and look around. That’s what you hear vaguely in Louis’ music (1972, 7-8).

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The re-circulation of a shared sense of oppression and purpose back to the newly independent African states is one of the most interesting consequences of the African diaspora. The emergence of the ‘New Negro’ and the calls for a transnational solidarity were heard in Ghana and characterized Kwame Nkrumah’s demand for a free Africa. Although Nkrumah was murdered, the tide that had begun in the African transnation had turned against colonialism and the post-colonial character of twentieth-century modernity was established. The third consequence, and the most far-reaching one, is the attitude towards the future that is shared with all the post-colonial peoples and revealed particularly in their literatures. We see in a statement by the African-American formulator of pan-Africanism, Alexander Crummel, the beginnings of what I take to be a revolution in the post-colonial relation between memory and anticipation: What I would fain have you guard against is not the memory of slavery, but the constant recollection of it, as the commanding thought of a new people, who should be marching on to the broadest freedom in a new and glorious present, and a still more magnificent future (Crummel 1969, 13).

Crummel’s desire exemplifies a strategic utopianism that comes to be one of the most powerful instances of the post-colonial transformation of modernity. Where the Western modernity became characterised by openness to the future we now see a situation in which that openness is revolutionized by the political agency of memory. These various features of Afro-modernity: its supra-national character; its circulation and re-circulation of liberating discourses of identity; and its recovery of history in a vision of the future are all, incidentally, features of the utopian in African literature, features shared and augmented by a growing utopianism in other post-colonial literatures.

World Literature By observing just two postcolonial strategies, and seeing the extent to which transformation and circulation help us understand global processes, we can see that postcolonial theory has at hand a very useful toolbox to deal with the various aspects of globalization. The question then is: what use is globalization

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theory to postcolonial studies? One way of testing this is to consider the growing global phenomenon of World Literature. Ironically, while the cultural turn in globalization studies was driven by the dissatisfaction with dependency theory and centre-periphery models, such a model – in Wallerstein’s World System has re-emerged as a theoretical basis for World Literature. The alert reader may detect the increased frequency with which “centre” and “periphery” have entered the discussion of literature and this outmoded geometric model provides a useful focus for comparison. Whether or not we agree with Goethe “that poetry is the universal possession of mankind, revealing itself everywhere and at all times,” the idea of a literature transcending national limits is one that leans inexorably towards the Eurocentric myths of greatness and universality. The privileged place accorded by Goethe to European literatures has led directly to an almost parodic Eurocentrism in theories such as Pascale Casanova’s, in which the Paris-centric structure of world literature rehearses one of the more outmoded aspects of imperial geometry. With David Damrosch, we can take world literature to encompass all literary works that circulate beyond their culture of origin … a work only has an effective life as world literature whenever, and wherever, it is actively present within a literary system beyond that of its original culture (2003, 4).

The world of world literature as Goethe practised it was less a set of works than a network and it is this network that has underpinned most approaches to the field in recent times. This relation between an economy of ideas and an economic system has led to the prominence of Wallerstein’s world system theory in approaches to the field such as Moretti’s and underpins the move towards world literature by Marxist theorists such as Benita Parry and Neil Lazarus. But I want to suggest that one of the best examples of a system of world literature has been on the rise in the 20th century of the phenomenon of post-colonial literatures. By appropriating and transforming the language of colonial domination,

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postcolonial writers were able to take control of their own representation and circulate it in the form of literary works throughout a world of English speakers. By interpolating already existing modes of production and circulation, these writers made use of the economic network of imperial relations to enter the world, so to speak. Interpolation suggests that these literatures are not ‘peripheral’ and in the case of post-colonial literatures they have transformed what we understand to be English Literature. What made this “world literature” and not just an extension of English literature was its institutional exclusion from the English literary canon, an exclusion that allowed it to ignore any continuous filiative relationship with the texts of English literature in favour of its social, cultural and political affiliations. In many respects, this was immensely liberating, for though provincial writers may be “cut off,” they are freed from the bonds of an inherited tradition. But in all writing that could be considered world literature, we find to some degree an implicit conversation between colonial marginality, national uniqueness and worldly vision. The idea of a work that transcends the culture that produces it refers to its place in a system of reception and distribution rather than its identity as an aesthetic production. World literature has often been seen as either an established body of classics, as an evolving canon of masterpieces, or as multiple windows on the world (Damrosch 2003, 15). The strategy of providing a particular, politically driven window on a postcolonial cultural world is, in fact, the principle by which the imperial language is appropriated and transformed by postcolonial writers. This strategic interpolation does not obviate the need to think of the power of the economic system itself, nor the tendency in that system to defuse the political charge of that literature by promoting its circulation within a network of print capitalism. But it does provide an example of a world literature in practice – one that is by necessity read beyond the boundaries of the nation; one that confirms world literature as a mode of circulation and reading rather than a huge canon of works. This is precisely what the term ‘postcolonial’ refers to: not a body of works produced after colonialism; or a body of works with an ontological connection arising from their colonial status, but a way of reading

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and a mode of circulation, a circulation through the English speaking world. I would suggest that the dynamic nature of postcolonial literary practice is a better indicator of global flows than the concept of a World Literature mired as it is in a geometric model of centre and periphery.

The Global Future of the Postcolonial: The Global Metropolis Clearly the “circulation” demonstrated by postcolonial literatures is different from the circulation that Damrosch sees as a defining feature of World Literature, for it is not simply a circulation of the texts among readers, but a transformative and disruptive circulation of cultural realities and alternative modernities. But it is circulation nonetheless. The confluence of postcolonialism and globalization is the interrogation of the logic of global power and the range of quotidian methods of resistance and transformation. The global movement of the postcolonial is a movement beyond the critique of the nation into the realm of the post-national, a movement away from the rural heartland of identity – which up to now has dominated the postcolonial contestation of place – towards the global metropolis. This is significant because the images and the rhetoric of nation and national identity are located in villages and both nationalism and its postcolonial critique have had little to do with cities. Cities exist in interstitial spaces between the nation and the world, which usually prohibit them from playing any central part in the national psyche. National mythologies are always located in the rural heartland and post-colonial studies has inevitably been concerned with the contest between the nation and empire in its various forms. Cities, on the other hand, all appear to be, if not similar, at least similarly messy irruptions of global modernity. Since medieval times cities have been locations of health and justice, freedom and enterprise on one hand, and dingy dystopias of class inequality on the other. But from a post-colonial perspective, the crucial feature of all great cities in history is that they have always been imperial, they have always been the centres of one form of empire or another. For these reasons and because of their multifarious and rhizomic cultural composition they are hard to fit into the classic discourses

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of decolonising rhetoric. The post-colonial city is habitually overlooked by both imperialists and nationalists: for one it is a hub for the exploitation of resources; for the other, it is a colonial imposition lacking the focused mythic identity of the nation. In the polarity between global and local, we tend to think of the mobility of populations in terms of international diasporas. The circulation of imperial power, and its strategies of enforced mobilization such as indenture and slavery, produced a reciprocal movement in colonized peoples, a movement back to the imperial metropolises and across those national boundaries established by colonial administrations. The spread of empire resulted in the spread of the colonized – an acceleration of migration and a rapid increase in diasporic populations around the world over the last half-century. Global theory would suggest that the site of cultural heterogeneity and the object of study should be the global city. But this overlooks the curious dynamic between the global city such as London, Paris and New York, and the postcolonial city such as Mumbai. This dynamic has been present in postcolonial literature for some time and is demonstrated most emphatically in Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses which moves between Mumbai and London in a process that suggests that the crucible of identity formation is no longer in the nation but in the city. Recognizing that the text “simultaneously refutes the autonomy of the nationstate and the metropole while exploring the possibility of global travel as an emerging site of political subjectivity” (Kalliney 2002, 52) one could argue that The Satanic Verses is one of the first novels to introduce postcolonial literature to the new global terrain. But it demonstrates at the same time the limitations of global theory. For the movement from postcolony to the imperial centre is not simply diasporic, exogenous and outward, rather it is circulatory, dynamic and curiously disruptive in its insistence on the place. In The Satanic Verses, we follow Saladin Chamcha, a wealthy Indian immigrant to London, as he moves back and forth between Bombay and his adopted home. The novel uses Chamcha’s harrowing international journey to illustrate the tribulations and consequences of the increasing mobility

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of global populations. After a humiliating interrogation and beating at the hands of a group of British police, Chamcha turns into a human goat and eventually makes his way to the tough streets of Brickell, a mythical borough in the heart of London’s East End, finding refuge in its Bengali community. In some respects, we could assume the novel reveals that international mobility increasingly serves as a metaphor for contemporary existence. But such a reading is complicated by the novel’s deployment of historically specific social and political relationships in London during the 1980s (52). This is not just an amorphous global city but a very specific location in Thatcher-era London – the Isle of Dogs. After experiencing the privations of the Bengali community both directly and vicariously, Chamcha concludes that he ought to come to terms with the country of his birth. While the plot is predicated on Chamcha’s physical and intellectual mobility, its readers need to confront the fact that it relies upon and is enabled by a very specific, historically situated narrative that remains fundamentally unresolved. Indeed, the narrative is structured by an unresolved contradiction between its local knowledge of race and class and its story of global self-discovery and spiritual renewal. The novel demonstrates how narratives of globalization must be read through very local political situations and material circumstances (Kalliney 2002, 52).

Kalliney argues that “Though the novel takes pains to racially and culturally mark Chamcha in the context of the metropole, it uses his journey back to Bombay as the device by which the novel can accommodate its metropolitan knowledges of the race with his desire for intellectual and spiritual renewal” (52). In the end, “Chamcha returns home to embrace the country he had left long ago, to recover the quality of Indianness that would help him make sense of the world and his place within it” (51). The novel employs a narrative of global mobility, in which the protagonist must reject the place of his birth in order to discover the true value in what he has left. But this is global mobility with a twist: Chamcha’s journey is the catalyst that inspires him to rediscover his Indian roots. In this saga of mobility between metropolises, a global theory of the Wallerstein variety might see London as the centre and Mumbai as ‘peripheral’

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but this is not how the cities operate in Chamcha’s experience – his racial self-discovery relies on the circulation between metropoles. Though his story appears to be a narrative of transnational self-discovery it relies strongly on the relevance of place, specifically its ability to communicate the experience of racism and poverty within London’s Bengali community and the re-orientation of that identity search in Bombay. The principle of circulation suggests that a lot more is going on than Chamcha’s self-discovery in a global setting.

Transnation While the text transcends the nation and the metropole, its focus on the necessary reality of place demands a theory of global subjectivity more perceptive than the transnational and this is the concept of mobility that begins within the nation that I call the transnation. The myth of national identity, the myth of the imagined community is fundamental to the survival of the nation, but to operate, the myth must displace the exorbitant proliferation of actual subject positions within the state. This proliferation constitutes what I call the transnation, a word that may force us to reconsider the importance of the nation as a cultural phenomenon, a horizontal reality – distinct from the vertical, hierarchical authority of the state. In this horizontal reality, culture still escapes the bounded nation-state society, exceeding the boundaries of the nation-state and operating beyond its political strictures through the medium of the local. This excess is the transnation. “Transnation” appears at first to be a familiar term based on the idea of the transnational. But I coin the term to refer to much more than ‘the international’, or ‘the transnational’, which might more properly be conceived as a relation between states, a crossing of borders or a cultural or political interplay between national cultures. Transnation is the fluid, migrating outside of the state that begins within the nation. This ‘outside’ is geographical, cultural and conceptual, a way of talking about subjects in their ordinary lives, subjects who traverse the various categories by which subjectivity is normally constituted, who live ‘in-between.’ In this respect, it is a postcolonial rather than global response to Featherstone’s claim that culture, as a social and conceptual category, has escaped

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‘the bounded nation-state society’ and has become the common property of the world” (Featherstone 1990, 2). The transnation occupies the space we might refer to as the ‘nation,’ distinct from the political structure of the state, which interpellates subjects as citizens. But at the same time, the transnation occupies and circles around the usual perceptions of diasporic global movement. These subjects may indeed identify themselves as national, particularly in sport and war, or they might describe themselves as cosmopolitan, but the transnation describes the excess of subject positions swirling within, around and beyond the state and its international relations. This distinction is nicely captured by Deleuze and Guattari’s comparison between smooth and striated space, which they explain by contrasting woven textile and felt. A textile fabric is composed of interwoven vertical and horizontal components, warp and woof, a delimited and organised structure that Plato used as a paradigm for ‘royal science,’ “the art of governing people or operating the state’s apparatus” (2004, 475). Felt, on the other hand, is a supple solid, more like an ‘anti-fabric.’ It is an entanglement of fibres rather than a weave, one obtained by rolling the block of fibres back and forth, entangling, rather than weaving them. It is ‘smooth’ without being ‘homogeneous.’ The significance of the transnation is that not only does it circulate round the striations of the state but also around the striations of international relations. In Chamcha’s case, globalization theory falls down through the implicit assumption that the direction of global mobility is always from the periphery to the centre. This has been an assumption in postcolonial theory as well. But when we reinstate the specific significance of place in time we see that the transnation operates in a rhizomic and circulatory series of interconnections. The Satanic Verses imagines political subjectivity in a global context, articulating its postcoloniality – as Rushdie does in Midnight’s Children – by rejecting the sovereignty of the nation-state and embracing hybridity, but here he goes further by narrating the prevalence of international mobility. Rushdie turns to an emerging global environment to resolve the legacy of colonial domination. But the novel sees political subjectivity as a way to escape from the production of localized social inequality. In this respect, Chamcha can be

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seen to inhabit the transnation rather than the transnational diaspora, and experiences his subjectivity as a consequence of injustice quite apart from the dynamic of global mobility. Both the national and the global subjects encounter and may be oppressed by social inequality but literature reveals the possibility of circulation around these effects of state, imperial and global control. In other words, Chamcha demonstrates the way subjects may experience the postcolonial realities of transformation and circulation. Clearly the interests of postcolonialism and globalization intersect at many points and this is inevitable given the importance of postcolonial theory to cultural globalization. But for globalization theory to become truly useful for postcolonial literary studies, it should be deployed as a historical and theoretical model for contemporary political and cultural systems of exchange. The troubling Eurocentrism and universalism of World Literature is just one indication of the inadequacies of the theory of its own. The ways in which literary texts mobilize and manipulate such cultural conditions of exchange and the ways in which they represent the transcultural nature of the global transnation continues to lie in the field of postcolonial analysis. It is not a simple centre-periphery dynamic but a rhizomic, interpenetrating set of cultural effects. Ironically, for all the talk of its homogenizing effects in the early 1990s, postcolonial analysis will survive because of its penchant for particularity, the particularity of place, ethnicity, imperial history, time and cultural memory. Despite their shared cultural grammar and the ways in which each can contribute to the other, postcolonialism and globalization will always remain separate partly because centre-periphery models tend to dominate global analysis and partly because postcolonialism has the tools to address the significance of the link between location and global mobility.

Works cited: Appadurai, Arjun. 1996. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press. Ashcroft, Bill. 2001. Post-Colonial Futures. London: Continuum.

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Berman, Marshal. 1982. All that is Solid Melts into Air: the Experience of Modernity. London: Verso. Bhabha, Homi. 1991. “Conference Presentation.” In Critical Fictions: The Politics of Imaginative Writing, edited by Philomena Mariani. Seattle: Bay Press. Bose, Mihir. 2006. Bollywood: a History. Stroude, UK: Tempus. Crummel, Alexander. 1969. Africa and America: Addresses and Discourses. Miami: Mnemsonyne. Damrosch, David. 2003. What is World Literature? Princeton NJ: Princeton UP. Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. 1994. What is Philosophy? Trans. H. Tomlinson and G. Burchell, New York: Columbia University Press. —. 2004. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.Trans. B. Massumi. London: Continuum Books. Durkheim, Emile. L’Annee Sociologique, XII, 1913. URL: https:// Accessed: 10 January 2012. Ellison, Ralph. (1952) 1972. Invisible Man. New York: Vintage Books. Featherstone, Mike, ed. 1990. Global Culture, Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity London: Sage. Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power/knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, translated by Colin Gordon Brighton, Sussex: Harvester Press. Giddens, Anthony. 1990. The Consequences of Modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Gikandi, Simon. 2001. “Globalization and the Claims of Postcoloniality.” South Atlantic Quarterly 100 (3): 627-658. Hanchard, Michael. 2001. “Afro-Modernity: Temporality, Politics and the African Diaspora.” In Alternative Modernities, edited by Dilip P. Gaonkar, 272-98. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

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Kalliney, Peter. 2002. “Globalization, Postcoloniality, and the Problem of Literary Studies in The Satanic Verses.” Modern Fiction Studies, 48 (1): 50-82. Mbembe, Achille. 2002. “On the Power of the False.” Public Culture 14 (3): 629-641. Negri, Antonio and Michael Hardt. 2000. Empire. Harvard University Press. Rushdie, Salman. 1992. The Satanic Verses London: Picador.


One of the most discussed discourses in recent times is the one related to the politics of identity. The concept of identity is a complex one because of the changes and transformations that the term has undergone and the nuances that the term has acquired with the passage of time. Anna De Fina (2003) significantly opines: “Identity is an extremely complex construct and simple definitions of what the term refers to are difficult to find as there is no neutral way to characterize it”(15). Traditionally, identity is divided into two distinct categories: Group identity and Personal identity. The first one refers to the distinguished features, practices and behaviours that a certain group of people displays. The latter is constituted of both a person’s own individual idea about himself/herself as well as the opinions of other members of the society about him/her. The essentialists have tried to fix the notion of identity as absolute, universal and timeless. Opposing this standpoint, the feminists and cultural theorists have argued that identity is a relative term that is changeable and specific to particular times, places and situations. Identity for them is a description in language. P.W. Preston (1997) notes that “… the social construction of complex identities is accomplished in language, and identity is thus fluid, subtle and widely implicated in patterns of thought and action. Identity is not fixed, it has no essence and it does not reside in any given texts

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or symbols or sacred sites. It is carried in language and made and remade in routine social practice” (7). The evolution of identity discourse came into prominence during the Renaissance period when the man was put at the centre of everything. During the Enlightenment movement, it was believed that the rational faculty of a human being created his/her own identity. Later on, Romanticism gave priority to the individual over society and celebrated individual liberty and expression of self-opposing all moves to curtail a person’s freedom. But from the sociological point of view, a person’s identity is never monologic – it comes into existence and acquires meaning only through interaction with society and others. It is a society that helps a person to form his/her perceptions about self and identity. Preston writes in this context: “… identity will continue to be a matter of locale (the place where people live), network (the ways in which people interact) and memory (the understanding which is sustained and re-created over time)” (167). The liberal view of identity declares that an individual has full right to choose his own identity discarding any imposition on the individual by any agency. Various intellectual discourses have also dealt with the subject of identity from their own perspectives. The Marxists give primary importance to collective or social identities and relegate personal identity to a secondary position. Psychoanalysts hold the view that the self is a combination of conscious rational mind, social conscience, and the unconscious. They further suggest that our behaviour and identity proceed from the workings of the unconscious. Feminists opine that identity is a social and discursive construct of the patriarchy created to establish its superiority to and dominance over females. Feminist discourse subverts this discursive notion and tries to establish identity-based on gender equality. Linguists, on the other hand, hold the view that it is a language which creates everything including identity. Human notions, perceptions and views are constructed and expressed through language. All the same, language does not endorse any notion as the essential but only suggests the possibilities. Hence there does not exist any essential notion of identity.

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Postcolonial discourse has introduced a wide discussion on the issue of identity regarding the colonial and national identities. According to some prominent postcolonialists, the colonial rulers, mostly of European origin, constructed their own identity as well as that of the colonized subjects in order to justify their dominance over them. They claim themselves as superior and civilized while the colonized natives were branded barbaric, savage, and mysterious. This helped them to establish the idea that the natives were the ‘White man’s burden’ and needed to be civilized. But ironically, the introduction of Western education inspired the natives to understand, preserve and promote their own indigenous identity based on native culture rejecting the imposed identity of their colonial masters. Postmodernism has dismantled all the received notions of identity so far and advocates that everything including identity is fragmented and constantly experiences shifts. According to the postmodernist view, a person possesses multiple identities simultaneously, some of which may at times be contradictory too. De Fina’s opinion is worth quoting here: Postmodern ideas about identity reject the notion of the ‘subject’ as a Cartesian unit encompassing rationality and freedom of choices. They have led to the substitution of the single term, ‘identity’ with alternative formulations, such as its plural ‘identities’ – reflecting the notion that individuals and groups have an access to a repertoire of choices socially available to them… (16)

In the postmodern period, globalisation has problematised and at the same time, added new dimensions to the idea of identity. According to Peter Brooker (1999), the concept of identity is in a state of “crisis” and “uncertainty” (125) and globalisation is one of the two major reasons for this uncertainty. At a time when the world seems to be a well-connected global village that is open to new ideas and developments, one can see the possibility for the near expulsion and redefinition of traditional notions like the notion of the nation as a geopolitical unit, and identity as a homogenous and stable entity. In the wake of new developments in the world, the old idea of the nation, prevalent in the 19th century, that the nation-state comprises a single culture and the

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population living within its geographical boundary share that culture and hold a common single identity, has become obsolete now. History is replete with examples which point to the fact that most of the countries of the world were formed as results of invasions or peaceful going-together and settling down of people from alien places. In this context, Edward Said’s words “No country on earth is made up of homogenous natives; each has its immigrants, its internal ‘Others’, and each society, very much like the world we live in, is a hybrid” (Said 2001, 396) seem very appropriate. Though in some cases the traces of such displacements and settlements do not exist now, in some other cases, the different groups are acutely aware of such traces in history. Nikos Papastergiadis (2000) writes in this context: “Many of the historical traces of displacement and conquest may have been forgotten, but others remain as traumatic scars…” (83). Different ethnic groups with their unique cultural practices and languages give rise to cultural heterogeneity. Though the members of such divergent groups as law-abiding citizens live together within the same national boundary, their awareness about their cultural boundaries makes them quite resilient whenever their cultural identity is in jeopardy. Globalisation has supported this cultural heterogeneity by way of “promoting diversity in cultural identity” (Papastergiadis 2000, 77) and through the search for one’s ethnic roots. At the same time, it has also paradoxically worked for the blurring of the ideas of cultural and national identities within a certain geographical boundary as in Chris Barker’s words: “national cultural identities are not coterminous with state borders” (Barker 2000, 197). This has led to the “deterritorialisation of culture” (Papastergiadis 2000, 76) and to the creation of transnational identity. As a result of globalisation, new economic, democratic and political ideas and developments at different parts of the world have encouraged people from the marginalized cultural groups to raise claims for equality in due recognition of their identity in the public space and equal economic and political opportunities at par with the dominant groups of the society. Bhikhu Parekh points out this phenomenon in the following terms: The cultural and political climate in contemporary multicultural society is quite different. Thanks to the dynamics of the modern economy, their

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constituent communities cannot lead isolated lives and are caught up in a complex pattern of interaction with each other and the wider society. And thanks to the spread of liberal and democratic ideas, they refuse to accept inferior political status and demand equal political rights including the rights to participate in and shape the cultural life of the wider society (7).

The mass movement of the people from one country to another, the rapid movement of capital, and the growing presence of multinational companies in all the major countries in the world have led to the birth of a new diasporic community which does not hold a single national or cultural identity and allegiance. Economic liberalization and affordable transport have made people globe-trotters, and in such an environment those who have the opportunity to get the frequent experience of transnational movement do not usually confine their allegiance to one nation or culture or identity. Papastergiadis rightly points out in this connection: Individuals may feel they belong to groups whose religion, language or cultural practices are no longer bound to a particular nation. The most intimate feelings and significant relations may be stretched across a number of places. The emergent sense of community may be defined more out of common interests than territorial commitments” (84).

This present trend draws our attention to the identity of the diaspora community which has been swelling in number day by day. Unlike the forced displacement of people from one country to another to work as bonded labourers during the colonial regime, postmodern diaspora is mainly formed by voluntary migration of people, especially from Third World countries to the developed countries of Europe and America where problems of identity arise due to the conflicts between one’s loyalty towards homeland and the claims of the host land and racial and cultural discriminations against the immigrants. For different generations of diasporic members, the degree of their in-betweenness differs, and along with this, the problem of their identity has emerged as a hybrid entity that tends to dismantle traditional notions of identity like White/Coloured, native/foreigner, etc. leading to the redefinition of the process of identity formation. Diasporic identity mainly refers to a group identity that claims recognition for all its members, yet the diasporic community

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is not homogenic; it is a heterogeneous group with people of different races, genders, ages, colours, languages, and ethnicities. Such heterogeneity makes the concept of diasporic identity a complicated one. Cultural heterogeneity, encouraged and promoted by globalization, has also created a heightened sense of identity/identities. This in recent times has resulted in controversies and conflicts. It is quite obvious that among such heterogeneous cultural groups, having different identities, some groups or cultures are dominant and some others are non-dominant or minority groups. The politics of recognition and domination come into play here. It is not that one particular group enjoys dominant or majority status everywhere. Depending on vital factors like geography, history, etc., different groups enjoy the status of majority in different regions while other groups vie for recognition and struggle to make their presence felt. In the particular context of India, it has been seen from time to time that while equal recognition of lawful rights and claims of all the cultural groups has led to a peaceful coexistence in some parts of the country, non-recognition of the rights of non-dominant groups by the dominant majority in some other parts or states has led to the eruption of violence and bloodshed. It is here that we need to consider the logics of multiculturalism and rightfully so because multiculturalism has its roots in cultural heterogeneity. In this context, Parekh rightly observes in connection with the historical basis of multiculturalism: “… the terms ‘multicultural’ and ‘multiculturalism’ and the movement associated with them first appeared in countries which found themselves faced with distinct cultural groups” (4). The concept of multiculturalism is relatively a recent one. We may say that it was after the Second World War and especially after several nations became independent in the 1950s that multiculturalism came to be considered seriously. It came into prominence in the late 1960s and 1970s in connection with the debates on minority rights, and has occupied a central place in the political and cultural discourses emerging in contemporary times in different parts of the world. The theorists and policymakers of almost all the countries have devoted much attention to the logics of multiculturalism and this attention has led to

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a “fundamental shift” (Duncan Ivison 2010, 1) in our response to the ethnic and cultural heterogeneity of the countries of the world. We can quote here Ivison’s comment regarding the centrality of the discourse of cultural diversity in contemporary times: “One thing the ‘multicultural turn’ in political theory has done is put cultural and ethnic diversity at the centre of contemporary debates…. Even more recently, multicultural ideas have spread debates over the nature of global justice and the search for global norms of human rights and redistributive justice” (1). Because of the high relevance of its logics and arguments, multiculturalism, of late, has emerged as an important global, social, political and cultural ideal. Multiculturalism as a theory encompasses all the practices, public policies and provisions that aim for equal recognition and space for all of the less-privileged cultural groups of every society. The theory also probes the nature of freedom, equality, cultural liberty, and an opportunity to engage in democratic exercises enjoyed by non-dominant communities. Broadly speaking, we can talk about three principal logics of multiculturalism as discussed by Ivison: i) protective, ii) liberal and iii) imperial. The protective logic of multiculturalism aims at preserving or protecting the cultural practices and traditions of ethnic or cultural groups and thereby ensuring the integrity of the group. By protecting such groups, it attempts to protect the individual members of marginalised groups. The second logic of multiculturalism advocates diversity and promotion of liberal values like equality, tolerance, equal recognition and respect for all the members of all the cultural groups of a society. It tries to transform the prevailing social and political setups – to be more precise, the cultural and political dimensions – with a view to transforming the identities of both the majority and minority groups of the society. The third logic of multiculturalism probes into the various power relations that operate in a society by putting power at the heart of every analysis. It questions the very definitions of categories like ‘minority’ and ‘majority’ and the perceived ‘irreconcilable differences’ between the majority and minority cultures. The marginalised and minority groups vary from place to place and country to country. The indigenous native people, the ethnic tribal groups, the linguistic minority, the religious minority, the refugees, the Dalits or the apartheid and

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even the immigrants – all have become marginalised at different places under different circumstances. These groups have suffered from the ignominy of lack of recognition or misrecognition at the hands of those who constitute the majority or the dominant. For example, the indigenous inhabitants of the North and South Americas and Australia have almost become extinct due to the inhuman atrocities of the European settlers. In Africa, the native people have been enslaved by the powerful Whites. In Germany, during the Second World War, the Jewish minority population was killed in the name of maintaining ethnic purity during the Nazi regime. Besides physical violence, the denial of cultural rights leads to the damage and distortion of the psyche of marginalised people. Charles Taylor (1994) significantly observes in this context: …our identity is partly shaped by recognition or its absence, often by the misrecognition of others, and so a person or a group of people can suffer real damage, real distortion, if the people or society around them mirror back to them a confining or demeaning or contemptible picture of themselves. Nonrecognition or misrecognition can inflict harm, can be a form of oppression, imprisoning someone in a false, distorted, and reduced mode of being. (25)

In the context of India, multiculturalism assumes special significance as different types of marginalised or minority groups are found within its geopolitical boundaries. These marginalised groups have struggled from time to time for due recognition and equal treatment, as can be understood from their disgruntled voices. India by nature is a plural country where every community has the right to practice and maintain its cultural and religious traditions. The very constitution of India bears the mark of plurality as it pledges to offer equal opportunity to all the citizens irrespective of their caste, creed, language, religion, culture and ethnicity. But since Independence, it has been seen that India’s secular and plural image has been marred by frequent eruptions of violent clashes between groups in the names of religion, language, ethnicity, etc. India has at times failed to uphold its characteristic of unity in diversity due to such violent clashes. As a result, several marginalised cultural groups have been unable to gain an identity of their own and/or respect among the dominant groups.

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The situation is effectively portrayed in the novels written by Indian English authors both of the past and of the contemporary times. Some of these authors have depicted the problems faced by the marginalised groups within India, while others have preferred to depict the problems faced by the Indian diaspora. In the following pages, I shall take up three novels, namely The Point of Return (2003) by Siddhartha Deb, Manhattan Music (1997) by Meena Alexander, and Riot (2001) by Shashi Tharoor, which, in my opinion, are appropriate for a discussion on the failure of the logics of multiculturalism. Siddhartha Deb in his The Point of Return (2003) deals with the issues of identity politics and recognition faced by the immigrant Bengali community in the newly created hill state of Meghalaya dominated by tribal people. This 20th state of India was carved out of the state of Assam on the tribal basis where the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo tribes mainly dwell. Though Deb does clearly mention the name of the city of Shillong, there is an adequate number of references to hint that the “hill town” in the novel is none other than Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. In this beautiful hill town the immigrant Bengali people who crossed over from East Pakistan to the Indian side of the border settled, as once it was “the one place in the region that was not fractured by ethnic divisions and insurgency” (2002: 40) and “there was amity between the tribal leaders and the immigrant settlers” (41). But later, this very town became a site of hostility that denied recognition to the Bengali settlers, pushing them into a state of lack of identity and any sense of belongingness. The turn of events in the hill town led them to a situation where they were deprived of a decent and dignified life. This situation can be explained by taking into account the experiences of Dr. Dam and his son Babu in the novel. Dr. Dam is posted in the hill town when Meghalaya was created out of Assam in 1972 and he becomes an employee of the new state. He devotes himself to the development of the downtrodden tribal people of the state and rises to the position of the director of the veterinary and dairy department. But the treatment meted out to him by his tribal bosses indicates that the majority in the state did not recognize his rights and culture. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Meghalaya’s statehood, many politicians, bureaucrats and

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local dignitaries attend the celebration in the hall of Dr. Dam’s office. Dr. Dam is aware of the “subtle distinctions” and “hierarchies operating in the room” (74) that divide the gathering. As the novelist puts it: There were rules of rank and privilege that separated the politicians from the bureaucrats, the Indian Administrative Service officers from those working for the state government, while within the state government there was a subtle distinction between tribal officers and those who, like him, were immigrants (74).

In such celebrations, the presence of ‘outsiders’ like Dr. Dam and Mr. Bora, the director of the agriculture department, becomes quite insignificant. The minister of his department misbehaves with him when he refuses to fulfil the illogical and unjustified demand of supplying an additional 50 kgs of chicken late in the evening. The next day in office, he even threatens to kill him pointing a gun at him. The minister grudgingly expresses before his uncle his anger regarding this incident in this way: “An outsider. A foreigner. Should have some respect” (96). The minister’s uncle Leaping stone also insults and humiliates Dr. Dam by dismissing his plans for milk supply and scrapping the scheme. This attitude of hatred towards the ‘outsiders’ displayed by the seniors affects the young tribals too. The hostility of the leaders of the student union has a case in point. During the curfew imposed when “a protest against the presence of foreigners” (227) is called by the student union, Dr. Dam is severely beaten by the tribal youths. Babu puts it as follows: … the sudden appearance of the men from the direction of Police Bazaar did not register with either of us. They must have been spots on the horizon, half a dozen blobs that magically doubled into a dozen hands enclosing us, jabbing at my father, the air turning solid with their curses and blows, a series of curiously flat sounds produced by their open hands as they struck him in the face, chest and stomach (227).

The malevolence behind the call for the curfew can be understood from the fact that it was not announced earlier, as Dr. Dam says “I heard no announcement on the radio last night” (227).

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Like his father, Babu too experiences the bitterness and hostility of the tribal students. He along with his friend was attacked by Hitler and his followers during a rock concert at St. Anthony’s College. The very adoption of German names like Adolf Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, etc. by the tribal student leaders and the contamination of the previously peaceful atmosphere of the hill town with their ‘rise’ is reminiscent of Hitler’s atrocities on the Jews during the Second World War. Babu’s reflections in the wake of such events are quite significant: The acts that came with the rise of Adolf sealed us in forcing us to read the landscape of our everyday lives in terms of a new lexicon of outrage and fear sweeping through the town — strikes, demonstrations, public curfews, rallies, extortion, assault – dividing people into insiders and outsiders, laying down the rules of existence. Meetings held by the student unions ended with demands and exhortations, with outcries of rage against the foreigners who have settled in the state, an exhilarating flow of political action that hurled itself in successive waves on anything perceived as alien outgrowths on native soil (234).

Hatred and discrimination against the Bengali minority settlers can be clearly discerned in the behaviour of the common tribal people also. The old tribal pensioner whom Dr. Dam and Babu met outside the pension office is an example in this context. He scornfully comments on seeing Babu and his father as: “Bengalis… no use for Bengalis, always coming over the border” (22). Such discrimination and violence against the ‘outsiders’ establish that multicultural ethos remains a far cry in the state. In a review of the novel, Blair Mahoney aptly comments: “… Dr. Dam and other displaced East Bengalis cannot find a place within the large agglomeration that is India, thrust from their adopted home by tribals who wish to demarcate their own homeland and expel those who would contaminate their isolationist purity.” Set in the US, Meena Alexander’s Manhattan Music (1997) portrays the lives of the migrants who strive to establish their identities in a land which is the abode of multiracial and multiethnic cultures. They undergo various obstacles in the process of identity formation as the host society is not warm enough to welcome the people who have come from different parts of the globe.

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We meet a wide range of characters in the novel – Sandhya Rosenblum, the protagonist, her friend Draupadi, a second-generation West Indian of Indian origin, Sandhya’s cousins Jay and Sakhi, Rashid, the Egyptian scholar, and others whose views and experiences help to construct a clear idea about the challenging process of identity creation in America. In the early chapters of the novel, Alexander gives us the idea that people generally nurture about America as a land of plenty, liberty and endless opportunities. But in the later chapters, we find how the characters struggle to find their identity respected and recognized by mainstream Americans. Draupadi’s unpleasant experiences clearly indicate that racial discrimination and prejudice are very deep-rooted in the minds of white Americans. The experiences always make her conscious of her mixed origin that can be traced to various countries and of her blood that carries the legacy of several cultures. But in the face of all discriminations she takes pride in the fact of her mixed heritage as she herself declares: “I was born in Gingee, most part Indian, part African descended from slaves, pride of Kala Pani, sister to the Middle Passage. Also part Asian-American, from Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino blood: railroads in the West, the pineapple and sugarcane fields” (47). Sandhya too initially had the idea that “The gates of America are wide open” (7). But her subsequent experiences make her conscious of her coloured identity that even the green card of citizenship cannot remove from her mind. It cannot solve the problems that she faces due to her “dark femaleness” (39) in the American society. Sakhi, who has accepted America as her home, is also conscious of the restlessness of immigrant life as she thinks: Immigrants always had their problems. Travelling places was hard, staying was harder. You had to open your suitcase, lay out the little bits and pieces into ready-made niches. Smooth out the sari, exchange it for a skirt, have your hair trimmed a little differently. Sometimes the air hurt to breathe, but often times it worked well enough and lungs could swell with a slow inspiration. Then you tucked the suitcase under the bed and forgot about it, started accumulating the brick-a-brack that made you part of the streets around. If you were lucky, you had a garden, with a picket fence, a plot of earth you could plant, a patch of mint (207).

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According to her, for the immigrants, having a peaceful life in a foreign land is a matter of luck. In Rashid’s opinion, immigrants need each other to survive and form an identity. Referring to the story of Frankenstein and the monster he creates, he tells Sandhya: “Our spiritual flesh scooped up from here and there. All our memories sizzling. But we need another. Another for the electricity. So we can live” (154). Assimilation with mainstream American society is not so easy for the diasporic community. American society questions the immigrants’ identity and behaves in an unfriendly manner. Draupadi is not allowed to love the Irish boy at her young age because of her being a “Paki staff ” (92). Her father’s Soda Shop in Gingee was ransacked and spilled with garbage by the skinheads. Sakhi too was attacked by five youths in the marketplace calling her “Paki” and “Hindu,” although she is neither a Pakistani nor a Hindu. It was a “moral shock” (135) for her, who had embraced America as her own land. Alexander highlights the fact that ethnic violence and racial discrimination have been the root causes of instability and disturbance in several parts of the contemporary world. In the chapter, “Jay’s Journal,” Jay’s thoughts and experiences reveal the turbulent scenario of the times and their impact on the lives of the people: People kill for land. Who has the right to live in a place? Muslims must be pushed out of India, they say. Next, it will be Christians, Buddhists, Parsis, and Jews. Only Hindus are true sons of the soil. The fierce bled turned at surrounding flesh. Ethnic cleansing, they call it.

The terror in Jaffna…. The horrors in Bosnia. Rapes, unbelievable cruelty (160). The above discussion points to the fact that the issue of diasporic identity is further complicated by the politics of recognition and domination that operates in the structure of such formations of identity in the immigrant context. Shashi Tharoor’s Riot presents a fictional account of a riot. We hear the multiple viewpoints of people from the cross sections of the society. The novel brings forth the polyphonic voices of an administrator, a police

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officer, a Hindu religious leader, a Muslim intellectual, etc. which point to their comprehension of the communal identity, national identity, the causes of violence and the division of society. The unconventional structure of the novel (reports, interviews, personal diary, letters, poems, conversations) makes it convenient for Tharoor to present the widely varied views that appear like deliberations on opposing views on identity. In the words of Tabish Khair (2004), “… Tharoor confronts one of the issues central to contemporary India: sectarian or ‘communal’ riots between mostly, but not only, Hindus and Muslims in India” (305). This riot claims the lives of eight people in Zalilgarh, though the circumstances in which the eighth victim loses life are mysterious. The viewpoints expressed by several characters in the novel on the history of the country, its politics and politicians, religious faiths, popular beliefs and traditions clearly put before us different perceptions of identity by people of different communities and classes. Communal riot, to use Khair’s words again, “is the most ‘irrational’ manifestation of postcolonial India” (309), posing a threat to the very “idea of humanity and humanness” (309). A consideration of the views and opinions of Ram Charan Gupta, a local Hindu leader and Mahammed Sarwar, a professor of history, clarifies the causes and sentiments which lead to violence between the Hindus and Muslims in Zalilgarh. Gupta in his interview to Randy Diggs, the American journalist, talks about Lord Ram, about Ayodhya, about “a great temple” there and Babar who “knocked it down” (52) to build Babri Masjid in that very place, and the helplessness of the Hindus who according to him suffered “[f ]or hundreds of years… under the Muslim yoke” (53). He explains about the miraculous emergence of an idol of Ram in the courtyard of Babri Masjid which according to him was a “… clear sign from God. His temple had to be rebuilt on that sacred spot” (53). Gupta briefs about the later developments and the resolution of the ‘people’ to rebuild the temple: But would the court listen? They are all atheists and communists in power in our country, people who have lost their roots. They forgot that the English had left. It was English law they upheld, not Indian justice. They said no, neither Hindus nor Muslims could worship there. They refused

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to believe the idol had emerged spontaneously; they claimed someone had put it there. They put a padlock on the gates of the mosque. I ask you, is this fair? Do we Hindus have no rights in our country? For years we have tried everything to undo this injustice. The courts will not listen. The government does nothing. My party leaders finally said, we have had enough. It is the people’s wish that the birthplace of Ram must be suitably honoured. If the government will not do what is necessary, the people will. We will rebuild the temple (53).

The Hindu leader goes on to accuse the Muslims of disloyalty to India when he says “these Muslims are evil people… They are more loyal to a foreign religion Islam, than to India” (54). He levels allegations that Muslims are not peace-loving. He says: “Muslims are fanatics and terrorists; they only understand the language of force. Where are Muslims in power where they are not oppressing other people? And wherever these Muslims are, they fight with others. Violence against non-Muslims is in their blood…” (57). Contrary to Gupta’s views, Professor Sarwar presents an entirely different perception of the Hindu-Muslim communal misunderstandings and conflicts in his interview. Initially, he mentions “… reminding people that tolerance is also a tradition in India…” (64). He talks about the views of Moulana Azad and Mohammed Ali Jinnah and criticizes the Partition on religious lines saying, “Pakistan was created by ‘bad’ Muslims…” (109). He further dwells on the pains of the Indian Muslims as a result of Partition. He says, “Indian Muslims know what they have lost, what burdens they have to bear as the result of the Jinnah defection, the conversion of brothers into foreigners” (109). The attitude of the Professor undergoes a change when he talks about the experiences of the Muslims in India. He says about prejudices against Muslims in India and comments: “Indian Muslims suffer disadvantages, even discrimination, in a hundred different ways…” (112). In a charged tone, he says that Hindus refer to Indian Muslims as “pampered” (113). On the one hand, Professor Sarwar criticises the Hindu chauvinist leaders, and on the other, he is also critical of the “minority” status given to the Muslims in India and also questions the very notions of majority and minority. Professor Sarwar says:

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What makes me a minority? … mathematically Muslims are always a minority in India, before Partition, even in the mediaeval Muslim period… But when the Great Mughals ruled on the throne of Delhi, were the Muslims a ‘minority’ then? Mathematically no doubt, but no Indian Muslim thought of himself as a minority. Brahmins are only ten percent of the population of India today – do they see themselves as a minority? No, minorityhood is a state of mind… I refuse to let others define me that way. I tell my fellow Muslims: No one can make you a minority without your consent (114-5).

Such views of Professor Sarwar are in consonance with the third logic of multiculturalism that is the “imperial” logic as proposed by Ivison, which unfortunately fails in terms of equality and recognition. The views and opinions of the two representatives of the Hindu and Muslim communities reveal that people of both the communities perceive their counterparts differently. Such differences in perceptions accompanied by a feeling of suspicion fuel hatred among them, which culminates in violent riots. Tharoor’s description in the novel significantly points to a lack of proper recognition of religious identity. The discussion of the three novels identify the problems faced by the marginalised cultural groups in the Indian context and also in the context of diaspora. These narratives prompt the readers to ponder the doubts raised by the minority and the diasporic communities in terms of the politics of recognition and domination. The three logics of multiculturalism – protective, liberal, and imperial – which aim at equality and recognition of the marginalised minority groups seem to be in jeopardy. The voices raised by Dr. Dam and his son Babu in The Point of Return, Professor Sarwar in Riot or Sandhya and Draupadi in Manhattan Music indicate that society still has a long way to go before it endorsed the logics of multiculturalism.

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Works cited: Alexander, Meena. 1997. Manhattan Music. San Francisco: Mercury House. Barker, Chris. 2000. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage Publications. Brooker, Peter. 1999. Cultural Theory: A Glossary. London: Arnold. Deb, Siddhartha. 2003. The Point of Return. New York: Ecco. De Fina, Anna. 2003. Identity in Narrative: A Study of Immigrant Discourse. Amsterdam: JohnBenjamins Publishing Company. Ivison, Duncan, ed. 2010. The Ashgate Research Companion to Multiculturalism. Surrey: Ashgate. Khair, Tabish. 2004. “Shashi Tharoor.” A Companion to Indian Fiction in English. Ed. Pier Paolo Piciucco. New Delhi: Atlantic. Mahoney, Blair. 2003. “The Point of Return” (Review). The Modern Word, 9 May. http://www.the Papastergiadis, Nikos. 2000. The Turbulence of Migration. Malden: Polity Press. Parekh, Bhikhu. 2006. Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Preston, P.W. 1997. Political/Cultural Identity: Citizens and Nations in a Global Era. London: Sage Publications. Said, Edward. 2001. Reflections on Exile. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Taylor, Charles. 1994. “The Politics of Recognition.” Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition. Ed. Amy Gutmann. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Tharoor, Shashi. 2001. Riot. New Delhi: Penguin.


When Odysseus sets out for the home in Homer’s epic, he knows exactly where he’s headed: Ithaca. There’s no question in his or the reader’s mind about that island, and that this is where he belongs. Interestingly, though, much of the epic is about his journey rather than Ithaca itself. Medieval European heroes like King Arthur similarly focused on a well-defined goal, but it was the journey that was always more interesting and meaningful. The same is true of religious narratives, including the Mahabharata and the Bible. By the modern period, however, as the notion of modern nationalism began to develop, some—especially urban cosmopolitans—began to ask what exactly we mean by “home” and “identity.” Cervantes famously parodied this with Don Quixote’s journey, and novels took up where epics had left off. Moving away from high-flown language, this new form of narrative, fittingly named for newness itself, challenged established authority. Some scholars, such as Franco Moretti, go so far as to call the novel a “modern epic” in his book of the same title. Such terms speak to the long history of literature as well as to our modern renderings of it on all levels—form, ideology, characterization, and so on. In a world beset by the twin totems of nationalist rhetoric and globalized trade, it has become all the more important to consider where we stand with regard to the writing, reading and teaching of literature, both its past and present. It may,

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for example, seem strange to begin an essay on globalization and postcolonial literature by citing the Odyssey. My point, following Ankhi Mukherjee’s What is a Classic? (2013) is that we can appreciate works of postcolonial literature only by reading them in relation to canonical texts. No wonder Joyce, Walcott, and Ghosh understand a classic text to be “changeable and perfectible,” a crucial part of any postcolonial writer’s attempt to forge a renovating idiom (Mukherjee 2013, 21). The young Irish student Stephen Dedalus, for this reason, scorns his English teachers even as he takes what he has learned from them in order, as he says, “to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” If while speaking to the Jesuit Dean Stephen can see that “the language in which we are speaking is his before it is mine,” he also recognizes that he can craft it as Daedalus into his own in order to leave his island home. Indeed, Stephen’s grand echo of Goethe’s Faust is Joyce’s way of illustrating his hero’s youthful romanticism about national culture, which contrasts with Stephen’s individual concerns. His wish is thus both epic and modern, as Moretti argues. Joyce later chooses the Odyssey as a template for his radical rendering of Dublin as a deliberate means of revising, often to great ironic effect, cherished western classics. The fact that he turns to a canonical text in the first place as a means to grapple with his Irish identity attests to the ideological power, including education, attached to Britain’s occupation of Ireland. The point, again, is that Joyce’s intention was not to reject great works of literature but to re-envision them through a dialectical relationship. As Enda Duffy (1994) puts it, Joyce takes Homer’s epic, the “first [Western] narrative of imperial voyaging,” to write a “major anti-imperial novel” in which the classic hero’s “wanderings are mimicked by the native, but with … disregard for the original.” Joyce draws on a paradigmatic text to transform it “into an original anti-colonial”—and, we should add, anti-nationalist—one (Duffy 72-73). Joyce’s novel is for this reason an exemplar of Irish sensibility, rather than an epic of nationalism, just as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958), whose title is a nod to both his colonial literary heritage and Irish nationalism, and which Achebe imbues with both Igbo folklore and Greek tragedy, conveys Igbo sensibility at a particular point in Nigerian history.1

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It is this dialectical revision of the past texts that generates the capability of constant critiquing that we need for any meaningful interpretation. Edward Said, who as a Palestinian-American aligned himself with Joyce and other exilic “wanderers,” wrote that an artist who leaves his or her geographical home does so not to “escape” it, but to move from “filiation” to “affiliation”— from cultural ethnocentrism (or “monocentrism”) of the kind that undergirded imperialism (as it does certain forms of nationalism) to appreciation of the open-ended, continuously renewable richness of texts (Said 1983, 53). It is in the absence of such a critical stance, Said rightly believes, that fundamentalism finds its opening. Said famously argues that the production and consumption of literature, which includes scholarship, has always been intertwined with its sociohistorical context. Writers inevitably write with a burden of “anxiety,” as Harold Bloom once put it, in relation to their artistic forebears, so that the process of composition is always dialectical and combative. Don Quixote embodies this contestation by believing he’s going to war with a monster that, as the reader can see along with Don’s sidekick Sancho Panza, is really just a windmill. Cervantes himself, as a modern storyteller, challenges the chimeras of his age, including upper-class hypocrisy. Cervantes is rightly taken to be “modern” precisely for this self-conscious critique of cultural icons, including literature itself. What is different about more recent storytellers, we are told, is that they take this self-consciousness a step further by questioning the very premises on which European notions of art, such as its inherently redemptive power, depend. Thus, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness can be read, as Said does, as a “self-conscious” work that is “a dramatization of Marlow himself … telling his story to a group of British listeners at a particular time and in a specific place” (Said 1993, 23). On a formal level, therefore, the novel’s “self-consciously circular narrative forms draw attention to themselves as artificial constructions” (1993, 29). What Conrad fails to see, as Said points out (and as Achebe had long before observed2), is that the “non-European ‘darkness’” the narrator is obsessed with obscures “a non-European world resisting imperialism so as to one day regain sovereignty and independence” (1993, 30). But the point that remains for us to ponder, however, is the degree to which our own ideas and

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practices are enmeshed in the kinds of power hierarchies that Conrad, despite his blind spots, at least touched upon. The danger in revisiting canonical texts, of course, is that we thereby sustain the primacy of those texts at the expense of newer forms of literature. David Damrosch says this tendency has led to a “hyper-canon” of writers whose works may crowd out other voices. To do the opposite, however, and refuse to teach the “greats” is effective to silence history. One of the notable features of postcolonial writers is that they bear their past within them—as scars …, as instigation for different practices, as potentially revised visions of the past tending toward the future, as urgently interpretable and redeployable experiences … And now these writers can truly read the great colonial masterpieces, which … misrepresented them … “ (Said 1993, 31). For this very reason, postcolonial literature must be celebrated in all its regional, linguistic, and cultural diversity, and must be read in conversation with classic western texts, much as it is productive to read Achebe’s Things Fall Apart along with Heart of Darkness, or Jane Eyre with Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea. Achebe obviously does not celebrate the nation-state of Nigeria in his novels. Instead, he draws on the richness as well as the flaws of the Igbo culture that produced him. Achebe, as is the case with many other postcolonial writers, tackles headon the Arnoldian notion that teaching “the best that has been thought and known in the world” by itself ennobles the human soul (Arnold 1920, viii; 5-6). Achebe goes on to deal with it as disconnected from the politics and poetics of “everyday” life (Said 1993, xiii). His novels about Nigeria’s colonial and postcolonial experiences are of a piece with his stance towards corrupt governments and the continuance of colonial cronyism. Even as Achebe indicts Conrad for his racist representation of Africa he also expects us to treat his own novels not as “an ideal cosmos” or a hermetic art-piece (Said 1983, 52) but as part of the give and take of what he calls a “careful and even cautious mode of reading” fiction whose provenance is never innocent (Achebe 2000, 33-35). Readers of this essay will find my focus on the interconnections between literature and the everyday world familiar and, probably, unarguable. But in the face of theories favouring globalized markets, which lead societies

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to privilege the supposedly utilitarian skills that come with technology and science rather than those of the humanities, it has become harder to show why these interconnections matter. Perhaps no example of what is at stake is more arresting than that of the Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was hanged in 1995 by his country’s dictatorship for advocating his Ogoni people’s rights to ancestral land the government had handed over to Shell Oil. But even SaroWiwa had to move from a belief in the apolitical value of literature to the recognition that “literature has to be combative” (2007, xxviii). A writer must be an activist, he said, an “intellectual of action,” in part by using the “common currency” of everyday language (qtd. in Eke 2000, 105). In this, he echoes Achebe’s judgment that a writer must engage in “the task of re-education and regeneration” (Achebe 1989, 45). Postcolonial literature, and the experience of many postcolonial writers, affords readers everywhere a means of regenerating and re-envisioning alternatives to globalized market dominance. By this last phrase I mean what scholars like Imre Szeman have called a relentless production of commoditized sameness: for example, the corporate replication of shopping malls, fashions, and fast foods. Confronted by this reality, the nation-state, as we well know, “reappeared” in the late twentieth century as a political and social force (Szeman 2003, 206). The predicament for countries like India, then, at least as Partha Chatterjee sees it, has been to maintain a cultural “space,” especially through language, that can mediate between the opposing forces of western liberalism (which provided “the ideology of the modern liberal-democratic state”) and distinctly Indian cultural expressions (1993, 7). As Chatterjee puts it in his criticism of Benedict Anderson’s argument that western nations provided the “model” for all subsequent postcolonial nations, non-western countries have in fact been “most creative” when they stress their “difference” from this imported form (5; emphasis in original). And one such creative endeavour has been the works of Indian artists, including writers, that are simultaneously “modern,” in the sense of professionalism and the use of modern publishing tools, and “national” (1993, 8). If early efforts by Bengali novelists were problematically patriarchal or narrowly religious, they nonetheless signal a new sphere of expressivity.3

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It is this search for an alternative idiom to that of western liberal discourse that leads writers to develop, for example, a modern form of Bengali suited to “modern” culture (1993,7). Thus, Bengali novelists frequently turn from “disciplined forms of authorial prose to the direct recording of living speech,” thereby illustrating the on-going experiments to inflect modern sensibilities with “national,” non-western ones (1993, 8). Chatterjee’s problematic use of “direct living speech” aside, his point here accords perfectly with Saro-Wiwa’s aim in using Nigerian pidgin—”rotten English,” or “a mixture of Nigerian pidgin English, broken English and occasional flashes of good, even idiomatic English” in Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English (1994). In his “Author’s Note”, Saro-Wiwa describes this rotten English as unique to the “barely educated” young narrator and, like the times in which he lives—the Nigerian civil war of the 1960s—bewildering and “disordered.” The narrator, an initially naive soldier (“soza”), crafts his own idiom by cobbling together various forms of English and of his own Khana mother-tongue. This provides rotten English’s “speakers … the advantage of having no rules and no syntax.” In thus “thriv[ing] on lawlessness,” this pidgin enables its users to survive in a “dislocated and discordant society.” Saro-Wiwa’s subtle referential move from the single narrator, who uses this language like “a primary school boy exulting in the new words he is discovering and the new world he is beginning to know,” to plural “speakers” is telling. For although we hear everything in and through this narrator’s voice, the novel’s language, as Michael North observes, is understandable only in terms of its “role” in the events it describes. “For the purpose of a national literary medium, as Saro-Wiwa proposes in this novel,” North explains, “is not to translate all experience into a universally intelligible form but, rather, to register the untranslatable in the disparate experiences of a various population” (102). Saro-Wiwa is thus modelling “an alternative model of national selfrepresentation” (North 99), one that relies not on a mutually intelligible, straitjacketed vernacular but instead but on the syncretic, productive friction of its linguistic mélange. Rather than trust the supposed “transparency” of its putative opposite—linguistic purity, which invites ethnocentrism—Saro-

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Wiwa advocates what Rushdie famously describes as linguistic and cultural “chutnification.” Saro-Wiwa being both a member of the Ogoni people and a citizen of post-civil war Nigeria is in need of a multi-layered negotiation of identities that must be constantly evolving but is never resolved. His protagonist’s journey from home-town to war and back reflects this irresolution. Like Joyce’s Ulysses, Sozaboy documents an odyssey from the protagonist Sozaboy’s Ithacalike homeland of Dukana, where “everybody … was happy at first,” through the onset and horror of war, and back to a very changed Dukana, with its “rotten house[s]” and deathly silence (1, 181). The reader, too, is implicated in this journey through a disorienting landscape, which reinforces the author’s point that there is no easily imagined national-communal space. The novel’s language arrests us from its first line: “Although, everybody in Dukana was happy at first” (1). The unexpected syntax and hint of impending unhappiness disorient the reader in much the same way the narrator is “confused” by his discordant surroundings (3, 21). Like the narrator, we begin at a point of stasis but bewilderment, and, again like Sozaboy, are forced to move across a surreal and ruined landscape, which we do partly by gaining confidence in comprehending the narrator’s pidgin. There is, in other words, an asymmetric relationship between language and context: the greater our linguistic comprehension, the less it helps us (or the narrator) make sense of the war’s effects. Rather like the episodic travels of Leopold Bloom, for whom the use of language is itself a precarious odyssey, Sozaboy defies a modern regime, whether colonialist or nationalist, that would fix him in place and begins to move. In a reversal of classic epics, he moves back to his hometown only to find that its survivors believe he has died and so will, in the words of the cripple Duzia, believe him to be a “ghost.” Like the restless shades of Greek heroes who, because unburied, are forced to malinger in Hades, Sozaboy is in his townspeople’s eyes an unclaimed corpse. Worse, he is seen to be a cursed Oedipus-like presence who has, as Duzia says, “put the very bad disease in the town to kill everybody” (180). The narrator comes to the determined realization that since he “did not die” during the war, “God

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forbid that I will die when the war would have already finished,” in a town he no longer recognizes (181). He “will just run and run and run and run and run,” though he “did not know where I was going” (181).4 What, then, is the “alternative model of national consciousness” SaroWiwa has in mind? And what does this have to do with re-imagining classic stories—especially in the language of the former colonizer, whose neocolonial hands continue to dig deep into his nation’s oil coffers (Royal Dutch Shell being an Anglo-Dutch multinational)? On the level of language choice, Saro-Wiwa, as we have seen, chooses to “indigenize” English (Eke 103) in such a way as to destabilize our initial impression of what the narrator and author are in fact conveying. Closer scrutiny shows this idiosyncratic pidgin to be a version of the trickster figure common to folk traditions which contest dominant literary ones. The tragicomic return of Saro-Wiwa’s narrator as, in his townspeople’s eyes, a ghost could be said to emblematize the novel’s creole voice itself. Commenting recently on the use and variety of creole languages among African diasporic groups, Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o turns to just such a ghostly image, that of a corpse, in his discussion of postcolonial literary language: “Though his language will die, the diasporic African’s memory of Africa does not turn itself into a corpse” (2009, 44). Their new patois afford them a “National language,” as Barbadian writer Kamau Braithwaite aptly termed it (2009, 44). What had seemed the dead body of a language is now, “clothed in Englishsounding words that are incomprehensible to the master at times, has now sat up and started talking back” (2009, 44). So powerful is this new language, that, in the avatar of “black speech,” it even inflects that of “master” practitioners like Mark Twain and William Faulkner (2009, 48). African diasporic writers thereby make, Ngugi powerfully argues by quoting Braithwaite’s poem The Arrivants, “something torn and new,” the phrase Ngugi uses for the title of this essay collection (2009, 49). Ngugi’s own position as a noted novelist as well as activist campaigning to end Africa’s long and complicated relationship with “linguistic conquest” (2009, 17) makes his case a touchstone for the complex issues explored here. His well-known disagreement with other famous African writers, notably Achebe,

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on matters of national language and globalization, encapsulate the predicament facing all multi-lingual postcolonial nations. In his 2010 Wellek Lectures, collectively published in 2012 as Globalectics, Ngugi emphasizes much the same point Said had made, that the vital need to highlight the interconnectedness of texts across time and space. What makes Ngugi’s advocacy of this especially fascinating is his own long struggle to balance the use of local languages (as opposed to such lingua franca as English and French) with a global awareness as a means of “decolonizing the mind.” Ngugi’s frustration is that writers in African languages, as opposed to those of the diaspora (which both he and Achebe laud, such as in their shared admiration for James Baldwin), have been forced to “whisper” like “ghosts,” their mother-tongues “shut out of the classroom, marketplace, and administration” (2009, 49). To Achebe, Ngugi’s view is an “either/or” one—either use the mother-tongue, or be colonized by Europe—as distinct from his own, “both” (i.e., use both languages) (Achebe 2009a, -97). Both writers see that what is at stake is also the imagining of the nation. For Ngugi, Kenya, like any postcolonial nation, can succeed only by throwing off the linguistic yoke of European imperialism and so “restore” the “harmony between” each Kenyan and “his language and his environment” (1991, 28). For Achebe, this is simplistic, given that Nigeria, like Kenya, is composed of far too many tongues and regional identities to allow us to dictate which languages should (and should not) be permitted. For him, so long as Nigeria “wishes to exist as a nation, it has no choice … but to hold its … component nationalities together through an alien language, English” (2009a, 100). Ngugi and Achebe both make important points. As a readers, teachers, and researchers, we should read their own works in the way they would have us read all literature, as locally conditioned and globally inflected, and as a version of the dialogue between texts that Said, in his, calls “discrepant experiences” (1993, 31-43) by which Said means a “contrapuntal perspective” that allows us “to think through and interpret together experiences that are discrepant, each with its particular agenda and pace of development, its own internal formations” and “internal coherence …, all of them coexisting and interacting with others” (1993, 32). Ngugi is especially good at calling much-needed attention to oral traditions (orature) instead of simply literate ones. And so,

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too, is Achebe right to defend his use of English as a vehicle for what Raja Rao, in his oft-cited Foreword to Kanthapura (1938), calls a “method of expression … as distinctive and colourful as the Irish or the American.” Like Rao, Achebe firmly believes in writing “not … only as” a Nigerian or African, but instead with the awareness that “the large world [is] part of us.” Perhaps by reading such writers and critics alongside one another, we can better understand what Homi Bhabha (1991) calls the “ambivalence of language … in the construction of the Janus-faced discourse of the nation” (3). To read opposing attitudes to national and linguistic identities in this way, however, does not entirely explain postcolonial writers’ continued turn to classic western texts. The list of noted works in this regard is of course quite long, such as David Walcott’s revision of Homer in Omeros (1990) and Césaire’s of Shakespeare in A Tempest (Une Tempête; 1969), not to mention Rushdie’s invocation of Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy in Midnight’s Children (1980). Each of these authors’ western educations inform their narratives, so that Walcott’s St. Lucien (West Indies) English reading leads him to take “All that Greek manure under the green bananas,” which echoes ceaselessly in his ears (“When would it stop,/ the echo …?”), and which he must reshape into his own “song” in order to escape the shackles of Eurocentric metaphor. The trajectory of his long poem is therefore from his initial “blindness” (282, 297) to the ability to sing in the way that Homer sings. Although he cannot begin Omeros with the Homeric “Of arms and the man I sing,” Walcott can conclude it by finally singing in his own voice: “I sang our wide country, the Caribbean Sea,” where “Africa strides, not alabaster Helen” (320). Indeed, Walcott sings himself into a more authentic identity, working the pun of “craft” (293)— poetry and wandering ship—to finally say, with Omeros himself, “Forget the gods … and read the rest” (283). In other words, stop sanctifying alien imagery and craft your own, one that allows him, and his island home, to see “at last through her own eyes” (282). Césaire, from the French-speaking Caribbean nation of Martinique, similarly draws on the availability of maritime images in Notebook of a Return to a Native Land (Cahier au retour au pays natal, 1939) to reshape the archetypal

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Homeric journey. Towards the poem’s end, he writes: “There still remains one sea to cross/ … that I may invent my lungs”. Cesaire’s autobiographical seacrossing to Paris for university becomes a resonant metaphor of his fellow Martinicans’ struggle to make their own figurative voyage of self-discovery. If the poem begins with the bleak image of a town that is “inert,” filled with “its cry of hunger, of poverty” and “of revolt” and “hatred” of the colonizer, its voice “strangely chattering and mute,” “detoured from its true cry,” it ends by reclaiming that voice by retooling the master’s lexical power, just as Saro-Wiwa does with his pidgin. Besides including creole words like “morne” that were new to his original European French audience (“morne” meaning mountain, but a meaning Césaire doubles thematically by highlighting its “mournful” provenance), Césaire forges his own words, such as “tératique.” A scholar on the Algerian website, where the poem’s full text appears, can only guess at the meaning of this last word in his or her gloss: “grec teratos (?) = monstrueux?” ( One English translation retains both words, appropriately for “morne” but problematically for “tératique,” which remains “teratical”—an obsolete term for “wonderful,” but in the sense of “full of wonder,” or “ominous.” The original sentence in which the word appears is “le bulbe tératique de la nuit, germé de nos bassesses et de nos renoncements,” which our translator renders as: “the teratical bulb of night, sprouted from our villainies and our self-denials” (Eshleman and Smith 7). Another translator glosses it as an archaic term for “monsters and marvels (comes from the Greek word ‘teras,’ monster)” (Rosello 147). In my reading, both versions entirely miss Césaire’s play on “terre,” land, and so miss the echo of the poem’s title. Curiously, too, the article in the title, before “native land” (pays natal), variously appears as “a,” “the,” or “my.” Césaire’s French original leaves out any article, no doubt to invite all of these possibilities at once—for it is not just “his” land, it is also “theirs” (the colonizers) and “ours.” In this sense, the deliberately archaic usage of “teratical” compresses into a single word the linguistic inheritance of an initially alien language with roots far in the past as well as the simultaneity of familiarity and alienation in relation to the land and its identity—a feeling that, following Freud, we might call uncanny.

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In Walcott’s words, the fact of his slave ancestors being “torn from the farthest places/ of their nameless world” can never be forgotten; indeed, the wound itself is an enabling part of his own poetry. For such writers to pretend to ignore their heritage of “alien” classics, then, is to reproduce what G. N. Devy (2009), who has done so much to bring attention to Adivasi and other local language groups, calls cultural and historical “amnesia.” Ashis Nandy (1983) and Homi Bhabha (1991) have in their own ways echoed Du Bois’s stress on a colonized people’s capability for what Devy calls a multi-framed outlook benefitting from India’s particular “tripartite” inheritance—classical Sanskrit traditions (marg), vernacular ones (bhasha), and those of western colonialism (119, 129). Devy rightly views such multilingualism as”strength” (140), but one that has also resulted in a “fragmented” critical discourse illsuited to the genuine interpretation (129). Only through the “recovery of the memory of native literary traditions,” he concludes, can Indian critics gain the “self-confidence” needed to shape a healthy home-grown, or “nativistic,” theory suited to a proper understanding of Indian literature (134). The “crisis” he believes afflicts Indian literary criticism is, as he summarizes it, a result of being “‘torn’ between ‘Westernization’ and ‘Sanskritization,’” and thus an “epistemological rather than ontological” problem (109). Like Walcott’s use of the word, “torn” intentionally evokes trauma to characterize this linguistic perplexity. However, in India’s case, as distinct from Walcott’s St. Lucia, the contest between marg and bhasha (at least as Devy describes it), and between and among classes and castes, vastly complicates the dilemma at hand. Devy’s reminder that this is an epistemological issue is important since there is no essential ontological identity any people can claim as theirs. By the same token, the degree to which a literature “belongs” to a people is arguably just as problematic. On one hand, Devy, echoing Said, reminds us that narratives, whether oral or written, are a vital part of every society’s storehouse of human “knowledge,” and as such must be continually scrutinized lest they become rigid forms of oppression themselves (136). On the other hand, this dialectical process of knowledge-formation and self-scrutiny begs the very question of what we mean by “classic” texts of the kind I’ve been citing, just as

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it begs the question of “nativism.” Devy, of course, does not mean by this latter term the same thing that Kwame Anthony Appiah (1992) has warned of in his condemnation of a turn to an imagined “nativist” past. Devy appears to call, quite rightly, for a critical approach to Indian literatures that resist being coopted by western discourse, such as by a turn to purely Freudian psychoanalytic theories that are derived from a particular European experience or a reliance on the poststructuralist critique that presumes a monologic outlook echoing European monism. By the same token, to call for a “nativistic theory” is, as Appiah observes in his discussion of a similar call by African critics, to rely on a term (“theory”) that is itself “an artefact of western modernity” (Appiah 60). Similarly, the provocative (and, for me, effective) “after amnesia” periodizes in a very modern sense the history of India’s literary developments, and thus participates in “the framework of a direct temporal progression” that Devy sees as “inadequate for interpreting” the situation in India (40). Thus, the call for a distinctly Indian critical approach has the merit of exposing Eurocentric blindspots in much current critique (including, no doubt, my own essay). The pitfall of this call is, however, a tendency to thereby replicate this very centrism. It is, as Appiah argues (and as Partha Chatterjee observes, contra Benedict Anderson, in his discussion of nationalist discourse), to universalize from the particular. The motivation to universalize in this way is, of course, due to what Césaire and Achebe both call the ignominious treatment of their cultures at the hands of colonialists. These debates illustrate the difficulty of finding our way through the ideological minefields of postcolonial critique. A possible way forward may be to turn, on one level, to Moretti’s aforementioned “distant reading,” by which he means studying an accumulation of textual data—titles and plotlines of novels published in the 1860s, for example—in order to detect patterns of consumption that tell us something about the cultures involved. Alongside this, we need to “zoom in,” as it were, by closely analyzing both individual text and their authors. In other words, a dialectic back-and-forth between the particular and the comprehensive. Which is why, it seems to me, we can productively read Things Fall Apart with an eye to Achebe’s own western-classical archive

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as well as to his Igbo upbringing, seeing the traces of Greek tragedy and biblical imagery in light of the novel’s many Igbo proverbs, and vice versa. To posit a singular Nigerian literature should for this reason only ever be a form of what Gayatri Spivak has termed “strategic essentialism or the necessarily calculated use of dubious paradigms in order to advance one’s argument. For that matter, all “classic” literary works are themselves combinations of cultural fragments, of oral and literary images and voices, much as the bhakti movement’s multilingual, multireligious and largely oral poetry led to a new, invigorating, and “radical [aesthetics]” (Devy 88), parts of which—Mirabai’s poems, for instance—have since been canonized. To read Mirabai’s sixteenthcentury poems, originally in Braj, alongside William Blake or R. K. Narayan invites the multiple perspectives that make possible a view of what Nandy calls “the larger whole” (113). Or, as R. K. Narayan puts it, “For me … English is an absolutely swadeshi language” (26). As Neil ten Koortenaar puts it, “Authenticity and creolization are best regarded as valuable rhetorical tools” for “collective self-fashioning” rather than options one must choose between (40-41). As Saro-Wiwa writes, “I … have experimented with the three varieties of English spoken and written in Nigeria: pidgin, ‘rotten,’ and the novel…. That which carries the best and which is most popular is standard English,” since “it communicates and expresses thoughts and ideas perfectly” (qtd. in Elizabeth Losh 221). He views English as both purely pragmatic (a convenient tool of communication in a polyglot nation) and artistic. As Losh shows, to read Saro-Wiwa—the manner in which he uses English as a blunt instrument to dissect cultural intricacies and as a conscious appeal to a global audience—thrusts us into the predicament of Nigeria’s postcolonial literary options. For his writing in English is precisely what brings attention to his Ogoni people’s cause—and ultimately got him killed. Had he written only in his native Khana language, his voice would likely have gone under the global radar. We are left to wonder what role literary craft has to play in this mix of neocolonial oppression, nationalist rhetoric, regionalgeographical identity, and politics.

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My unsurprising verdict on the “local vs. global” debate, therefore, in keeping with my opening reference to the Odyssey, is that we must read dialogically as well as contextually. The voice of the early-twentieth-century Greek-Egyptian poet Constantine Cavafy seems to me an apt example with which to conclude. Writing in modern Greek, living in Alexandria, and championed by E. M. Forster (whom he knew there), Cavafy’s poem “Ithaca” opens thus: “As you set out for Ithaka,/ hope the voyage is a long one,/ full of adventure and discovery.” The final lines are worth quoting in full: Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey. Without her you would not have set out. She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience You will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Cavafy reimagines Odysseus’s journey as every person’s individual journey, and also as one in which the destination is less important than the journey, much like the Sufi poems. The poem also does not specify what or where each Ithaka is, but relies on our awareness of Odysseus’s story, without which there would be no poem—or, for that matter, no journey. For reading, the poem also implies a journey, and one that must be constantly re-taken, continually pondered, and always open to adventure, to newness. This is not a new thought, of course, but it gains freshness in Cavafy’s words—even in translation. For his words appeal to the universal understanding of home as a layering of place, image, memory, reading, and so on. The word “nostalgia” comes from the Greek word for “homesickness”—nostos (home) + algos (ache)—the attempt to recover one’s lost home, which produces a certain ache that combines our regard for home as simultaneously familiar and alien. After all, we cannot imagine the home without leaving it, but our leaving changes us. This Greek root also gives us Freud’s term “uncanny,” in the sense of his original German term unheimlich (unhomely), so that despite its original comfort, home, never remaining the same, is always strange. I think it is this uncanny sense we gain, at least on one level, from reading postcolonial

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literature in our global moment. When, for instance, Amitav Ghosh’s unnamed narrator in The Shadow Lines (1988) eloquently describes the very particular after-effects of India’s Partition, he is describing it not only for outsiders but also for himself; for the entire novel is a record of the narrator’s struggle to make sense of his own and his country’s history. Travelling in a rickshaw through Calcutta streets that are beset by “mobs,” we are told that he and his friend “could not recognize the streets … We did not know whether we were going home or not. The streets had turned themselves inside out” (199). He speaks of the “particular fear” they feel from knowing “that normalcy is utterly contingent, and the spaces … that one inhabits, can become, suddenly and without warning, as hostile as a desert in a flash flood.” The fear is, he believes, is a uniquely subcontinental anxiety borne of “the war between oneself and one’s image in the mirror” (200). It is a fear emblematized in the literallydivided family house in Dhaka. But non-Indian readers of Ghosh’s description of a fear that has no “analogy” also, I think (based on my American students’ interpretations), finds resonance in the feeling of globalized disorientation. The experience is, in other words, at once local and global. Perhaps this is because, when we read and re-read, we, like the authors, are continuously “re-actualizing” our leaving, to use the term Mircea Eliade (1954) uses to describe how humans re-invest the modern world (including the nation) with sacred meaning. Regardless of what language we choose to use in this re-actualized re-reading, I think that what we mean by “home” will be primarily made up of what we find in, and how we interpret, words and images. Eliade’s concept of this reimagining of the “[sacred] myth of the eternal return” finds its echo in the journeys that make leaving and returning— or “going away” and “coming home,” to use the labels Ghosh gives to the only two sections of The Shadow Lines—an experience less to do with physical travel than with what Aimé Césaire’s compatriot Edouard Glissant calls the “[return] to the point of entanglement from which we were forcefully turned away; that is where we must ultimately put to work the forces of creolization, or perish” (26). Since “history” is for his Martinican people “not only absence” but “vertigo,” then “To declare one’s own identity is to write the world into

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existence” (161, 169). This, it seems to me, is the crux of the matter for all of us: To write and read ourselves into existence, rather than try to shape a pure understanding of home. The very verb tense Cavafy chooses in his poem—”you will have understood by then”—indicates that this is not a Polonius-like speech to someone about to embark on an odyssey, but instead a call to perpetually reimagine and re-discover that expedition. The seemingly imminent instruction that follows “As you set out for Ithaka” proves, instead, to be a plea (“Hope …”) to reconsider the value of a completed itinerary (“Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey”). More than this, the plural “Ithakas” clearly signals that this is a plea to repeatedly continue this imaginative sojourn, not in order to reach a single island home at a particular point in time but to grow old with, and through, this reimagining. For as the protagonist-narrator Tambu in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s1988 Zimbabwean English novel Nervous Conditions says in looking back on her village: “The river, the trees, the fruit, and the fields. This is how I remember it in my earliest memories, but it did not stay like that” (3). The “nervous condition” of the title, taken from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, speaks volumes about the effects of colonial displacement—physical and psychological—on Tambu and the other characters. Chief among these anxiety-producing effects is her English-language education and the choice of English to tell her story. But rather than allow her mother’s “warning” about this “Englishness” (202), which, like the “fear” identified by Ghosh’s narrator, threatens to consume her, Tambu decides to embark on a painful journey of self-discovery that finally “bring[s]” her “to this time when I can set down this story.”It is “my own story,” she declares in concluding the novel, but also “the story of four women whom I loved, and our men” (204)—in other words, both a personal and collective journey expressed in the words of a second-hand language. Achebe’s words are apposite here by way of conclusion: “[I]t is not true that my history is only in my heart; it is indeed there, but it is also in that dusty road in my town, and in every village, living and dead, who has ever walked on it. It is in my country too; in my continent and, yes, in the world. That dusty little road is my link to all the other destinations” (Home 91).

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Notes: 1. Achebe discusses his colonial-era education in several essays, including those in The Education of a British-Protected Child (2009), where he explains that he is equally at home with Igbo folk traditions, with which he grew up, and the western classics he studied at the University of Ibadan at a time when its English literature curriculum was tied to London’s. Thus, he states, “From Homer and the Greeks to the Igbo of Nigeria” (Education, 57). On his disagreement with Ngugi on the issue of language-use, see in the same collection his essay “Politics and Politicians of Language in African Literature” (96-106). 2. I refer to Achebe’s oft-cited 1975 essay “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.” 3. Szeman makes the important point about Chatterjee’s argument that for all his bracing critique of Anderson’s “universalist tendencies,” it “unfortunately produces a universalism of his own” by assuming that India’s experience could represent all non-western nations. The reality for regions like the West Indies and Nigeria, however, is that their postcolonial “trauma” is heightened “by the fact that there is no linguistic cultural ‘reservoir’ available other than the colonial language, which thus has to act as the language of business and of national culture” (Szeman 44). Fanon’s well-known comments on this predicament in The Wretched of the Earth are to the point. 4. Saro-Wiwa, like his elder compatriot Achebe, studied at the University of Ibadan while it was still a British educational satellite, and so was steeped in similarly western texts. See Note 1.

Works cited: Achebe, Chinua. 2009. The Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays. New York: Penguin. —. 2000. Home and Exile. New York: Penguin.

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—. 1989. Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays. New York: Doubleday, —. (1975) 1989. “An Image of Africa: Racism in Heart of Darkness.” In Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays, 1-20. New York: Doubleday. —. Things Fall Apart. (1958) 1994. New York: Penguin Adas, Michael. 1989. Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso. Appiah, Kwame Anthony. (1988) 1992. “Topologies of Nativism.” In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture, 47-72. New York: Oxford University Press. Arnold, Matthew. 1920. Culture and Anarchy: An Essay in Political and Social Criticism. New York: Macmillan Co. Bhabha, Homi. 1991 “Introduction: Narrating the Nation.” Nation and Narration, Edited by Bhabha. 1-22. London: Routledge. Cavafy, Constantine P. 1992. “Ithaka.” Collected Poems. Trans. Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Rev. Ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de. 2003. Don Quixote. Trans. John Rutherford. New York: Penguin. Césaire, Aimé. (1939) 1983. Cahiers d’un retour au pays natal. Paris: Présence Africaine. —. Cahiers d’un retour au pays natal. URL: Accessed: 20 March 2014. —. Notebook of a Return to the Native Land. Trans. Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith. URL: OF%20A%20RETURN%20TO%20A%20NATIVE%20LAND.pdf. Accessed: 26 March 2014. —. Notebook of a Return to My Native Land. 1995. Trans. Mireille Rosello with Annie Pritchard. Tarset, Northumberland, UK: Bloodaxe Books.

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—. A Tempest. 2002. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: TCG Translations. Chatterjee, Partha. (1986) 1993. Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse. 1986. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. —. 1993. The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Dangarembga, Tsitsi. 2004. Nervous Conditions. 1988. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press. Devy, G. N. 2009. The G. N. Devy Reader. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan. Du Bois, W. E. B. 2007. The Souls of Black Folk. 1903. New York: OUP. Duffy, Enda. 1994. The Subaltern Ulysses. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Eke, Maureen N. 2000. “The Novel: Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English.” Ken Saro-Wiwa: Writer and Political Activist, Edited by. Craig W. McLuckie and Aubrey McPhail, 87-106. Boulder: Lynne Rienner. Eliade, Mircea. 1954. The Myth of the Eternal Returnor, Cosmos and History. New York: Pantheon. Fanon, Frantz. (1961) 2007. The Wretched of the Earth. 1961. Trans. Richard Knox. New York: Grove. Ferguson, James. 2008. “Aimé Césaire: Obituary.” The Guardian. 20 April. URL: Freud, Sigmund. 1955. “The Uncanny.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 17, translated and edited by James Strachey, 218-252. London: Hogarth Press. Ghosh, Amitav. (1988) 1990. The Shadow Lines. New York: Penguin. Glissant, Edouard. 1989. Caribbean Discourse: Selected Essays. Trans. J. Michael Dash. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. Gopal, Priyamvada. 2009. The Indian English Novel: Nation, History, and Narration. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Hobsbawm, Eric. 1989. The Age of Empire, 1875-1914. New York: Vintage. Innes, Paul. 2013. Epic. New York: Routledge. Joyce, James. 1997. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: Penguin. —. Ulysses. 1946. New York: Random House. Koortenar, Niel ten. 1995. “Beyond Authenticity and Creolization: Reading Achebe Writing Culture.” PMLA 110 (1): 30-42. Losh, Elizabeth. 1999. “’Dis Nigeria Self ’: Ken Saro-Wiwa as the Poet Who Wasn’t.” Sulfur (Spring): 217-23. Mirabai. Poems. Moretti, Franco. 1996. Modern Epic: The World System from Goethe to Garcia Marquez. New York: Verso. Morrison, Toni. 1987. Beloved. New York: Knopf. Mukherjee, Ankhi. 2013. What is a Classic? Stanford: Stanford UP. Nandy, Ashis. 1983. The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism. Delhi: OUP. Narayan, R. K. 1988. A Writer’s Nightmare: Selected Essays, 1958-1988. New Delhi: Penguin. Neame, Laura. “Saro-Wiwa the Publisher.” Ken Saro-Wiwa: Writer and Political Activist, ed. C. McLuckie and A. McPhail. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers. 153-174. N’gugi wa Thiong’o. 1991. Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. London: James Carrey/Heinemann. —. Globalectics. 2012. New York: Columbia University Press. —. Something Torn and New: An African Renaissance. New York: Basic Books. North, Michael. 2001. “Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy: The Story of ‘Rotten English.’” Public Culture 13(1, Winter): 97–112. Rao, Raja. (1938) 1990. Foreword. Kanthapura. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

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Said, Edward. 1993. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Knopf. —. 2001. Power, Politics, and Culture: Interviews with Edward W. Said, edited by Gauri Viswanathan. New York: Vintage. —. 1983. The World, the Text, and the Critic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP. Sangari, Kumkum. 1990. “Mirabai and the Spiritual Economy of Bhakti.” EPW 25 (28, July 14): 1537-1552. Saro-Wiwa, Ken. 1994. Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English. New York: Longman. —. 2007. “From His Last Television Interview”. Writers under Seize: Voices of Freedom from around the World, eds. Lucy Popescu & Carole Seymour-Jones. New York: New York University Press. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1988. “Subaltern Studies. Deconstructing Historiography.”Selected Subaltern Studies, ed. Ranajit Guha and Spivak, 3-33. New York: Oxford University Press. Szeman, Imre. 2003. Zones of Instability: Literature, Postcolonialism, and the Nation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Walcott, Derek. (1990) 1992. Omeros. New York: Noonday Press.


It can be argued that the literary geography of Indian English fiction and poetry, especially of visibly and internationally published exemplars, is over-determined by and towards certain metropolitan spaces at the moment. These metropolitan spaces are conflated with cosmopolitanism, which is not necessarily the same thing. Some of this is inevitable: English is not only an urban language but largely a big city language in India. The fact of the so-called Indian diaspora also has a bearing on the matter. English is far more likely to be employed with a degree of fluency by metropolitan and diasporic Indians than by Indians in villages or even provincial towns. Hence, the spaces marked out in this language by Indian or Indian-origin writers – at least in its more visible editions – tend to condense towards the metropolitan, whether it is London, New York, Delhi or Bombay/Mumbai. But the matter is not so simple. If we look at the first ‘major’ novels to be written and published by Indians in English, a slightly different pattern can be observed: R. K. Narayan’s novels were based in the small town, not very different in its urbanity than Kolatkar’s Jejuri, of Malgudi, Raja Rao’s Kanthapura is an account of the message of M. K. (Mahatma) Gandhi coming

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to a village, and even Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable circulates in the by-alleys and nullahs of semi-urbanised untouchability. Some of it had to do with the early 20th century definition of India as a nation of villages: partly based on socio-economic facts of the times, as employed in Gandhi’s frequent discourse on India’s 700,000 villages (Lelyveld), and partly a consequence of a colonial/ orientalist binarism which identified nature and, hence, rurality with the essence of spaces like ‘India’. But despite this early beginning, the urban landscape crept into Indian English writing quite early, and had largely taken over its contours by the 1970s. This had to do with changing socio-economic circumstances – the explosion of towns and cities from the early 20th century onwards, which had come after decades of erosion of rural structures as well as growing industrialization – and a resistance to colonial-orientalising discourses. With the rise of the diasporic generation – identified with Salman Rushdie’s Booker-winning and groundbreaking Midnight’s Children (1981) but actually preceding it in the work of various significant writers, such as G.V. Desani and Anita Desai – the urban element became even more dominant in Indian English writing. Outside the easily identifiable ‘diasporic’ circles, there had already been a turn towards urbanity in Indian writing in English – in the works of the early Anita Desai (Bye-Bye Blackbird, for instance), Khushwant Singh and others. One centre of engagement with contemporary India as urban and not necessarily rural was, inevitably, Bombay. Indian English poetry as it cohered around Nissim Ezekiel in Bombay from the 1960s onwards was consciously urban (King). Arun Kolatkar came from this milieu, as Amit Chaudhuri’s introduction to Jejuri amply illustrates. This urbanity, as Chaudhuri notes, is not to be confused with the hybrid-diasporic urbanity of Rushdie and related writers, even though the Ezekiel-Kolatkar generations of writers were also, mostly, very well-travelled. As, for that matter, were writers from the earlier generation, such as Raja Rao and Mulk Raj Anand. The differences lie not in sheer movement across space but in the discursive relationships that their literatures establish to and between these spaces.

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It is in this context that Amit Chaudhuri’s attempt to contrast Arun Kolatkar’s Jejuri (1974) with the metropolitanism of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, claiming that the two represent two different streams of ‘modern’ writing in English in India (Kolatkar, xxv-xxvi), makes full sense. The series of poems in Jejuri – sandwiched between arrival by bus and departure by train – present a ‘historical’ provincial town, Jejuri, as seen by a big city (probably Bombay/Mumbai) and irreligious person, and his more religious (also big city) companion. As the poems proceed, a number of Orientalist discourses about India (spirituality, ahistoricity, semi-urban stasis, etc.) are subtly provoked and undercut. Jejuri comes across as a provincial town, seemingly static, but deeply crossed by contemporary lines of vocational and ‘tourist’ commerce as well as historical lines of religious and cultural ‘pilgrimage’. With reference to these poems, and secondary references to other texts, especially by Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, R. K. Narayan and Raja Rao, one can read Jejuri to examine how this ‘provincial’ town comes to represent many of the trends that scholars have identified as characteristic of the self-proclaimed first tier of the world’s national, political, economic and cultural capitals. In short, to display traces of not just the predictable provincial stasis but of cosmopolitanism too. As Jejuri is a collection of poems and, hence, a work of literature, this paper makes no effort to read Kolatkar’s literary Jejuri in terms of the representation of socio-geographical Jejuri, even though editions of the poems usually highlight the fact that Jejuri is a “pilgrimage town among the low hills near Pune in the central Indian state of Maharashtra” and “a principal site of the locally prominent cult of a god known as Khandoba” (Kolatkar 53). Critics have praised Kolatkar for verisimilitude and authenticity, but these are not terms I wish to employ or concerns I intend to pursue. Instead, I propose to situate Kolatkar’s literary Jejuri within the literary geography of Indian English creativity, particularly fiction and poetry: its correspondence to some ‘actual’ socio-geographical Jejuri is not pertinent to my study and conclusions in this case. Even without reference to Kolatkar’s biography, the poems of Jejuri make it clear that a certain trajectory is being traced – from a big city to a small town. This trajectory is undercut by discourses about India – which trace another trajectory, that from being a nation of villages to becoming one of the fastest

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urbanizing countries in the world. Jejuri, the place in the book, is a midpoint between the former truth-myth and the latter truth-myth, as symbolised by Bombay. Just a pinch of yellow, it opens before it closes and closes before it o where is it (21).

This perception of the unmediated presence of a thing or place is as central to Jejuri, both collection and space, as are the many lines of historical facts, legends, myths and beliefs as well as contemporary travel and tourism that crisscross it. Like the butterfly in the above poem, there is a level at which Jejuri – presumably like any other ‘thing’ – simply is and isn’t. At another level, it is a space deeply embedded in lines of commerce, travel, hi/story-telling. Both are necessary aspects of any place or thing for it to be more than just a space for discourses to fill. Hence, the in/ability to step into another head at the start of the book parallels the in/ability to step into another space (also another ‘time’, for, as is often quoted, the past is another country). Jejuri exists within and outside history, language, discourses, Kolatkar seems to imply. The sight that is trained upon a space is that of definitions and discourses, which are already in place. Hence, Jejuri comes across, depending on the various urban perspectives employed, as a certain kind of provincial village. One can read it along usual lines of dominant discourses about small towns and ‘village’ India: religion, tradition, backwardness, stasis, etc. And yet, the poems, again and again, introduce discrepancies that do not necessarily contradict these discourses but show the presence of other elements, elements that cannot be assimilated within that particular discursive perception. Stasis and tradition are there; but so are movement and newness. Charlatanism, superstition and genuine spiritual perception co-exist; the profane is the sacred and the sacred is the profane, and so on and so forth. Moreover, Jejuri – in its ‘small townness’, so to say – reveals various features that certain discourses have come to associate with cosmopolitan/diasporic

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spaces: ambiguity, doubt, movement (historical as well as contemporary), commerce (spiritual as well as economic), epistemological and ontological uncertainty, openness to the other, etc. As Jejuri is a small provincial town, it complicates matters on both sides – that of supposedly cosmopolitan urbanity and supposedly static rurality.This is particularly so because the mapping of human movement in Kolatkar’s Jejuri is not solely across the colonial bridge, as is the case with many internationally visible postcolonial texts. The colonial ‘bridge’ – by which I mean the tendency in some postcolonial literatures, especially those which assume visibility in the West, to make the history of European colonisation, as the theme, criticism or atmospheric nostalgia, central to postcolonial present – is often a narrative contraption that usurps the space of other histories and possibilities. For instance, across such a bridge, it is possible to see only certain kinds of movement as cosmopolitanism or hybridity. An Indian speaking English or French would become visible as ‘hybrid’ or ‘mobile’ across that bridge, as the mixture of identities is already over-determined by a certain and narrow account of recent history (as European colonisation). However, a Marathi speaking Gujarati or Tamil would not be seen as either ‘hybrid’ or ‘mobile’, for they present ‘alternative forms of global networking’ which cannot become visible from a solely post/colonial bridge. Similarly, the nature of this networking in Jejuri is significant: not just commercialsecular as in most accounts of cosmopolitan spaces but an intermingling of the commercial, secular, spiritual, and religious. Jejuri exhibits some of the cosmopolitan trends that scholars have identified as characteristic of the self-proclaimed metropolitan spaces, while being very different from them too. In this sense again, Jejuri resists certain easy assumptions about both cosmopolitan and ‘non-cosmopolitan’ spaces embedded in metropolitan discourses. The significance of a socio-literary space like Jejuri lies in this: it creates space within certain discourses of both ‘Indianness’ and ‘cosmopolitanism’ or ‘hybridity’ to reveal much else that would otherwise remain obscured. If for its colonial masters in the early 20th century and for nationalists of all kinds, inspired partly by Gandhi’s conception of India as a land of villages,

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it was the rural ‘village’ that was the primary space of India, following the lopsided urbanisation of the second half of the 20th century and the influence of postcolonial writers like Salman Rushdie, it is the Indian ‘metropolis’ that constitutes the primary space of India today. This is also evident today in the national and international visibility of ‘Bollywood’. The route from Raja Rao’s village of Kanthapura to Salman Rushdie’s hybrid/cosmopolitan narratives is a good indication of this journey. In the process, however, as I have pointed out, small towns and provincial spaces tend to get overlooked. One indication of this is the focus of recent travel narratives (which include entire books on Delhi, Mumbai etc): these concentrate on rural spaces or large/cosmopolitan urban ones, with a text that talks about small-town India (like Pankaj Mishra’s excellent Butter Chicken in Ludhiana) being a rare exception. Similarly, critical attention on Indian literatures in English tends to be dominated by the critics’ implicit or explicit notion of primary Indian spaces as either ‘static rural’ or ‘urban/metropolitan.’ It is time to change this, at least in critical studies in India: Jejuri points the way by suggesting that cosmopolitanism need not be confounded with metropolitanism.

Works cited: Amin, Samir. (1998) 2000. Capitalism in the Age of Globalization: The Management of Contemporary Society. London and New York: Zed Books. Anand, Mulk Raj. (1933) 1983. Untouchable. Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann. Chaudhuri, Amit. (1974). 2005. Introduction to Jejuri by Arun Kolatkar. New York: New York Review of Books. Originally published in Opinion Literary Quarterly, 1974. Das, Arvind N. 1996. Changel: The Biography of a Village. Delhi: Penguin. Desai, Anita. Bye-Bye, Blackbird. 1971. Delhi: Orient Paperbacks, 1991. Geertz, Clifford. 1995. After the Fact: Two Countries, Four Decades, One Anthropologist. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.

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King, Bruce. 2001. Modern Indian Poetry: Revised Edition. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001. Kolatkar, Arun. 1974. Jejuri. Bombay: Clearing House. Lelyveld, Joseph. 2011. Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2011. Mishra, Pankaj. 1995. Butter Chicken in Ludhiana. Delhi: Penguin. Narayan, R.K. (1937) 1985. The Bachelor of Arts. Mysore: Indian Thought Publications. —. (1938) 1978. The Dark Room. London: Heinemann. Rao, Raja. (1938) 1984. Kanthapura. Madras: Oxford University Press. Rushdie, Salman. (1981) 1982. Midnight’s Children. London: Picador.


The discourse of English studies in India is usually seen in two distinct ways: a break with and a continuation of the colonial legacies. This leads to a diametrically opposed notion of logocentripetal and logocentrifugal impulses in languages, cultures, and communities of pre- and postcolonial India. However, this is not so simple when one examines the institutionalization of English studies and the Department of English in India. Is it then right to ask if the Undergraduate and Postgraduate syllabi of English propagate the British hegemony? Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Gauri Viswanathan’s consideration of English studies as a medium of producing cultural hegemony is debatable and problematic, if not narrow. In the era of globalization and digital media, cultural hegemony is all pervasive, encompassing the hard mechanisms such as the state, groups, classes as well as the soft mechanisms like fashion, advertisement, entertainment, news, restaurants, shopping malls, sport, family and private relations. In such a broad horizon, Ngugi’s notion of “abolishing” English does not hold much significance in the present scenario. The paper raises such questions as: Is it still relevant to see the new world order as the west and the rest? What is the condition of “postcoloniality” in the 21st century? Or, has it transformed into polycoloniality due to globalisation? Is it possible

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to ignore the impact of cosmopolitanism, transnationalism and globalization when we talk about English studies in India? The origin of English studies in India goes back to 1817 with the establishment of The Hindu College. However, English studies was limited to the Indian elites. Macaulay’s Minute on Indian Education on 2 February 1835 paved the path for the formalisation and institutionalisation of English education to the Indians. Macaulay explicitly said that his purpose was to create a section of the Indian population, who could help the British Empire in India and propagate the values of the English to the Indians. Under this apparent justification, his purpose was far more ideologically inflicted towards social, cultural and civilisational violence. In 1836, Macaulay writes to his father: The effect of this education on the Hindus is prodigious. No Hindu who has received an English education ever remains sincerely attached to his religion. Some continue to profess it as a matter of policy, but many profess themselves pure Deists and some embrace Christianity. It is my firm belief that if our plans of education are followed up there will not be a single idolater among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence. (quoted in Mahanta, 2014: 133, emphasis in original)

Macaulay’s Minute was meant for colonial control and exploitation through English studies in India. The process of English education was not only to uproot the Indians from the culture, society and civilisation but also make them appreciate the English value and beliefs. He clearly sets out the objectives of building, “a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect” (Macaulay 1835: n.p.). What Macaulay says is a form of colonial violence that Frantz Fanon, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and D. Venkat Rao talk about – how one is made to look down upon one’s one culture. In “Introduction: Crossing (the) Legacies,” Rao writes that the European episteme “tears apart the native from his/her epistemic and epistemological, affective-praxial experience” (2015: 8) and distances one from “the reflective-imaginative spheres of one’s existence” (8), in short, “one loses one’s language” (8) because the sustained colonial violence created “cognitiveimaginative destitution” (8) in those cultures that faced colonialism.

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The proliferation of English studies in India by the English Empire was to dehumanize and to create a disbelief in the metanarratives of India’s civilization and traditions, which as a result would cause epistemic violence to the national history and culture that would help in the psychological control of people. The selection of language is never an innocent act. It mediates the self, subjecthood, social relations and the very essence and being of the individual. Over time, the English language assumed supremacy in national culture and education. It became the language of prestige and class advancement. It became not just a mechanism for control and domination but also a mechanism for the expropriation of cultural value. What Ngugi says about the role of English in the context of Kenya is equally significant in the Indian context. He comments, it was both the ‘language of the elect” (1993: 32) and “colonial devaluation” (1993: 35). He further insists, the English language came to dominate “the mental universe of the colonized” (1981: 16). It distances and dissociates people from their social environment, which we today know as “colonial alienation”. The institutionalization of English language served two purposes with the same process simultaneously: “the destruction or the deliberate undervaluing of a people’s culture, their art, dances, religions, history, geography, education, orature and literature, and the conscious elevation of the language of the colonizer” (1981: 16). English became an instrument of, to use Ashis Nandi’s phrase, an “intimate enemy,” that is, to create the colonized subject who assimilates the colonizer’s culture. English language not only decimated the pre-colonial past but also affected the present and future of democratic India. In this regards, Slavoj Zizek comments: Some Indian cultural theorists complain that the fact that they are compelled to use the English language is a form of cultural colonialism, censoring their true identity: what they don’t see is how this imposition of English … oppressed is not the actual pre-colonial India but the authentic dream of a new universalist democratic India. (2014: 9)

We have two possibilities emerging out of English studies, one that it offers a particular understanding of the text leading to a particular world-view inflicted with power/knowledge (meant to control and dominate) and thereby we miss something; other, we also gain something but we do not acknowledge

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that positively because of its devaluations of the native cultures. The English studies have a paradoxical position, and refers to the gap between distinct epistemological grids in the First World and non-First World discourse. To understand this gap, one needs to go beneath, behind, and beyond the known trajectories of English studies in India. English has become the language of academic and administrative uses on the one hand and social and cultural prestige on the other. English studies in India interacted with the indigenous education, the elites and the underprivileged people. It had a major role in maintaining the social and political dominance and superiority of the privileged after Independence. Gauri Viswanathan argues that English spread in India without any resistance during the colonial period; however, its humanistic values and concerns were the instruments for socio-political control. English studies in the once colonized countries became a part and parcel of the “master narrative” of Western imperialism—in which the colonial “other” is not only segregated, subordinated and marginalized but in effect erased as a cultural agency. Joseph Conrad propagates this view when he deprives the natives from their language in Heart of the Darkness. Similar views are reflected in art and literature, which carry the hegemonic practices of its language, till date in different forms. As Edward Said claims, “Texts are not finished objects. They are, as [Raymond] Williams once said, notations and cultural practices” (1994: 259). There are continuous attempts to critique and emancipate such narratives. In this regard, a major element in the postcolonial counter-discourse is to disestablish Eurocentric (European) norms of literary and artistic values, and to expand the literary canon to include colonial and postcolonial writers. Since the text exercises such power, the most apt metaphor for the discursive situation is the colonizer-colonized relationship. In James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus’ fretful recognition of the linguistic and historical context suggests how a borrowed language distances the most familiar things: ‘The language in which we are speaking is his before it is mine. How different are the words “home,” “Christ,” “ale,” “master,” on his lips and on mine! I cannot speak or write these words without unrest of spirit’ (2005: 219). Stephen’s selection of words is significant in terms of his relationship to the English language because of his Irishness. “Ale” and “home”

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prove how a borrowed language, i.e. English, can make even the most familiar and emotionally connected things feel foreign. The reference to “Christ” shows the alteration of the Irish religion, and “master” refers to the subordination of the Irish people. Stephen’s consciousness for the borrowed language has a strong effect on him, and towards the end of the novel, he decides to use it as a tool for expressing the soul of the imprisoned Irish race. Edward Said argues that the words and texts are not neutral expressions but have to do with “ownership, authority, power, and the imposition of force” (1983: 48), and Stephen’s concerns are about the “political and racial separations, exclusions, prohibitions” (48) which are instated in language and culture. Salman Rushdie says, “I am forced to write in a language which is not my own”. Similarly V.S. Naipaul also laments: The vision was alien. It diminished my own and did not give me the courage to do a simple thing like mentioning the name of a Port of Spain street … It helps in the most practical way to have a tradition… the English language was mine; the tradition was not. Our relationship with the text, as these writers show, is enmeshed with our historical position.

Language remains the crucial point for debate in the postcolonial discourse because colonialism conceptualizes itself through language. Language institutionalizes one culture over the other. It functions as a tool for the exercise of power and proliferation of imperial culture by constructing, legitimating and disseminating a world-view. In this context, Ngugi wa Thiong’o points out in Decolonising the Mind: Language carries culture, and culture carries, particularly through orature and literature, the entire bodies of values by which we come to perceive ourselves and our place in the world. How people perceive themselves affects how they look at their culture, at their politics and at the social production of wealth, at their entire relationship to nation and to other human beings. Language is thus inseparable from ourselves as a community of human beings with a specific form and character, a specific history, a specific relationship to the world. (1981: 16)

One’s own language is generally associated with the notion of self-hood, “emotional make-up,” self-completion, absolute identity, and where language contains thoughts and feelings as expressed; conversely, the borrowed language

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is associated with a hyphenated identity which leads to a discrepancy between thought and language. After receiving his formal education in English, Ngugi felt that English became more than a language in Kenya: “it was the language, and all the others had to bow before it in deference” (1981: 11). He felt that the English education system was to weaken the native people: ... the general bourgeois education system which practices education as a process of weakening people, of making them feel they cannot do this or that - oh, it must take such brains! - In other words education as a means of mystifying knowledge and hence reality. Education, far from giving people –the confidence in their ability and capacities to overcome obstacles or to become masters of the laws governing external nature as human beings, tends to make them feel their inadequacies, their weaknesses and their incapacities in the face of reality; and their inability to do anything about the conditions governing their lives. They become more and more alienated from themselves and their natural and social environment. Education as a process of alienation produces a gallery of active stars and an undifferentiated mass of grateful admirers. (1981: 56-57)

The English education to the natives was meant to widen the gap between their past and present, between the native culture and the imposed culture. While answering the question – what is education? – Derrida says that it is “the death of the parents, the formation of the child’s consciousness, the Aufhebung of its consciousness in(to) the form of ideality” (Derrida 1986: 132). The symbolic death of the parents suggests, by extension, the death of indigenous culture and society, the decrease of their ability to influence the formation of the new culture. English language and its education are not without condition. The borrower cannot remain immune to the contaminations of authority and power of the source language and culture. At the same time, it is also a fact that no language and culture today is self-standing, self-defined, self-governing and complete in itself and by itself. And these contradictions are not just a response to a particular language; they are interventions in every culture and society with the rise of globalisation. It seems to cause a clash of cultures and disintegration of the native’s world through the intervention of aggressive, proselytizing EuroWestern world-view through language, literature and culture. Discussing the role of English Studies in India, Shanker A. Dutt observes:

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Its humanistic content urged the values of freedom and emancipation from poverty, hunger and underdevelopment, but it remained a central signifier for social difference, although the difference shifted from race and gender to class, caste and ethnicity with the continuation of gender disparities. (2019: viii)

English language exists and makes sense of itself within so many Indian languages and dialects. India is not having one monolithic language; however, one thing which is common among all the languages is that they are derived from Sanskritic traditions. In the present socio-political scenario, Indian languages serve the interests, opportunities and attitudes of diverse groups in complex ways with their relative power at different points. Each language has its dominant ideologies that legitimate some attitudes, beliefs, customs, and traditions and prohibit and disqualify others. Hence, we see mild opposition of Bangali language in Assam or Hindi in Tamil Nadu. Since each Indian language and its literature embody cultural identification, English is accepted as a medium for communication along with Hindi. Time and again, people have also raised concerns against English. As of now, the existing critique of English studies in India is one of those revolutions that as yet have no models other than decolonial process. So, where should we begin from? Is complete decolonization of English possible? Do we have or will have a consensus in terms of language (Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Assamese, Bengali, Urdu, etc). Such issues as language, religious, caste, class, regional differences would not permit any other language to take over English. The colonial system made the English language prestigious, and nurtured the notion of subservience, under-privilegedness, and mutual suspicion towards the Indian languages. The Indian middle class get uprooted from their language and the masses. English studies in India is a debatable issue till date. For some, it was introduced in total ignorance and utter disregard of the existing social needs or priorities. For others, it introduced the western wisdom and modernization. Chandra Bhan Prasad, a Dalit activist and intellectual, celebrates the English language by anointing the “Dalit Goddess English” in a village in Uttar Pradesh, India. He considers English as a medium of liberating the downtrodden people from caste-system and caste-prejudice inherent in Indian

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languages. He celebrates the birthday of Mr Macaulay since the latter has introduced English education in India. Prasad believes that the worship of the Goddess of the English language will help Dalits to climb up the social and economic ladders. About two feet tall bronze statue of Goddess English is modelled after the Statue of Liberty. “She is the symbol of Dalit renaissance,” says Prasad. According to a BBC report titled as “An ‘English goddess’ for India’s down-trodden,” the statue is described as: She holds a pen in her right hand which shows she is literate. She is dressed well and sports a huge hat, it’s a symbol of defiance that she is rejecting the old traditional dress code. In her left hand, she holds a book which is the constitution of India which gave Dalits equal rights. She stands on top of a computer which means we will use English to rise up the ladder and become free forever. (cited in Pandey 2011: n.p.)

The episode of the statue suggests the great divide in India and the politics of language between English and non-English linked with caste, class and gender. Dalits are oppressed and discriminated for centuries. They believe that Dr B.R. Ambedkar achieved news heights because he learned English. They believe English as a medium for Indian modernity. Dr B.R. Ambedkar says that education and English education are required for social justice. He advocates education from “the standpoint of the backward classes, scheduled classes” (Vol. 15: 190). He believes that the purpose of education is to teach and educate the people and empower them with critical thinking ability. The concept of English mother-goddess can be inferred from a poem, “Mother English,” by Savitribai Phule, who advocated education for the advancement of the Dalits, especially lowercaste women, in the 19th century. She considered English as an instrument of social emancipation and reformation even before Dr Ambedkar. She writes in her poem: In such a dismal time of ours Come Mother English, this is your hour. Throw off the yoke of redundant belief Break open the door, walk out in relief. (cited in Rehman 2011: n.p.)

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What we notice here is that language differs with caste, class, and gender. The language of privileged and underprivileged have different relations of power. In other words, language is a legislation which is classificatory and any type of classification is emancipatory and oppressive. Language is a medium for exercising power and ideology. In the contemporary world, language functions more powerfully with the help of visual images, the gaze of the camera, sounds, colours, music, etc. for instance, the usages of language in advertising images are heavily researched and creatively engineered reflections of our times that perversely re-present the surface reality of contemporary social relations. Imagine, for example, a Vodafone advertisement showing a satellite picture of the interiors of the deep and dark jungle of a place in India where there is no human population but the wild animals. And, then a caption appears on the screen: ‘Vodafone spoken here’. Or, let’s assume that the caption is in Hindi, ‘jahaan hai tumhaara pahuchana mushkil, vahaan hain ham. Kar le baat priye’ (Where you are difficult to reach, there we are. Speak to your sweetheart). What do we make of the background and the caption? Does it matter whether the medium is English or a native tongue (Hindi)? It is transcending of differences, and at the same time, it makes one conscious that place and identity matter. It gives the impression that globalization is inclusive, but it also refers implicitly to a ‘global savage,’ the ‘other’ which is dangerous. The English advertisement indicates to the elites with power and prestige and the Hindi advertisement refers to the masses. Additionally, the Hindi inscription also refers to a particular age group, couples and their fascination for an excluded place because the conservative society will not permit them to talk. Hence, it suggests that each language has the capacity of demonising and exoticizing. It is up to the people how they look at the use of language. For some it may have an excessive concern with “eurocentrism,” “ethnocentrism” and “exoticism,” and for others, it could be a ‘creative licence’. The politics of the English language still remains a dominant factor in reading and writing of the literatures in the “once-colonized countries” like India. It explores different dimensions of postcoloniality in the trajectory of cultural agency, traditions, and construction of self. It incorporates the broader realm of anti-colonial resistance, nationalism, and the counter-discourse to

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the Eurocentric representations of the orient. Technically, colonialism ends after the Independence of the nation, but it does not mean that the colonised nations are free at the level of the psychological consciousness as well. In recent decades, there is cultural and economic imperialism where the English language has greater roles. There has been a seminal shift since the Independence of India, as Indian Literatures in English indents to “interrogate, unsettle and review” the premises of the well-established domains of English studies and classical canons in English. If I have to sum up its essence in a phrase, I would call it a moment of “the Empire writes back,” a phrase introduced by Salman Rushdie which later becomes the title of a book by Bill Ashcroft. It does so by what Ashcroft and others call “a refusal of the categories of the imperial culture, its aesthetic, its illusionary standards of normative or correct usage, and its assumption of as traditional and fixed meaning inscribed in the words,” which makes it “bear the burden” of one’s own cultural experience by inserting regional “englishes” (1989: 37-38, Emphasis in the original). It is like what Kamala Das says in her poem, “An Introduction,” that “the language I speak becomes mine”. A new kind of ‘english’ is created to bear the cultural values, differences and experiences of a different place. Ashcroft believes that all utterances and texts are originated and disseminated in specific contexts and distinctive situations. Meaning is determined by the cultural location and period of the text. The discourse of English studies needs to re-describe the postcoloniality, or re-map the postcolonial field through other regional locations or national aspirations of the natives. It needs to focus on the recovery of cultures, the emergence and re-emergence of national identities, and repositioning race, class and gender. It should provide space and voice to the underprivileged masses rather than becoming hindrance to their development and progress. In its representation, it formed a firm binary opposition with ‘I’/‘Self ’ vs ‘other’ of which the variations are us/them, we/they, urban/villager, dominating/dominated, insider/outsider, privileged/underprivileged, and the like. The divisions in each set are based chiefly on clear contrasts/differences created, sanctified, and sustained by colonialism. The location of a language is important to understand its social, cultural and political condition. The location is the ethical and political ground for

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describing the language. The re-location or trans-location carries the past and the source towards the future of the target culture. It continues, transforms, and transmits the Western metaphysics of English. The use of English language perpetuates the hegemony of the West but simultaneously destabilizes its fixed grounding of truth. The English studies in India is largely Eurocentric, and has become Indian to a large extent but not completely. It functions as a unifying power over the diversity of Indian languages, though it imposes cultural homogenization over India’s cultural heterogeneity. Negotiation and reconciliation of English for the Indian world-view is the only option available for India. It is similar to what Mahatma Gandhi calls, in his autobiography, “cultural rootedness” alongside the necessity of widespread interaction, assimilation, adaptability and growth. He suggests that all the cultures across the world can be assimilated without getting uprooted. He calls upon the Indians to learn as much of English and other world-languages as they like so that they can give the benefit of their knowledge and wisdom to India and the world. However, he also cautions the Indians that “I would not have a single Indian forget, neglect or be ashamed of his mother tongue, or to feel that he or she cannot think or express the best thoughts in his or her own vernacular” (Gandhi 1921: np). Gandhi Ji wanted a synthesis between the Indian languages and the English. Such concerns are expressed by many writers. Jawaharlal Nehru considers English as the “window to the world” and Raja Rao as the language of “intellectual make-up”. The differences in the two cultures can be accepted, however, can there be the so-called purely “Europe” and the rest? Even if one relies on the methodological approach of postcolonialism, will there not be a danger of another kind of binaries? Moreover, is it possible to surpass the notions of “hybridity” and “third-space” in the postcolonial dimensions? With the rise of globalization and cosmopolitanism, English has got more dominance but it has also loosed its Englishness. In White Teeth, Zadie Smith asks “It’s still easier to find the correct Hoover bag than to find one pure person … on the globe. Do you think anybody is English? Really English? It’s a fairy-tale!” (2000: 196). Similarly, there cannot be any pure language. In this regard, Zizek

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asserts for the “reconciliation” with the English language should not be seen as an obstacle to a new India. It is not an attempt for discarding English, and assertion of some local language. It is an enabling medium with a positive condition for liberation. He further writes: The true victory over colonization is not the return to any pre-colonial origins, but, paradoxically, the fully accomplished loss of these pre-modern origins. In other words, colonialism is not overcome when the intrusion of English as a medium is abolished, but when the colonizers are, as it were, beaten at their own game – when the new Indian identity is effortlessly formulated in English, i.e. when the English language is ‘denaturalised’, when it loses its privileged link to the ‘native’ Anglo-Saxon English speakers. (2014: 9, emphasis in the original)

Dismantling the master’s house by using his tool is what I mean by lokation. I use lokation in terms of the geopolitical and socio-cultural condition of the English language in the source and the target zone. Carrying the arguments of Dipesh Chakrabarti’s “provincialising Europe” (2000: xiii & 16), it looks for the universal and particular traditions, and asks how the concept of English is related with the place, and would it be possible to transcend the place, and if so then how. It further asks whether the place of the origin of language have any imprint upon it. The project of lokation is not completely accepting or rejecting the European thoughts associated with language. The idea of lokation is to emphasize why the English language and its studies in India is necessary but inadequate. It is also to suggest that English language is no longer the heritage of the English people. The concept of lokation further suggests the rejection of the mater-narratives of western imperialism, destabilising of its Eurocentric norms of literary, artistic and cultural values for the assertion of the identities of Indian conditions. It is necessary to explain the universal in the specific context because as the poststructuralists show that Enlightenment notion of ‘knowledge’ was not only meant for ‘emancipation” but also for “slavery,” the notion of “universality” was also meant for control and domination of the other. What I mean to say is that the very notions of ‘emancipation,’ ‘universal,’ etc are themselves faulty.

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The study of Indian languages and literature is important for our cultural renaissance. Colonial system and English language undermines the vernacular languages and alienates the people from their roots and values. Polycoloniality of language is not so significant in the Indian context. French, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese or German languages do not have much space over here. These languages are almost non-existent in the public sphere. However, despite the nuanced differences between British and other European and Western countries, these languages embody the similar Euro-Western hegemony. So, it does not matter much whether it is English or any other European language. The Indians cannot be free from the colonial-amnesia which persists in the latent forms. The very attempt of conceptualization and universalization leads us to the Euro-western spirit. The Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses in English in India are largely about British literature. The students and researchers in India get trained with the tools of analysis, interpretations, critique and evaluation in the British literature. When these students approach the Indian writings in English or in the Indian languages, they use the same tools which may not be always right. English literature and language cannot circulate English hegemony in the same manner. Functional English/communicational English has comparatively less role. English studies and English language should not be considered as same. The former is systematically institutionalized and regulated towards a particular end, and the latter has an open possibility to get itself adapted, adopted and adjusted with the culture it comes into contact. The difference between English studies and English language should be emphasized. The inequality of English studies, as a symbol of status and privilege for some, in India going to remain as it is because of the economic inequality along with caste, religion, region differences.

Works Cited: Ashcroft, Bill et al. The Empire writes Back: Theory and Practice in Postcolonial Literature. London & New York: Routledge, 1989. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. Provincialising Europe: Postcolonial and Historical Difference, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.

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Derrida, Jacques. Glas, trans. John P. Leavey Jr. and Richard Rand. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986. Dutt, Shankar A. “Foreword” to English Studies India: Contemporary and Evolving Paradigms. Banibrat Mahanta & Rajesh Babu Sharma (Eds) Springer: Singapore, 2019. Gandhi, Mahtama. Young India 27/04/1921 in “Evil wrought by the Foreign Medium”.


Accessed 15/03/2019. Joshi, Svati (Ed). Rethinking English: Essays in Literature, Language and History Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. London: CRW Publishing Ltd., 2005. Mahanta, Banibrata. “Disciplining English Literary Studies in India: A Critique”. Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences (IIAS). 18. 1, 2 (2011/2014): 129-140 Macaulay, “Minute by the Hon’ble T. B. Macaulay”. February 2, 1835. http://



January 2019. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches Vol. 15. Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, 2014. Nandy, A. The Intimate Enemy: Loss and recovery of self under colonialism. Delhi: Oxford University Press 1983. Pandey, Geeta. “An ‘English goddess’ for India’s Down-trodden”. BBC News, 15 February 2011. Accessed on 03 January 2019. Web. news/world-south-asia-12355740 Rahman, Maseeh. “India’s Outcasts Put Faith in English”. The Guardian. 11 January 2011. learning-english-india-dalits-rahman. Accessed on 03 January 2019. Said, Edward W. Culture and imperialism. New York: Random House, 1994.

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—. The World, the Text, and the Critic. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1983. Smith, Zadie. White Teeth. London: Vintage, 2000. Thiong’o, Ngugi wa. Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. Harare: Zimbabwe Publishing House, 1981. —. Moving the Centre: The Struggle for Cultural Freedoms. London: James Currey, 1993. Vishwanathan, Gauri. Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India, New York: Columbia University Press, 1989. Zizek, Slavoj. Agitating the Frame. New Delhi: Navayana, 2014.


“…trying to destroy the barriers that separated exterior space from interior” – Salman Rushdie (2015) There is a scene in Ritwik Ghatak’s film Subarnarekha (1962). The wide barren surface of the earth spread across the frames is an aerodrome of the allied forces in the Second World War. It is an instance of spatialization of memory, and consequently of spatialization of imagination that provides a vantage point for the present paper in its proposal of cosmopolitanism as a heterotopian emplacement. There are at least three narratives that turn it into a synecdochal figure, in the Foucauldian sense (Foucault 2008), a mirror: a mirror is a utopia, in the sense that it is an unreal place that virtually opens up behind the surface, a place without a place. But it is also a heterotopia in the sense that the mirror actually exists and exerts a sort of return effect on the place from which one views it, and is absolutely other than what it is reflecting. It is absolutely real because it has localized a space by positing it in connection with its surroundings, yet it is absolutely unreal since it begins from the virtual point. One of the narratives in the film is constituted by the moving images themselves which inscribe a crack on the solid territorial surface. This inscription carries with it the traces of the river Suvarnarekha. It interacts with the other two narratives:

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the discourse of partition and a fable from the Ramayana. One is a political narrative, issuing from logos and the other is an instance from mythology, emerging from muthos. The latter subsides immediately: an old man asks the little girl her name. When she says that she is Sita, he asks whether she knows the story of Ramayana. The conversation opens up the possibility of alluding the girl’s transgressive act of moving across the crack to Sita’s crossing the lakshman rekha and her consequent encounter with Ravana in Ramayana. Whereas in the political narrative, the crack on the earth is the visualization of the materially invisible borders that are materialized by a map that transforms lines into territorialized finitude of sovereignty. There is a new line inscribed on the landscape (as nations in the map) that was once an aerodrome (a tool in the hands of the West in its war). The crack is a line, a border, a parergon.

Ergon/Parergon Parergon is the title of the first chapter of Derrida’s Truth in Painting. It is his significant engagement with Kant’s Critiques. Kant introduces parergon as “an adjunct, and not an intrinsic constituent in the complete representation of the object” (Kant 2007, 57). Derrida calls it mise en abyme (Derrida 1987, 131), a mirroring without end that resists the abyss of collapse that reconstitutes the economy of mimesis. The word parergon means by-product, marginal sideeffect, an avocation or supplement (of/for an ergon, i.e., work). From here on we can move on to heterotopia as that space outside the frame or a cosmopolis as issuing from the acts of de-framing. I am trying to focus on the aspect of cosmopolitanism as parergon of a diasporic thought, either as cosmopolitanism as a frame of thought, a frame that is inclusive and the necessity of framing even for such inclusiveness without which there cannot be a notion of an in, realization of which is a utopian emplacement, or as deframed thought where a frame is insignificant for the emergence of cosmopolis. Parergon domesticates a space into a place; often it is called mapping and that mode of thought is cartographic rationality. I posit it in contrast to what I call ecphrastic, and thus identify the two trajectories of the discourse of cosmopolitanism. One emerges as a utopian model, never realizable due to its focus on cosmos, the other comes

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out as a heterotopian model, which is very much what Lévinas calls the “city of refuge,” focusing on polis.

Painting/Mapping When he first hears the story of the hidden princess, the enchantress of Florence, Akbar summons Dashwanth, his favorite painter, to the Place of Dreams to undo his grandfather’s harsh deed: “Paint her into the world,” he orders, “for there is such magic in your brush that she may even come to life, spring off your pages and join us for feasting and wine” (Rushdie 2009, 148). She was Babar’s sister, younger sister of Khanzada who was a war spoil and could settle nowhere. Qara Köz was her name. When Babar was besieged in Samarkhand by an Uzbek warlord Wormwood/Shaibani Khan, he had to handover Khanzada to him as his war spoil. Since Khanzada insisted on taking Qara Köz along with her, she had to accompany her sister as Wormwood’s war spoil. Her slave girl, the Mirror, followed the princess. Ten years later, when the Persian King Shah Ismail defeats Lord Wormwood, he liberates them. Khanzada returns, but Qara Köz is in love with Shah Ismail and refuses to return back. The Persian King was defeated by Osmanli or Ottoman Sultan and finally, Qara Köz reaches Italy with the mighty warrior, but as Angelica with this Argalia. She lives in Florence as the enchantress (which is not far from being a witch that eventually happens), succeeding Simonetta Cattaneo. After some years when Argalia loses his life in a conspiracy, she leaves the city with Ago Vespucci along with the slave girl, the Mirror. It was a travel without an aim, a roofless, homeless life. They meet Admiral Andrea Doria and reach Genoa. In the library of Doria, there was a map: the Universalis Cosmographia Secundum Ptoloemaei Traditionem et Americi Vespucii Aliorumque Lustrationes [the Geography of the World According to the Tradition of Ptolemy and the Contributions of Amerigo Vespucci and Other People] (420). She studied it and reacted to the new place names as if she were hearing an incantation, a charm that could bring her heart’s desire. “‘These words which I have never heard,’ said Qara Köz, ‘are telling me my way home’” (421). The two women and a man sailed into mists and disappeared, they had a son who returned to

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the Mogul court with one of his names, Mogor dell’ Amore- a Moghul born out of the wedding lock-claiming the lineage. He tells the story of this lost princess to the emperor Akbar and tries to reinstitute the lost princess back to her family tree; Akbar asks Dashwanth to bring her back in his painting and he does.1 Florence was a cosmopolis that hosted outsiders. Merchants from various places were there. Angelica became a “symbol of peace” and of “Eastern Wisdom” (360), of “hope of forging a union between the great cultures of Europe and the East” (348-9). So was the Herat, the Florence of the East, and the Sikri, the city where the narration is unfolding. They were there in the “swirling transcontinental composition” (158) of Dashwanth, in the so-called Qara-Köz-Nama. When there was an impasse, when Mogor’s narration had entered a deadlock, Dashwanth’s painting had emerged, came to the rescue of the narration (and of the narrator), thus complementing the discourse. Pushing it further, it can be claimed that it is from these paintings that the narration emerges, thus being an instance of ekphrasis, and the mode of thought as a case for ecphrastic imagination, in opposition to the cartographic imagination. The narrative of The Shadow Lines is an instance of the latter. The narrative issues from the cartographic imagination of the narrator, Tridib and his atlas being at its basis.2 After his discovery of the “evidence of the newspaper” reports for the riot that had failed to gain a place in history and 1

In contrast to Dashwanth, who recreates the enchantress lost in history so brilliantly, there is Andrea del Sarto who fails to paint the beauty shown by the magic mirror that was with the Medici family which could “reveal to the reigning Duke the image of the most desirable woman in the known world. When Giuliano asks him to reproduce her image, he fails, in the magic mirror, which had shown that Duke the beautiful lady and “that had allowed its occult images to be reproduced,” he saw nobody but himself (Rushdie 2009, 336-7).


It can be noted that the cartographic imagination is at work even consequently: in The Glass Palace, “the landscape [of the island of Penang] was like a map lying unfurled” (Chapter 34), and in The River of Smoke, “the whole city [of Canton] lying spread out beneath… [One’s] feet, like an immense map” (II, Ch 7) can be cited here as such instances.

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had been lost in the space of memory, the narrator found at the bottom of his bookshelf “the tattered old Bartholomew’s Atlas in which Tridib used to point out places to… [the narrator in his childhood] when he told… [him] stories in his room” (Ghosh 1988, 231). The entire imagination of the narrator grows out of these stories that were mapped by Tridib: through his stories, “Tridib had given me worlds to travel in and he had given me eyes to see them with” (20). The café in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid or the crispness of the air in Cuzco were “a set of magical talismans” for “a boy who never been more than a few hundred miles from Calcutta” because “Tridib had pointed them out… on his tattered old Bartholomew’s Atlas” (20). From these points in the Atlas, as an act of recollection of the childhood experience of travelling with his parents to various places, Tridib’s stories emerged, the stories with these traces, traces of memory and further of dots and borders drawn upon the map, the shadowed lines that fabricated these stories in which he was living and the narrator started to live: a story as a space of dwelling, that constitutes a life: “Everyone lives in a story,” Tridib says “all lived in stories, because stories are all there are to live in, it was just a question of which one you chose…” (182). It is a striated space that these stories institute, emerging from maps with inevitable lines, however, shadowed, erased they may be. This striated space thus constituted out of cartographic imagination domesticates the space into a place. When the narrator goes to England at a later stage, he can figure out the cartography of the city and identify the roads and buildings quite easily and not as a newcomer since the striated space was already interior to his imagination through the stories of Tridib. “Space is transformed into place as it acquires definition and meaning” (Tuan 2001, 136). Mapping inserts the space into a parergon, orders it as “mapping is the fundamental process of lending order to the world” (Rundstrom 1990, 155) and familiarizes it via objectification. Ecphrasis deframes it. A larger cartographic structure is an aggregation of small units, i.e. cartographemes, but such a reduction is not possible in ecphrasis. The cartographic objectification and ecphrastic reflection can also be rendered as spatialization in terms of logos and muthos respectively.

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Space/History History constitutes the place out of an already constituted space. Deleuze and Guattari identify two kinds of the constitution of spaces: the smooth space and the striated space. They also term them as the nomad space – a space in which a war machine develops – and the sedentary space – a space constituted by the state apparatus (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 474). Further, they assert that these two are neither mutually complementary nor stick to any exclusionary dialectic; rather, the nomad space is constantly transformed itself into a striated space, and likewise, the sedentary is constantly reversed, returned into the smooth, nomad space. What is significant is this state of flux that flows across the stretches of time. A pause in the flow freezes the flux: what appears is a detached, singular, constituted construction viable for taming. The grids instituted inscribe the order; the frames inserted bestow unity. “Unity is always affected by means of brutality” (Renan 1990, 11). This is how places are constituted out of space. This is the way space gets domesticated. The space need not essentially signify a geographic space: it can be constituted discursively. A nation-state signifies imposition of a discursive space over a geographical area. Or as Amitav Ghosh suggests, “this is the modern world. The border isn’t on the frontier: it is right inside the airport. You’ll see. You’ll cross it when you have to fill all those disembarkation cards and things” (Ghosh 1988, 151-2). Over the years, the grids will be modified. But there is no complete erasure: traces will be left. “Forgetting… is the crucial factor in the creation of a nation” (Renan 1990, 11). Mainstream history writing is a systematic institution of forgetting in order to produce the rhetoric of legitimacy. But if one has decided to go against the mainstream attempts and recover the subjugated histories, s/ he has to retrieve the traces, the traces of shadowed lines. The Shadow Lines comes as a part of such a project. It addresses several questions in this context and is an effect of cartographic rationality. The central event of the novel is Tridib’s death and the riot that had caused it. The whole narration unfolds as an attempt to find an answer for Tridib’s death. The traces of the event remain for the rest of the lives of various characters: for Robi, the trauma haunts him even in his career of civil service,

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whenever something activates that memory; for May, it leaves a mark of guiltfeeling throughout, of being responsible for his death, for killing him, though she attempts to overcome the guilt by conceiving it as an act of sacrifice (Ghosh 1988, 251-2); for the narrator, it is a death of his own partial self. Because it was Tridib who constituted the narrator’s life, so much so that he had become his surrogate self. The narrator has entered into Tridib’s epistemological world by infusing himself into Tridib’s space and his perspectives of perception. This fusion continues even in his ontological being with the symbolic convergence in the same object of desire: the culmination of the convergence is at the end of the novel where he sleeps with May, who at one point of time was Tridib’s beloved and was in a way responsible for his death. When the narrator was a child, at the time of Tridib’s death, he was told by his elders that Tridib’s death had occurred due to an accident: “Listen, there is something I have to tell you. A very sad thing happened while you were away in Durgapur. Tridib died in an accident in Dhaka” (239). Further, he was instructed not to speak about it: his father had asked him, “Promise me that you’ll never talk about this anywhere” (239). It is only in retrospect that the narrator retrieves traces from various sources – his own childhood memory of the day when the riot had happened in Calcutta, his efforts to find the “evidences” from newspaper reportages in order to convince his friends, recollections of May and Robi – all memories within various parergons, often erased in the history – and tries to connect the bits to arrive at the confrontation with the event. He has to de-frame the memories in order to map that death into the void. This act of overcoming the parergon has been represented symbolically in the novel. While he was in Delhi, the narrator had found “a rusty old compass” (231) in the drawer of a table in his hostel room, left by the person who was staying there before him. With that compass and Tridib’s old Bartholomew’s atlas, he attempts to draw circles: for instance, he places the point on Khulna, where Tridib had died and the tip of the pencil on Srinagar, where Mu-iMubarak had been stolen from Hazrathbal and had the riot as its offshoot (224-6). Kashmir was peaceful, but its tremor had a violent echo at Khulna. Khulna is as far away as Beijing or Tokyo, according to the measures of the circle drawn on the atlas. He goes on drawing circles: one with Khulna as a

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centre, then Milan as a centre. The act of circling is at once an act of parodying the way in which nations are divided after the lines drawn on the maps. It also points to the limits of cartography and the realization of space: “fifteen years after his death, Tridib watched over me as I tried to learn the meaning of distance. His atlas showed me… the tidy ordering of Euclidean space… within th[e] circle, there were only states and citizens; there were no people at all” (232). It is a symbolic materialization of the finitudes of cartographic rationality.

Immanence/Transcendence Parergon produces immanence; ecphrastic deframing initiates the regimen of transcendence. I am using transcendence in its etymological sense, as going beyond a limit, spilling out of the surrounding frames, to overflow a closed space. As Gerard Genette notices, “the work of transcendence is a bit like a river which has overflowed its banks and which is, for better or worse, only more powerful as a result” (Genette 1997, 11). Firstly, the former decides where one belongs to: “Ila has no right to live there… she shouldn’t be there… She doesn’t belong there. It took those people a long time to build that country; hundreds of years, years and years of war and bloodshed. Everyone who lives there has earned his right to be there with blood…they have drawn their borders with blood” (Ghosh 1988, 77-78). Cartography becomes a form of thought with the emergence of the nation-state. Sparke argues that cartographic rationality and nation-state are the effects of the abstract space enabled by maps and atlases (2005). Secondly, and it expects something there in between that constitutes the difference, a border which is inviolable: when she had to fly from Calcutta to Dhaka, for the first time after the partition, Tha’mma “wanted to know whether she would be able to see the border between India and East Pakistan from the plane.” When her son laughed and said “why, did she really think the border was a long black line with green on one side and scarlet on the other, like it was in a school atlas, she was not so much offended as puzzled.” Her question was “But if there aren’t any trenches or anything, how are people to know? I mean where is the difference then? And if there’s no difference both sides will be the same; it’ll be just like it used to be before, when we used to

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catch a train in Dhaka and get off in Calcutta the next day… What was it all for then – partition and all the killing and everything – if there isn’t something in between?” (Ghosh 1988, 151). It is not only Tha’mma who imagined the reality of the borders, but even her grandson, the unnamed narrator who confesses: “I grew up believing in the truth of the precepts that were available to me: I believed in the reality of space; I believed that distance separates, that it is a corporeal substance; I believed in the reality of nations and borders; I believed that across the border there existed another reality” (218-9). The assumption of distance as corporeal substance outlines the codification of space in the contours of the cartography. What is significant in the cartographic rationality is the logic of invisibility. This is the source of generation of power: as Doel claims, maps gain power from the “not-seen,” from making people and their interactions invisible (2006). Basically, it transforms space into place; land into the territory. Colonization followed this effect (Wood 1992). For Tha’mma, when she goes there, it was not her Dhaka. At her home, she could not feel at home. What was that she missed? What is that which domesticates a space into a place, which tames the space? Foucault identifies the place as “nothing but a point in… movement” (Foucault 2008, 15). Even Tuan, who begins with the proposition that “Place is security, space is freedom: we are attached to the one and long for the other” (Tuan 2001, 3), arrives at the same point that “place is a pause in movement” (Tuan 2001, 138). Couldn’t she reach this state of pause? St. Augustine recollects his visit to his native city Thagaste at a later point of time: “‘Grief darkened my heart’. Everything on which I set my gaze was death. My hometown became a torture to me; my father’s house a strange world of unhappiness; all that I had shared with him was without him transformed into a cruel torment. My eyes looked for him everywhere, and he was not there. I hated everything because they did not have him, and they could no longer say to me, ‘Look, here he comes,’ as they once did.” (St. Augustine, Book IV 4, 9. Translation modified). But there was Jethamoshai. Mayadebi, her sister, who grew with her, was also there with her. Does an intimacy constitute the place or space the intimacy? Calcutta and Dhaka: “one had only to look the mirror to be in” the other city. “[E]ach city was the inverted image of the other, locked into an irreversible symmetry

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by the … looking-glass border” (Ghosh 1988, 233). It was like her ancestral house: it was divided with a wooden partition wall and stories were invented about the other part of the house as “everything’s upside-down over there… their books go backwards and end at the beginning, they cook with jhatas and sweep with their ladles, they write with umbrellas and go walking with pencils…” (125-126). The invented stories fabricate the reality for both sides. The ecphrastic spilling over violates the ethics of the bordering from the beginning. It is like the last painting of the so-called Qara-Köz-Nama that Dashwanth could paint which did not stop at the patterned borders but was flowing out. This crack in the parergon at the bottom left-hand corner not only allowed the painting to spill over but enabled the painter to cross over from one realm to another. Dashwanth was there “crouching down like a little toad, with a great bundle of paper scrolls under his arm” (Rushdie 2009, 159). It is like the unconditionality of incalculability (Derrida 2005a). Unlike the calculative reasoning of cartographic rationality, the figures of unconditionality, for instance, gift, forgiveness, hospitality, do not accompany with them the praxis of im-possibility in the constitution. It “lends itself to thought as the advent or coming of the other” (Derrida 2005a, 148), like Dashwanth’s creation lending itself along with its creator to the advent of the other, or like the Lévinasian “city of refuge”. The trope of unconditional hospitality is behind this constitution of the heterotopian emplacement of a city of refuge which is a possible cosmopolis.

Visitation/Habitation Derrida develops the trope of hospitality via the Lévinasian city of refuge in his reading of Kant’s tract on perpetual peace (2005). Derrida complains of Kant for excluding hospitality as a right of habitation and limiting it to the right of visitation, and of making it dependent on the state sovereignty by defining it as a law (21-22). But if one removes the parergon of the city of refuge and situates Kant’s proposition in the frame of the then prevalent imperial project and reads it from a postcolonial space, it looks quite the other way. This is what Kant states: “we are concerned here with right… of a stranger not to be treated

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in a hostile manner by another upon his arrival on the other’s territory… It is not the right of [habitation]… but rather a right to visit…” Then Kant speaks about the “inhospitable behaviour of the civilized states in our part of the world, especially the commercial ones, the injustice that the latter show when visiting the foreign lands and peoples (which to them is one and the same as conquering those lands and peoples) takes on terrifying proportions.” He continues, “America, the negro countries… were at the time of their discovery lands that they regarded as belonging to no one, for the native inhabitants counted as nothing to them. In East India (Hindustan) they brought in foreign troops under the pretext of merely intending to establish trading posts. But with these, they introduced oppression of the native inhabitants… and the whole litany of evils that weigh upon the human species” (Kant 2006, 8283). This is clearly an attempt to dismantle the moral and ethical basis of the project of colonialism which would otherwise be a justification of the imperial project. By denying the right of habitation for the colonizer in the colonies and avoiding the Derridian line of argument which would have been easily appropriated for the vindication of the imperial project, Kant is indicating its unjust nature. But the diasporic experience issues from habitation rather than visitation. Further, it emerges due to the movement from one nation-state to another, thus is fundamentally tied to the boundaries, and the expression of such experience cannot neglect the maps, hence the thoughts generated by such experience are bound to be cartographic. What Mogor dell’ Amore is seeking is the right of habitation by rejoining the kinship ties, but it is denied. Ila is also explicit in her choice of London to live there. Florence and Sikri, Calcutta and London: the choice is constituted as the other, different from what the appearance of the former, distinct from its topos, a heterotopia. It is a sort of counter-emplacement where all the other real emplacements are simultaneously represented, contested and inverted. It is a space of dispersion that would consequently develop into the systems of dispersion. Cosmopolis is the spatialized imagination of these systems of dispersion, remaining always as the other, as a hope.

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Works cited: Augustine, St. 1998. Confessions. Trans. Henry Chadwick. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Crampton, Jeremy, Stuart Elden, eds. 2007. Space, Knowledge and Power: Foucault and Geography. Burlington: Ashgate. Crang, Mike and Nigel Thrift, eds. 2000. Thinking Space. London: Routledge. Deleuze, G and F Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Trans by. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Derrida. J. 2005. On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness. London, New York: Routledge, 2005. —. 2005a. Rogues: Two Essays on Reason., translated by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas. California: Stanford University Press. —. 1987. Truth in Painting, translated by Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Doel, M. 2006. “The Obscenity of Mapping.” Area 38: 343-345. Foucault, M. 2008. “Of Other Spaces.” In Heterotopia and the City: Public Space in a Post Civil Society, edited by Michiel Dehaene and Lieven De Cauter. London: Routledge. —. 1997. Power: Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984, Vol III., edited by James D Faubion. New York: The New Press. Genette, Gerard. 1997. The Work of Art: Immanence and Transcendence., translated by G M Goshgarian. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Ghatak, Ritwik, dir. 1962. Subornorekha. Film. Ghosh, Amitav. 2001. The Glass Palace. Random House: Random House. —. 2011. The River of Smoke. London: John Murray. Kindle edition. —. 1988. The Shadow Lines. Delhi: Ravi Dayal. Kant, Immanuel. 2007. Critique of Judgment, translated by J C Meredith. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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—. 2006. Towards Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace and History, edited by Pauline Kleingeld. New Haven: Yale University Press. Kortenaar, Neil Ten. 1997. “Postcolonial Ekphrasis: Salman Rushdie Gives the Finger Back to the Empire.” Contemporary Literature 38 (2): 232-259. Krieger, Murray. 1992. Ekphrasis: The Illusion of the Natural Sign. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Lefebvre, Henri. 1981. The Production of Space, translated by Donald NicholsonSmith. Oxford: Blackwell. Massey, Doreen. 2005. For Space. London: Sage. Mitchell, W J T. 1994. Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Olsson, Gunnar.2007. Abysmal: A Critique of Cartographic Reason. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. —. 1991. Lines of Power/Limits of Language. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Pickles, John. 2004. A History of Spaces: Cartographic Reason, Mappings and the Geo-coded World. London: Routledge, 2004. Renan, Ernest. 1990. “What is nation?” Nation and Narration, edited by Homi Bhabha, 8-22. London: Routledge. Rundstrom, RA. 1990. “A Cultural Interpretation of Intuit Map Accuracy.” Geographical Review 80 (2): 155-168. Rushdie, Salman. 2009. The Enchantress of Florence. London: Vintage. —. 1995. Midnight’s Children. London: Vintage. —. 2015. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. New York: Random House. Kindle edition. Sparke, M. 2005. In the Space of Theory: Postfoundational Geographies of NationState. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Tuan, Yi-Fu. 2001. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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Webb, Ruth. 2009. Ekphrasis, Imagination and Persuasion in Ancient Rhetorical Theory and Practice. Burlington: Ashgate. West-Pavlov, Russel. 2009. Space in Theory: Kristeva, Foucault, Deleuze. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Wood, David. 1992. The Power of Maps. New York: The Guilford Press.


1 RE-POSITIONING THE POSTCOLONIAL: ETHICS, AESTHETICS, AND POLITICS N. Rama Devi Murru, Susie Tharu, Bill Ashcroft, T. Nageswara Rao, Meena Alexander, Tabish Khair, Rashmi D. Bhatnagar

With the publication of Edward Said’s pathbreaking book, Orientalism (1978), Postcolonial Studies has become an indispensable reference point for two most important reasons. Firstly, it has yielded in a very precise critique of Western metaphysics, exposing the scandal of Eurocentrism and imperial metanarratives. Secondly, it has stimulated a plethora of studies that have triggered an intense probe into the hitherto overlooked aspects of imperial domination and subaltern subject formation. In the context of globalization, the engagement with the colonial and postcolonial studies have been urging the writers and scholars to come up with new and effective approaches to imperialism and empire thus providing more opportunities to sharpen their tools. Round Table Discussions are an ideal format for networking and in-depth discussion on a particular topic. Designed to put participants face-to-face, on a level playing field where all participants are expected to contribute to the discussion. It is usually used as a platform for a group or team of members representing varied backgrounds to come together and discuss an issue, share opinions, strategies, tactics, and outcomes and arrive at an assessment, or just to brainstorm.

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The Round Table discussion revolved around the topic, “Re-positioning the Post-colonial: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Politics” with Prof Rama Devi Murru seeking responses to a select set of questions posed at the panellists (one each) present on the Round Table Panel, viz., Prof Bill Ashcroft, Prof Susie Tharu, Prof T Nageswara Rao, Prof Meena Alexander, Dr Tabish Khair, and Prof Rashmi Dube Bhatnagar. Since the publication in the late 70s and early 80s of the seminal works of Said, Bhabha, and Spivak in the domain of postcolonial studies, the field’s fundamental understanding of colonialism as a determining marker of history, and its tendency to homogenize cultural formation have been the issues of debates across the globe. Despite the extent of its intersection with other fields and disciplines, the theoretical gaps in postcolonialism have often come under the scrutiny of experts like McClintock, Shohat, Simon Gikandi, Arif Dirlik, Benita Parry, Aijaz Ahmad, to name some. Numerous studies in the last thirty years have shown that the field has enormously benefitted from these criticisms which have turned out to be expressions of a productive crisis. The May 2007 issue of the PMLA featured an Editor’s Column entitled “The End of Postcolonial Theory?” In this very timely and illuminating discussion, one of the participants asked whether postcolonial theory’s failure was perhaps due to its inability to match the knowledge and the world (Fernando Coronil). The question being a legitimate one if we consider the diverse range of unresolved issues that continue to haunt postcolonial societies, like ethics, aesthetics, and politics to name a few. In other words, the debate seems to raise a recurrent question – Is the term “postcolonial” still valid in the interpretation of contemporary societies? Notwithstanding the scepticism expressed in the title of the PMLA editorial, many of the recent scholarly publications such as Postcolonial Studies and Beyond (2005), Beyond the Postcolonial Theory (2000), Postcolonial Studies: A Materialist Critique (2004), Rerouting the Postcolonial (2010) and a very famous essay, “What is left in Postcolonial Studies?” (2012) by Benita Parry have proved that when the “postcolonial” is creatively integrated into other paradigms like the “cosmopolitan,” the “transnational,” and the “global,” it

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provides a richer and more nuanced account of the contemporary society. With more and more interest, both academic and otherwise, being shown in the phenomena of globalization, cosmopolitanism, and transnationalism, it is increasingly felt that the time has come to return to the field of postcolonial studies and to some of the debates that had been instrumental in shaping the field and laying the groundwork for the subsequent discourses to emerge therefrom. A return to postcolonial theory is not a call to refute scholarship in other fields; nor is it an attempt to place post-colonial theory as an original source against which subsequent interpretations or investigations are to be measured. Instead, this Round Table seeks to suggest that discussions of contemporary culture that engage theories of cosmopolitanism, globalization, and transnationalism can be enhanced by re-considering some of the ideas generated by engaging with post-colonial theory. Some of these core ideas include the assumption that racial identities fluctuate in ways that defy categorization; that global inequalities in economic, political, and social mobility are the result of a sustained systematic guarding of privilege through colonialism and imperialism; and that relationships between previously colonized populations and the populations living in former imperial centres of power continue to be strained by historical effects of colonization. The panel was also aimed at understanding and, as Benedict Anderson has remarked in an interview, considering how colonized voices which were once lost may continue to irritate and to resonate through a closer examination of the colonial agency. Postcolonialism’s engagement with globalization and cultural critics’ use of “postcolonial” as a paradigm to read the transnational conditions of migrant have resulted in a number of important works. As Ashcroft argues, the postcolonial by adapting itself to vernacular debates and local academic traditions remains a relevant subject to recover the local and the regional. Eleke Boehmer reminds us in her book, Terror and the Postcolonial that the “postcolonial” today has two inflections: the “global, hybridizing inflection” and the “resistance inflection.” But as Ashcroft pointed out in his keynote address to the Conference, globalization is a multidirectional and transcultural process, and it operates not necessarily hierarchically nor centrifugally but “rhizomically.” To him, the postcolonial transformation is the key process that

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engages the local with the global and illuminates the emergence of multiple/ postcolonial modernities. The “postcolonial” as a critical lens facilitates the understanding of some of the key issues that we confront every day in our geopolitical present, but its success lies not in its limited approach but in its transformative and self-reflexive potential to review its theoretical and political limitations. When the “postcolonial” is integrated creatively into other paradigms like the “cosmopolitan,” the “transnational”, and the “global,” it not only exposes their inadequacies, but also its own constraints, thus providing a more nuanced explanation of the contemporary society. In order to initiate discussions on the hidden possibilities of postcolonial, I posed a singular question to each of the Members of the Round Table Panel, by way of answering which they made their positions clear. Rama Devi: Professor Susie, could you please initiate the discussion by elaborating on the theme of the discussion, Re-Positioning the Postcolonial: Ethics, Aesthetics, Politics, with reference to the historical context? Susie Tharu: I think I can hear a question lurking in the theme for this panel, a question directed to the future, which goes like this: How should (or ought) we recast the postcolonial? I hope I am not taking too many liberties if I turn the inquiry into a historical one to ask: How has the postcolonial been recast? I am presuming that used as it is here—as a noun rather than an adjective—“the postcolonial” refers to a field of study, the subject of a former colony, a period or geography. Let me begin with the question: how has the thrust of Said’s 1978 book, generally acknowledged as inaugurating the field of postcolonial studies, been recast? Though Said was attacked by all his initial reviewers, and chastised by his peers for making sweeping claims and being inconsistent, the fact is that once the Orientalism argument had been made, there was no way in which it could be ignored. Looking back, it is clear that the book has had a transformative impact on every field in the humanities, social sciences and the arts; what is more, it helped make some space for non-Western locations, thinkers, ideas in the

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canonical texts of every discipline. The power of the book lay in its thesis about Western scholarship – he termed it Orientalism – and the role it plays in establishing the authority of the West over the non-West and ensuring its continuing power. In other words, the real strength of Said’s arguments lay in the fact that it was a study and a critique of colonial domination, the role played by Western scholarship in establishing that domination and in ensuring the enduring authority of the West. In my view, the strength of Orientalism lies in the fact that Said was writing a history of his present, a genealogy if you like, in the sense that Foucault gives that term. In other words, the real strength of the book lies in the fact that it is a history designed to effect a transformation of Said’s own present. And this strength is all the more apparent when we remember that the critique grew out of his investment in the question of Palestine and the aggressive changes in Western representations of Islam following the oil price revisions initiated by the OPEC countries in the 1970s. However, over the last two decades, in a curious turnaround, postcolonial studies – which began (given the lead provided by Orientalism) as a critique and as an analysis of Western power – now stands for studies of the non-West in general. In other words, gradually over these past two decades, the critique of Western knowledge has mutated into the study of the postcolony, and the burden of colonialism has now been shifted back into one that the non-West must continue to carry. We are to remain locked into speaking to this big brother, the big other, writing to him, reworking his formations, etc. Following on that, “postcolonial” turns into a category that is too wide and too narrow at the same time. Too wide because it encompasses too much – everything in the Bahamas, Bihar or Botswana. Ashcroft referred to this problem yesterday but did not address it. Too narrow because colonialism, understood as alienation, becomes the singular focus through which everything that concerns these locations is to be studied and understood. This is clearly so in the US where postcolonial studies continue to flourish and continue to provide a lead for the rest of the world. In the English departments, for instance, everyone working on a third world literature, would be regarded as

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doing postcolonial work. All work on South Asia or Africa as an area (in the old area studies) would fall under the rubric “postcolonial,” as would much of the work in anthropology, which is after all the home base of the field. That brings me to the second set of observations I want to make. Said laid out with analytical force and poetic resonance one history of colonialism, importantly reclaiming in the process the colonial period as his history and one that also spoke to many of us. But colonialism worked in different ways, had different effects in on different groups of people, and there are other histories that the singular focus of the postcolonial mode obscures and perhaps, given the high nationalism that it engenders, actually represses. Let me share with you four examples of such histories of the colonial period, taken from my immediate context. In the 2012 memoir, My Father Balaiah, Y. B. Satyanarayana writes as the son of a railway gangman, one of the first generation of Dalits to find employment outside the strict hierarchies of the village and the harsh grind of agricultural labour. The story that Satyanarayana tells is a fascinating history of the railways, of education, the meaning of English, the power of caste and its reformulations, migrations, new hazards and the emergence of a significant group in Dalit politics: “employees.” G. Kalyan Rao’s Telugu novel, Antharane Vasantam (Untouchable Spring, 2000) provides an account of famine, hunger and migrations out of Mallapalle in search of food and work in the early part of the twentieth century. Their relationship with white missionaries and the message of Christianity are central to the early part of that story which can also be read as a history of Christianity, its role as a precursor of communism, and the genius of the Church and the Maoist Party in Dalit South India. I turn next to a historical figure, B. Shyam Sunder, born in 1908 in the undivided Hyderabad state, which worked for DalitMuslim unity, and put pressure on the Nizam’s Government to set up schools for untouchable children and temples in which Dalit priests officiated. This unique strand of Dalit activism emerges outside colonial India and maintains a distance from nationalism. And finally, I turn to the early twentieth century Tamil philosopher and critical historian Jyothee Thassar, who writes a history of the Tamil region as one of the suppression of Buddhism and with it of the

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Dalit culture and polity in the region. This is a history that begins in the 4th or 5th century CE and continues into the twentieth century, the colonial moment being only a chapter in that long history. RD: Professor Ashcroft, postcolonial writing is suffused with future thinking, with a utopian hope for the future, a belief in the reality of liberation, in the possibility of justice and equality, in the potential global impact to be made by postcolonial societies. The distinctive feature of utopian thinking is the importance of memory in the formation of utopian concepts of liberated future. Do you think that this would add the long-missing ethical dimension to postcolonial studies? Is there a likelihood that the utopian idea would promote justice, equality, and liberty? And where would you like to place Gandhi’s concept of Swaraj in this context? Bill Ashcroft: In thinking of the future of postcolonial studies, I see one completely new direction in the future thinking of postcolonial discourse itself. This is the emerging field of postcolonial utopianism. The Utopian Studies society was formed in 1988, around the same time that The Empire Writes Back was published. It has developed an international and a European branch, a journal, a membership almost as large as ACLALS, but with few exceptions, post-colonial studies has had no contact with the field whatsoever. This is possibly because, despite Marx’s professed repudiation of utopias, the Utopian theory has been dominated in the latter half of the twentieth century by a combination of Marxism and science fiction. Although several celebrated theorists of utopia emerged, such as Karl Mannheim (1936, 1954) and Paul Ricoeur (1976, 1986), the philosophy of utopianism is presided over by Ernst Bloch’s magisterial three-volume work The Principle of Hope (1986) (originally Das PrinzipHoffnung 1938–1947), a Marxist dominance of utopian thought most recently confirmed in Fredric Jameson’s Archaeologies of the Future (2005). Jameson is credited with the serious analysis of science fiction narrative for its representation of those ideals Marxists shared with Thomas More: the abolition of private property, work for all, the erasure of class distinction, and above all, a belief in change based on a critique of the present. The influence of Marxist thought is also well

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documented in anti-colonial discourse and the idea of political utopia has long been acknowledged in decolonization rhetoric. The pre-independence utopias of the soon to be liberated post-colonial nations provided a very clear focus for anti-colonial activism in British and other colonies, but this appeared to come to an abrupt halt once the goal of that activism was reached and the sombre realities of post-independence political life began to be felt. The post-colonial nation, a once glorious utopian idea, was now replaced in the literature, particularly in Africa, by a critical rhetoric that often landed authors in goal. But gradually, for instance in Africa through writers such as Ayi Kwei Armah, Ngugi wa Thiong’o or Ben Okri, and latterly women writers such as Chimamanda Adichie, Sade Adeniran, and Unomah Azuah, postindependence despair has been giving way to broader constructions of future hope. Post-colonial utopian thought now gains much of its character from its problematic relationship with the concept of the nation, a concept that once generated visions of post-colonial utopia. Significantly, utopian thought in post-colonial literatures has led to very few classic utopias of the kind found in the history of utopian literature outlined above – ideal societies located either in the future or in a distant land, characterised principally by the absence of private property. (For example, any economic dimension in the myth of Aztlan in Chicano culture or the Rastafarian myth of return to Ethiopia is purely contingent, although Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj certainly qualifies as a major non-literary example). But post-colonial writing is suffused with future thinking, with a utopian hope for the future, a belief in the reality of liberation, in the possibility of justice and equality, in the transformative power of writing, and at times in the potential global impact to be made by post-colonial societies. The distinctive feature of this utopian thinking is the importance of memory in the formation of utopian concepts of a liberated future. For most contemporary utopian theory, Utopia is no longer a place but the spirit of hope itself, the essence of desire for a better world. For Fredric Jameson, ‘practical thinking’ everywhere represents a capitulation to the system. “The Utopian idea, on the contrary, keeps alive the possibility of a world qualitatively distinct from this one and takes the form of a stubborn

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negation of all that is” ( Jameson 1971, 110-11). Nothing better describes the orientation of post-colonial writing, which is everywhere suffused with utopian thought. It is therefore logical that future thinking should describe the future direction of this protean and diverse field. R D: Prof Nageswara Rao, postcolonialism, though a major phenomenon and an influential discourse involving a lot of rethinking and reassessment of politics and social order, has been more or less silent on the issue of the ‘postcolonial other.’ Would you like to throw some light on this issue and the ‘postcolonial turn’ as such? T Nageswara Rao: Nine-tenths of the world’s population are postcolonial. Postcolonialism is a major phenomenon and its ambiguous role in any critique of contemporary global capital and liberalised consumer economy requires a reassessment of this postcolonial phenomenon. Postcolonial thought involves a systematic rethinking of politics and social order. However, this elegant and eloquent discourse does not talk about the other postcolonials. My contention is that as modernity accelerated towards cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, and globalization, the group solidarity or ethnic, aboriginal, native Indian, Maori, Dalit, Adivasi and women communities are working towards the centripetal forces across the world. As David Frisby observes in The Fragments of Modernity, modernity, as characterized by atomization, is in desperate need of enchantments, to put it in Max Weber’s terminology ‘entzuberung’, meaning ‘unmagicking’ or ‘disenchantment.’ My idea of the postcolonial turn is towards the cultural immiseration of these populations across the world in the context of cosmopolitanism and globalization. This phenomenon may be read simply as a symptomatic aftershock of the underlying transformation in the era of Postcolonialism. The term, ‘other postcolonials’ refers to the marginalized and decentred communities. I attempt to offer a plausible theorization of the postcolonial turn by making use of the insights provided by Frantz Fanon, Emmanuel Levinas, and Slavoj Zizek. The sanguine ideas of these thinkers need to be re-examined though they indicate new ways of thinking through impasses whose logic has been imperfectly misread. Leslie Monkman and Terry Goldie wrote about these marginalized people, but Terry Goldie’s Fear and

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Temptation is another Canadian Sexual Politics. The commonplace observation is that ‘they talk about us, but they never talk to us.’ After independence, these communities are still in the condition of dependence. After the Brown Man’s takeover, these people still live in the constant menace of fear, force, coercion, and terror. They are estranged from their own selves. Equality, egalitarian society, human rights, ethics, civil society become empty shells. Everything is sucked into the vortex of finance capital and a new empire; the so-called in-dependent nations are like the black holes or the shifting sands in the desert, to use Michael Ondaatje’s metaphor in The English Patient, or ‘a merry-go-round in the Sea,’ Randolph Stow’s metaphor for Australia in his eponymous novel. People talk about home and the idea of worlding the world, but only those who have a home can afford to talk about it, but for Dalits and Adivasis of India who have been shunted away from the plains to the hills and from the hills to the forests and out of the forests in the name of ‘Operation Green Hunt’ or hunted ‘out of this Earth’ to use Felix Padel’s phrase… The Public-Private Partnership model of development which India is pursuing vigorously now will have deleterious effects on the oppressed classes of India. Some of these ideas may sound anti-developmental and pessimistic. But the development model is not inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. The critics of this model describe this model as Public-Private Plundering. Even prisons are privatized in Britain. After getting sentenced, one looks for a better prison in the yellow pages. In his The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon points out, “For a colonial people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land will bring them bread and, above all, dignity, but this dignity has nothing to do with the dignity of the human individual” (34). Jomo Kenyatta, the former president of Kenya, said that the white man came to our land with the bible in his hand. He put the Bible in our hand and asked us to close our eyes and pray: when we opened our eyes after the prayer the Bible was our property and the land was his. The white masters went to Africa to carry out missionary activity, the mission being to civilize and

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enslave the black man. The price of a black slave in Bristol and Manchester slave markets was interestingly three pounds at that time according to the Oxford History of England. This is a clear manifestation of the exploitation of the black man’s land and the black individual. Fanon is of the opinion that violence and revolution are inevitable in an oppressive world. We can sense a seismic shift in the underlying social and political formations in independent postcolonial nations. Achebe advocates a revolution in Nigeria in his Anthills of Savannah. But the historical destiny of the other postcolonials is not necessarily revolution and violence but a struggle for inclusion within the economic, social, and political order. John Wild observes, “as Levinas points out one answer is given by the totalisers who are satisfied with themselves and with the systems they can organize around themselves as they already are. A very different answer is given by those who are dissatisfied and who strive for what is other than themselves, the infinitizers, as we may call them. The former seek power and control, the latter a higher quality of life. The former strives for order and system, but the latter for freedom and creative advance.” Striving for order and system is a mere rhetoric in the postcolonial context. Globalization, Cosmopolitanism, and Privatization are spokes in this wheel. Zizek excoriates contemporary postcolonial thought by saying that it became complicit with the global economy, a hegemonic structure which Postcolonialism struggled against in the past. Yesterday’s competitors became today’s collaborators, of course for development, but whose development, we are not sure of. Postcolonial Utopianism is to achieve a completion of not only individuation but also indigenization which does not exclude the indigene. R D: Prof. Meena Alexander, is poetry a forsaken art in the present times? Being a poet yourself, do you think poetry has a capacity for redressal? And what do you think is the status of poetry and poet in the 21st century? Why do we have poetry in a time like this? Meena Alexander: For me, that question folds into another. What does it mean to belong, in a violent world? In a time of violence, the task of poetry is in some way to reconcile us to our world and to allow us a measure of tenderness

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and grace with which to exist. I believe this very deeply and I see it as an effort to enter into the complications of the moment even if they are violent, but through that, in some measure, the task of poetry is to reconcile us to the world—not to accept it at face value or to assent to things that are wrong, but to reconcile one in a larger sense. And yet to do this the poet has to face up to a fluid molten zone where no words exist. This is the paradox from which poetry stems. Some time ago I was giving a reading in Colorado. It was a clear night and out of the windows of the hall in which I was reading I could see the blunt spine of the Rocky Mountains. The moon was floating above. After the reading a hand shot up. A student, I can see her face still, sat up and asked me a question. A question that took my breath away. Why do we have poetry? And from somewhere inside me the answer came. I felt I was speaking to her and also to no one in particular. And even as I said it I realised that I did not quite understand what I meant. That it would take many years for me to try to answer that question.

Question Time I remember the scarred spine Of mountains the moon slips through Foxfire in a stump, bushes red with blisters Her question, a woman in a sweatshirt Hand raised in a crowded room -What use is poetry? Above us, lights flickered, Something wrong with the wiring. I turned and saw the moon whirl in water The Rockies struck with a mauve light, Sea creatures cut into sky foliage.

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In the shadow of a shrub once you and I Brushed lips and thighs, Dreamt of a past that frees its prisoners. Standing apart I looked at her and said: We have poetry So we do not die of history. And I had no idea what I meant. (Meena Alexander, Birthplace with Buried Stones. Tri-Quarterly Books/ Northwestern University Press, 2013) Contemporary writing exists in a vital mesh of filiation. The international movements of migration and settlement as well as the existence of internal exiles, those who feel displaced as minorities within their own land, have created a pulsing, throbbing net of meanings within which the poet can exist, within which she tries to make sense. What becomes of the past, in such an existence, and what of traumatic awareness with its abrupt flashing up of sense? I think the poem is an invention that exists in spite of history. Most of the forces in our ordinary lives as we live them now conspire against the making of a poem. There might be some space for the published poem but not for the creation. No ritualized space that one is given, where one is allowed to sit and brood, although universities give you a modicum of that. Poetry is a forsaken art, not for those who write or practice it, but for many others. Yet there is a kind of redress that poetry offers. I’m using the words of Seamus Heaney, who has a wonderful essay “The Redress of Poetry” where he talks about poetry as something existing within the gravitational pull of history and yet offering, precisely because of that pull, a redress or a balance. A few words in conclusion – There is a zone of radical illiteracy out of which we translate ourselves in order to appear, in order to be in place. A zone to which words do not attach, a realm syntax flees.

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The zone that cannot recognise the moorings of place, sensuous densities of location, coordinates of compass and map. I need to go there in order to make my poems. I think of it as a dark doorway that lets me in: slides shut, then ruts open again. I fell through that door as a child.

Zone of radical illiteracy out of which I write, translating myself through borders, recovering the chart of a given syntax, the palpable limits of place, in order to be rendered legible through poetry, which fashions an immaterial dwelling yet leaves within itself traces of all that is nervous, stoic, edgy, the skin turned inside out. Is this what Benjamin evokes when he alludes to the `interior’ as the ‘asylum of art…’? In his Arcades Project Benjamin muses, ‘To dwell means to leave traces. In the interior these are accentuated.’ The interior of the house of language, fitful, flashing. And under the house of language, a fiery muteness this zone of radical illiteracy. Where we go when words cannot yet happen, where a terrible countermemory wells up.

What Frantz Fanon evoked: ‘a zone of occult instability’ through which a culture of decolonisation emerges. A zone anterior to place, and to syntax, so that the molten core of what we are might be refigured, and the forms of language cast afresh. Now the strut and play of words, the chiselled order of lines permits a sense crystallized through the seizures of dislocation. I think of the poet in the twenty-first century as a woman standing in a dark doorway. She is a homemaker, but an odd one. She hovers in a dark doorway. She needs to be there at the threshold to find a balance, to maintain a home at the edge of the world.

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She puts out both her hands. They will help her hold on, help her find her way. She has to invent a language marked by many tongues. As for the script in which she writes, it binds her into visibility, fronting public space, marking danger, marking desire. Behind her in the darkness of her home and through her pour languages no one she knows will ever read or write. They etch a corps perdu. Subtle, vital, unseizable body. Source of all translations.

But the zone of terror, what it might mean for us, to live and write in a culture of terror? In his Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1751), Edmund Burke writes of how pain has always evoked greater intensity than pleasure. For him, the ‘Sublime’ is the power that evokes ‘delight,’ drawing together pain and danger, and leading to what is without form, the dark awe that lies in a zone beyond words. One thinks in this regard of Wordsworth’s poet in Book 1 of the Prelude ‘fostered alike by beauty and by fear.’ R D: Dr. Tabish Khair, how closely do you think are ethics and aesthetics related? And how does capitalism influence ethics and aesthetics in your view? Tabish Khair: Thank you for the question. Before I come to the objective, I think, in recent years, literature – and art in general – has been either forced to succumb to the logic of the market, or in radical circles, raised to an autonomous free-floating field of signs with no real referents. On the one hand, we have the clamour of the bestsellers and literary prizes, which tend to focus on bestselling trends. On the other, we sometimes have a notion of art and literature that seems to hover in space, in the sense that it abjures any specific relationship to ‘reality.’ The logic of the market is a numerical logic: it is finally justified and stated in terms of numbers. However, this is a limited logic in human terms, as can be seen even when it is applied to larger matters, such as ‘violence’ by

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Steven Pinker in his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature. The book claims that violence has declined drastically across history! Pinker is right when he critiques the media-influenced belief that we are living in increasingly violent times. He correctly argues that there is a reason to question this assumption. However, while correct in this narrow sense, Pinker’s thesis is violently wrong in a larger context. Pinker runs into two broad categories of errors: conceptual/ contextual and numerical. Take Pinker’s point that “beginning in the Age of Reason in the 17th century and cresting with the Enlightenment at the end of the 18th… people began to sympathise with more of their fellow humans,” which, Pinker argues was one of those trends that contributed to a decline in violence. At first, there seems to be a germ of truth in it, from a Eurocentric perspective. From the Jain or Buddhist perspective, it can be argued that Enlightenment “sympathy” was very narrow: it seldom extended to “savages” or animals. However, there are bigger problems of conceptualisation here. “Sympathy” is not something simply extended; it is determined by the changing categories of identification. The very etymology of “kindness” – involving your “kind” – is a clue. The Enlightenment expansion of European “sympathy” was predicated on the construction of the category of rational “human being” – to which the sympathiser belonged. Throughout the era, Europeans were callously cruel to animals because they were not human and “life” was not a major identification category, and to many non-Europeans because, for many, these were not sufficiently “human.” Even the Enlightenment construction of the category “human” was not sufficient in itself: as Jews and Gypsies often discovered. What happened was that some people – Nazis, for instance, and also European colonisers earlier on – found it convenient and profitable to either refuse “humanity” to some peoples, or to inflict “humanity” in certain ways (Semitic/Aryan, for instance) that enabled them to withhold sympathy from some groups. Pinker’s thesis also suffers from excessive faith in numbers. For instance, he translates the rates of homicide into violence data. But a one percent homicide rate does not mean one percent violence: It means anywhere between two to

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99 percent violence, as the victim might be killed by one or all 99 of the others. Violence is too complex a matter to be left to numbers. Pinker writes: “According to the most recent edition of the Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2,448,017 Americans died in 2005. It was one of the country’s worst years of war deaths in decades, with the armed forces embroiled in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Together the two wars killed 945 Americans, amounting to 0.0004 of American deaths that year.” But can one talk of “American” rates of war-violence without factoring in Iraqi and Afghanistani rates of war-violence too? The discrepancy in the impact of violence results from an increasing discrepancy in the ratio of technological power. In Capitalism in the Age of Globalisation, Samir Amin lists “monopolies over weapons of mass destruction” among the five monopolies that maintain the “present world system.” The ability to kill from a distance as in Iraq or Afghanistan is an aspect of the decline in violence that Pinker traces, but it involves new methodologies of violence. In Pinker’s defence, it has to be said that he proceeds to talk of global rates of violence: “And in the world as a whole, the Human Security Report Project counted 17,400 deaths that year that was directly caused by political violence (war, terrorism, genocide, and killings by warlords and militias), for a rate of 0.0003.” But note the extreme physical nature of the violence. Pinker tries to account for this by calling it “a conservative estimate” and multiplying it by a “generous” 20 to include “deaths by famine and disease”: “It would still not reach the one percent mark,” he states. So perhaps there has been a decline in violence? I am happy to concede this conclusion for some kinds of physical violence. Pinker “proves” such a decline by focussing on one extreme result of violence: death. But only a small percentage of all violence ends in death. Actually, one should expect a decline in the number of violent deaths. This would be a consequence of the greater capacity of the state (or other bodies) to both police violence and concentrate its own retaliatory and “preventive” violence (the two obviously go together); of the specialisation of violence; of better medical services: people who would die of a bullet wound just 20 years ago can be saved today, given good

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hospital facilities. But violence does not cause just deaths. Pinker’s “generous” multiplication by 20 is not really generous – in a world in which, according to UN statistics, 840 million people are malnourished or six million children under the age of five die every year as a consequence of malnutrition. RD: Prof. Rashmi Bhatnagar, the silent identification of postcolonial literature with a body of works which are predominantly written in English has led to the exclusion of the rich vernacular literatures of the diverse multicultural, multilingual spaces of Asia and Africa. How would you like to address this issue and its consequences? Rashmi Dube Bhatnagar: I would like to take this question to a wonderful topic and talk about one of the most misunderstood issues– the Shringara Rasa – which supposedly includes ornamentation, cosmetics, and frivolousness, the woman being weird, and the men gazing at the women, and seeing them purely as objects of beauty. Recent studies in Braj Bhasha poetry trace the long history of demonization of the Shringara Rasa by the colonial nationalists who projected it as unfit to deal with themes of high seriousness such as nation-building and modernity, rendering both the Shringara Rasa and Braj anti-modern and pre-modern. As a result, some of the credible philological works in this area suffered severe negligence. One such writer is a poet from Rajasthan, Meera [Mira Bai]. The kind of philological work that she did with Shringara Rasa with the help of certain texts really calls for our attention. One of the works she chooses to trace the tradition of Shringara Rasa is a Dalit poem in which she uses the birth narrative to counter voice, and the other is Mahadevi Verma’s use of Shringara Rasa. What I want to suggest is that the postcolonial needs to re-invent itself and reposition itself, which is to open the concept of the political and the ethical through re-learning the long tradition of experimenting with the aesthetics of Shringara Rasa. There are different uses of Shringara Rasa here. She talks about how she has renounced the sweeper’s position in a Rajaputa family. She has taken off all her old jewellery and she has not worn any ornament. She has moved from one kind of Shringara to another. Then she says that I have also renounced pantry food because I prefer the food of the poor because of my poor pleasures.

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So Meera’s insistence on one kind of Shringara, one kind of ethics of eating, living and travelling to another kind of Shringara and food-culture has in practice silenced the men and left them in peace. The other text, I would like to refer to is by Mahadevi Verma. While much of her work has been concerned with how to counter the prominent rejection of Shringara Rasa in poetry along with her friend Sumitranandan Pant who rejected the Braj-Shringara Rasa, Mahadevi was also keen to bring in another way of looking at Shringara Rasa; that is, the work of the political and the work of the ethical is to begin with re-imagining the aesthetics. It is a bit of paradox because most people know that Mahadevi Verma decided very early to wear Khadi and renounced rich silk, embroidered clothes, and jewellery. She also renounced marriage. The question now is, in what sense could a person who has taken to that kind of renunciation think of Shringara Rasa as useful for the work she wanted to do as a nationalist, as part of nationalist ‘Seva’ [Service], ‘Swaraj’ [Home-rule] and ‘Swadeshi’ [self-reliant, that is, revival and use of domestic products]? I want to share a story from her prose collection which helps us understand what she does with Shringara Rasa. There is a wonderful sentence, ‘Satya bhi ek Shringara Rasa hota hai’ [truth is also a Shringara Rasa]. It is very commonly disputed when she says that sorrow is an ornament, and the story she tells helps us to see how she makes it politically relevant.The second story is of a child, a child of privilege, who makes friends with a Marwadi [an ethnic group coming from the Rajasthan side of India] child widow. The latter is treated very harshly, as happens among the upper caste families with regard to their treatment of child widows. So the Shringara Rasa begins with Mahadevi’s weaving of tales about her earliest stories of creativity, not in writing but in embroidery or jewellery. So the idea of weaving and the idea that she is trying to imagine a friend wearing that on a festival of ‘Teej’ [Teej is a festival for married women, in northern and central India, who observe it for the wellness of their husbands, commemorates the reunion of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati] run together. So all women in a family help her make this. And the second poem of Shringara Rasa is where Mahadevi renounces the wearing of nice clothes. It is more of a tempered image of the girl who wears ordinary

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clothes and jewellery and looks at herself in the mirror: as we know in Shringara Rasa, the heroine looks at herself. There is in Braj and Sanskrit the ‘nakhashikh varnan,’ the head to toe description that is generally misread as only a means of sensuality and objectification of women. But in this scene, Mahadevi is changing its signification. As a child, she is trying to bestow on a friend some simple pleasure. But that ends in terrible violence. The child-widow’s father-in-law has not yet come home. So, they beat the child so severely that she faints, and then the friend sets the things. And the story ends reclaiming Shringara Rasa. People think that the story will end with social protest and that would result at the end of Shringara Rasa. After many months, we see the scene through her eyes, because what she is looking at is a child widow who is now completely alienated and does not respond to her friend. And the sentence that I find moving is about her own education in female alienation which is reflected in the changed colour of her eyes, which are now differently tinged; here the colour is associated with sorrow. So what I am trying to say is that some of the work that we need to do is to re-investigate the work that has reached us through a colonial reading of vernacular literature and through the nationalist crisis management. Vernacular literature is simply charged with sensuality and questions of morality, which need to be challenged. What I would suggest is that the ethics of the political and the conscience of the apolitical have to be repositioned in the postcolonial through vernacular aesthetics. The aesthetics of Braj Bhasha has been seen as an anthology of textual virtuosity in ‘Riti Poetry’ [‘Riti’ is a scholastic period in Hindi literature]. My concern is how we can reposition the postcolonial in order for it to be visible and offer a very different understanding of vernacular aesthetics that is dynamic and helpful in the everyday practices of the Dalit women rather than being seen as premodern or anti-modern, an aesthetics that has been powerfully imagined by many generations of writers like Mahadevi Verma and ordinary women who have recited Meera by memory. In this way, I have seen Meera’s work as both a work of poetic and philological significance. R D: To sum up: Susie Tharu responding to the question on how the postcolonial can be recast with reference to the historical context draws attention

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to the at once too wide and too narrow implications of the postcolonial. By citing historical instances from the immediate context that record/reveal different effects of colonialism on different groups of people to illustrate the different ways in which colonialism has worked, she hints at the vast scope for further discussion in this direction in future.Bill Ashcroft, who dwells on the issue of the future of postcolonial studies, emphasizes the predominantly utopian tendencies of the postcolonial discourse and how the idea of postcolonial nation with its newly evolved critical rhetoric has been giving way to new hope for future, freedom, justice and equality, in the reforming power of both literary and non-literary writings and on how ‘Utopia’ has come to represent the ‘spirit of hope’ rather than an imaginary place in recent times, which again opens doors for new avenues for exploration.T. Nageswara Rao, who feels that the eloquent discourse of postcolonialism has never had it on its agenda the issues concerning the ‘other postcolonials,’ suggests that a plausible theorization of the postcolonial turn may be arrived at by making use of the insights provided by Frantz Fanon, Emmanuel Levinas, and Slavoj Zizek. But even these ideas need to be re-examined as the logic behind them has often been imperfectly read. The proposition is full of promise because many have so far talked ‘about them’ but never ‘to them.’Meena Alexander envisions the curative powers and the potential for revival and survival of poetry even in an age when nothing is congenial for the writing and flourishing of poetry. Her words are reminiscent of the concluding lines of the poem “Australia” by A. D. Hope, which looks forward to the arrival and celebration of hope/prophets from the desert/arid lands of bleakness and terror. Just like the ambiguity inherent in the poem’s lines, Alexander’s standpoint is significantly open-ended.In his response to the question on the influence of capitalism on ethics and aesthetics in the postcolonial context, Dr Tabish Khair, a poet, novelist, critic, and columnist draws attention to the numerical logic of the market, which can not be applied or used to deal with complex matters such as violence. The cue that he provides by making his point can take us further in the direction of inquiry into animal studies in the postcolonial context.Rashmi Bhatnagar in her response to the question posed to her emphasizes the need to re-investigate the existing colonial readings of vernacular literatures that are simply charged with sensuality and

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questions of morality. She further suggests that the ethics of the political and the conscience of the apolitical have to be repositioned in the postcolonial through the vernacular aesthetics.

Works cited: Achebe, Chinua. 1987. Anthills of Savannah. London: Heinemann. Alexander, Meena. 2013. Birthplace with Burned Stones. Evanston, IL: TriQuarterly Weekly/North Western University Press. Amin, Samir. (1998) 2000. Capitalism in the Age of Globalization: The Management of Contemporary Society. London and New York: Zed Books. —. 2014. Capitalism in the Age of Globalisation, 2nd edition. London and New York: Zed Books. Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin. 1989. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literature. London: Routledge. Bloch, Ernst. (1954) 1995. The Principle of Hope, Vol I, translated by Neville Plaice, Stephen Plaice and Paul Knight. Cambridge: MIT Press. Boehmer, Eleke and Stephen Morton, ed. 2009. Terror and the Postcolonial: A Concise Companion. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Fanon, Frantz. 1963. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press. Frisby, David. 1985. The Fragments of Modernity. London: Routledge. Goldie, Terry. 1993. Fear and Temptation. Montreal & Kingston: McGillQueen’s Press. Jameson, Fredric. 2007. Archaelogies of the Future. New York: Verso. —. 1971. Marxism and Form: Twentieth Century Dialectical Theories of Literature. Princeton: Princeton University Press.  Loomba, Ania, Suvir Kaul, Matti Bunzl, Antoinette Burton, and Jed Etsy, eds. 2005. Postcolonial Studies and Beyond. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

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Ondatjee, Michael. 1992. The English Patient. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. Parry, Benita. 2004. Postcolonial Studies: A Materialist Critique. London: Routledge. —. 2012. “What is Left in Postcolonial Studies.” New Literary History, 43 (2): 341-358. Pinker, Steven. 2011. The Better Angels of Our Nature. New York: Viking. Rao, Kalyan G. 2010. The Untouchable Spring. India: Orient Blackswan. Said, Edward. 1979. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books. Satyanarayana, Y. B. 2012. My Father Balaiah. Noida: HarperCollins Publishers India Ltd. Varma, Mahadevi. Mahadevi Rachna Sanchayan. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi Wilson, Janet, Christina Sandra et al., eds. 2009. Rerouting the Postcolonial. London: Routledge.



Borders suggest both containment and safety, and women often pay a price for daring to claim the integrity, security, and safety of our bodies and our living space. I choose ‘feminism without borders,’ then, to stress that our most expansive and inclusive visions of feminism need to be attentive to borders while learning to transcend them. – Chandra Talpade Mohanty1 How do we distinguish justice from vengeance? … As soon as one is dehumanized by violence, one must further dehumanize oneself to meet that violence head-on, to meet fire with fire … When you meet fire with fire, nothing can ultimately remain but ash. – Yael Farber, Independent Weekly2

Borders and boundaries – between races, genders, classes and nationalities – are significant in postcolonial feminist concerns and in particular, for progressive feminist praxis. Chandra Mohanty envisions a “feminism without borders” that is not a “border-less feminism” but highly cognizant of the “fault lines, conflicts, differences, fears and containment that borders represent” (2). This theoretical notion of being contained within borders, inhabiting

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the edges of borders, crossing over outside of borders guides my analysis of a remarkable play by white South African playwright: Molora by Yael Farber, set in post-apartheid times. The play is a creative adaptation of Aeschylus’ threepart ancient Greek tragedy, Oresteia, as well as a borrowing from Sophocles. The Greek tragedians relied on the original story of the House of Atreus in Homer. It is striking that the theme of vengeance and bloodshed, justice and forgiveness, and gender domination in patriarchy from nearly two thousand years ago, when Greek tragedies were written are resonant for contemporary times. Further, in the South African context, as I argue, gender inequities are profoundly inflected by racial and class disparities within the long duration of apartheid. I argue that the two female characters, mother Klytemnestra (re-spelt from the Greek “c” to a “k”) played by a white woman, deranged and unstable, and daughter Elektra (re-spelt with a “k” from the Greek “c”) by a black woman, endure in the borderlands between seeking vengeance that they believe would lead to justice for wrongs committed, such as Klytemnestra’s killing of her husband Agamemnon, or Elektra’s desire to avenge her father’s murder by killing her mother with her brother Orestes’ help (played by a black man) and moving on. How do they each inhabit this in-between space between bloodletting and moving on? How do patriarchal bonds and controls guide both Klytemnestra’s actions as wife and mother, and Elektra’s as a daughter? Such questions, which haunted the ancient Greeks, continue to pervade contemporary consciousness, especially in South Africa where the struggle for racial equity along with gender and class continues. Molora also includes the unique Chorus of Xhosa women whose intervention guides a positive ending different from the Greek original. I discuss Farber’s inclusion of women’s indigenous ways of knowing as highly significant. Yael Farber, born and raised in Johannesburg, is a South African playwright of international renown, an award-winning director who has won three Best Director awards in her native country. In 2003, she was named Artist of the Year in recognition of her work that has toured the world—US, UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, Europe, and Africa. She was invited to be part of New York

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City’s Lincoln Theater Directors’ Workshop (1999), and a resident artist at Mabou Mines Theatre Company (NYC, 2001). Apart from Molora, Farber has also adapted other classics such as Iphigenia, and King Lear. She works and tours with her company The Farber Foundry. She was a Fellow at the Anna Devere Smith’s ‘Bodies on the line’ Artistic Residency (NYC, 2010).3 Farber has also been commissioned to write an adaptation of The Ramayana, one of India’s major epics. Ram: The Abduction of Sita into Darkness is supposed to be presented in The Culture Project in Manhattan (2012).

Gender, Race, and Class in Pre and Post Apartheid South Africa Molora, inspired by South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission (hereafter TRC) hearings, probes the gap between vengeance and justice, a boundary land that can be inhabited by forgiveness and moving forward, or by murder and bloodshed. Between revealing the truth and reaching reconciliation there is a gap filled by either forgiving a perpetrator, or not, or simply acknowledging the perpetrator’s owning up to violent acts and a sense of closure, however incomplete, for both parties. Farber remarks in her interview with Independent Weekly: I was struck by the humility of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings we witnessed in make-shift halls in South Africa: the low-tech nature of it—and yet the incredible spiritual sophistication of the event. It put me in mind of the way Greek tragedies create a scenario that is so personal, and feels so intimate. And yet it’s epic. It’s just between Cynthia Ngweyu, mother of one of the murdered Gugulethu Seven, and the man who killed her son, seated across the table … [As Cynthia Ngweyu remarked], ‘This thing called reconciliation … If it means this perpetrator, this man who has killed my son, if it means he becomes human again, this man, so that I, so that all of us, get our humanity back…then I agree, then I support it all.’ … That level of spiritual, philosophical sophistication … moved me to create a piece that could express the miracle of that period in South Africa’s history and how it shined a light on what could be a real way forward for the rest of the world. (n.p. Emphasis added).

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Farber in her Foreword also connects the play’s title Molora, the Sesotho word for ‘ash’, to “a fine white powdery substance [that] gently floated down heart-broken New York” after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center “amid the grief, recriminations and the Bush administration’s indiscriminate wielding of revenge” (8). This is a stark reminder of the commonality of the dust or ash that all human bodies become—this ash is “the truth we must all return to” remarks Farber, “regardless of what faith, race, or clan we hail from” (Foreword, 8). Molora explores how “South Africa defied expectations,” not enacting the “eye for an eye” violence that can continue trans-generationally (as represented also in Greek tragedy), but rather, found ways of “reconciliation” rather than revenge. Farber was as interested in exploring “family dysfunction and grief ” as in “grace” that is significant in her positive ending.4 In the same interview, Farber notes that all her work “tends to be about pursuing a certain truth and getting to the marrow of South Africa’s past and present … to chase the truth of the experience from within a country torn apart by the insanity of ideas of superiority and the sanctioned suffering of people in the name of this deluded superiority” that includes racial, gender, and class lines. Historically, the political and psychological borders imposed by colonialism in different parts of the world during the 19th and 20th centuries had specific configurations: in South Africa, the native Black majority population was dominated over by settlers of the White (English origin and Afrikaners of Dutch origin) minority that consolidated its power by imposing the racist system of apartheid (1948-1994), along with legislations such as the Pass Laws and Group Areas Acts among others that denied the very humanity of black people in their own land. Given the systemic discrimination on racial lines that doubly disadvantaged women who were often confined to arid hinterlands misnamed “homelands” while their men worked in the mines or urban areas, the struggle for liberation took much longer than in African nations such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya, which gained independence in the 1960s. South Africa overthrew the yoke of apartheid only in 1994, when after the first, free elections for all South Africans, Nelson Mandela, who had spent 27 years in prison (18 of them on Robben Island doing hard labor), was elected President.

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During the transition period between apartheid and post-apartheid, the “world held its collective breath” remarks Farber, anticipating a civil war and a bloodbath. Revenge killings and other violent scenarios are familiar in recent memory as in “the ruins of Hiroshima, Baghdad, Palestine, Rwanda, Bosnia, the concentration camps of Europe and modern-day Manhattan” (Farber 8). Although the TRC was controversial and by no means a perfect solution to years of injustice, it enabled victims and perpetrators to face one another, speak the unspeakable, deal with their internal demons and try to continue with their lives. In Molora, Farber places mother Klytemnestra in a TRC type hearing for killing her husband and taking over the House Atreus, seated in front of her daughter Elektra whom she treats like a dog, and tortures with whips, starvation, and the “wet bag” technique (discussed below) for withholding the whereabouts of her brother Orestes and for relentlessly mourning her father. The drama of revealing the truth and the outcome in vengeance or not is played out in the space between the two women seated across a wooden table. I note here a provocative reversal of the usual patriarchal domination of male over female in Klytemnestra’s brutalization of another woman, doubly horrifying since it is her daughter. In an excellent book entitled Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission: Stages of Transition, Catherine Cole locates the TRC “between the islands of the past (when races were segregated in apartheid) and an imagined future of integration,” not only of the races in South Africa but also “integration for South Africa itself within both the continent and the larger world from which it had been severed through years of cultural and economic boycotts” (2010, ix). Cole further places the TRC in “a liminal space between performance and the law” (ix). The notion of the law court as a setting and trials as inherently performative are not new concepts, though Cole argues that “the uses to which theatre and performance have been put within the nascent field of transitional justice in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, however, are new” (ix, emphasis in original). This field of “transitional justice” aims to “restore humanity to both perpetrator and victim” (x). Cole describes the

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TRC as “an epic production” (keeping with the theatrical metaphor) whose “mandate (was) to investigate gross violations of human rights committed during a 34-year period of South African history (1960-1994). In Molora, both Klytemnestra who has committed murder, and her daughter who has suffered the loss of her father, are allowed to face one another, speak, and find ways to reconcile or not. The TRC hearings from 1996 onwards continued for nearly a decade with a substantial historical archive that included thousands of ordinary peoples’ testimonies. Importantly, the hearings were public and also broadcast via radio and televisions, although the written TRC records even by 2006 are “sequestered” (xxvi). Nonetheless, despite internal fissures in a society so damaged by years of injustice continue in violent incidents, TRC has had a huge impact on the international stage. Along with praise, there is also justifiable scepticism about the long-term impact of the TRC as articulated by Nigeria’s Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka in his text, The Burden of Memory, The Muse of Forgiveness. Soyinka recognizes the ethical value of the TRC though he critiques the lack of adequate monetary compensation for victims. He questions if truth alone can set one free: “Truth as prelude to reconciliation, that seems logical enough; but Truth as the justification, as the sole exaction or condition for Reconciliation? That is what constitutes a stumbling block in the South African proceedings” (1999, 13)He probes further to articulate that the history of Africans themselves committing crimes against her own people “are of a dimension and, unfortunately, of a nature that appears to constantly provoke memories of the historic wrongs inflicted on that continent by others” (19). Soyinka recognizes that memory as preserved by the ancestral griots (who remember a community’s history) and modern-day poets can imaginatively assist in healing for those seeking reparations for past wrongs, though closure may not always be possible: The role of memory, of ancient precedents of current criminality, obviously governs our responses to the immediate and often more savage assaults on our humanity, and to the strategies for remedial action. Faced with such a balancing imposition--the weight of memory against the violations of the present – it is sometimes useful to invoke the voices of the griots, the ancestral shades and their latter-day interpreters, the poets.

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Memory obviously rejects amnesia, but it remains amenable to closure that is, apparently, the ultimate goal of social strategies such as Truth and Reconciliation, and the Reparations Movement (for the enslavement of a continent). It is there that they find common ground even though the latter does entail, by contrast, a demand for restitution. Both seek the cathartic bliss, the healing that comes with closure. (20)

One primary way that Farber recreates a TRC type hearing in Molora is via the setting, the venue that would ideally be “a bare hall or room—much like the drab, simple venues in which most of the testimonies were heard during the course of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission” (Molora 19). Further, the action unfolds “on the floor” not “on a raised stage” so that the audience is close to the actors “experiencing the story as witnesses or participants in the room, rather than as voyeurs excluded from, yet looking in on the world of the story.” The Chorus of Xhosa women are also witnesses who face the actors and the audience seated in a straight row in “seven, austerelooking chairs” behind the action. They do not say much but use their unusual “split-tone singing” and traditional instruments of rural Transkei, namely, “the mouth bows, calabash bows, mouth harps and milking drums” to affect the action profoundly. Most of the action revolves around the mother-daughter relationship where the emotional burden is given an additional racial layer—the white mother dominating her black daughter. As a mother, the human bond that usually keeps a protective boundary around the daughter in a loving embrace is shattered here in the mother treating her daughter like a dog. The racial overtones are highlighted further when Klytemnestra deploys the White South African authorities’ torture method of the “wet bag” technique where victims “are handcuffed and a wet bag is applied to their face” remarks Sophie Nield, “so that they begin to suffocate. The use of this technique was revealed in 1995 by the security policeman Jeffrey Benzien, in testimony” given to the TRC.5 The border between life and death is played out in horrific scenes where Klytemnestra exerts her will on Electra. This torture method, Nield adds, “also prevents speech,” denying the victim both the ability to speak and be heard. Farber believes deeply that “speaking and being heard,” significant tools used in

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theatre, can provide “a modest but profound beginning” in reconstituting South Africa’s “shattered history [that] will take generations to heal but I believe theatre has a significant role in this process’” (quoted by Nield 9). Elektra is silenced as she inhabits the space between life and death when undergoing the wet bag torture; she suffocates and then is allowed to breathe and speak again. Speech and silence are key concerns in postcolonial feminism that explores the act of speaking out by dominated women who may be punished for their words as others may be reprimanded for remaining silent. Although the wet bag had silenced Elektra temporarily, she is no longer quiet when she has to persuade Orestes to go through with the vengeance. In my book, Politics of the Female Body, I posit that women in postcolonial patriarchal societies endure a form of internal exile where they experience a disconnection from their own bodies as expressed in forms of silencing and social exclusions. The female body feels “disconnected from itself, as though it does not belong to it, and has no agency. The complex experience of colonialism provides a significant frame within which I analyze female exile” (2). In Molora’s postcolonial, postapartheid society, the heavy history of colonialism is still palpable and the female characters experience what I denote as an experience of “internalized exile.” I regard this “as a process that includes complicated levels of consent and collusion to domination” (2). Elektra is cast out of her home and hardly belongs to her own body as she constantly mourns her father, even sleeping on his grave, deprived of food and nourishment in a situation where her mother is her torturer, in a macabre reversal of a male patriarch. Even with these challenges, women like Elektra still find avenues of resistance to internalized exile, though it is important, I contend, to discuss the outcomes of resistance, positive or negative instead of simply romanticizing resistance. A positive outcome of resisting internal exile could be represented in women using their bodies and voices to create a space for themselves and being reintegrated into the society; a negative result could be figured in a woman remaining silent and perhaps getting destroyed. Although Elektra is silenced by the wet bag technique, she survives. Silence is not always negative, nor is using voice always useful. Women can strategically deploy either speech or silence, depending on the circumstances in their patriarchal societies or when confronted by female ogres like Klytemnestra.

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In Molora, both the dominating mother and her oppressed daughter suffer outsider-ness from their rightful place in the House of Atreus. Klytemnestra’s maniacal rage at being unable to find her son Orestes, to be thrust outside her role as his mother, is exerted on Elektra who courageously resists her mother by maintaining silence about her brother’s whereabouts. Mother and daughter are locked in a psychological battle of wills—Elektra, as a young girl remembers engineering her brother Orestes’ escape from the household to keep him safe. Farber imaginatively connects the external battles for power fought over women’s bodies—as in the father Agamemnon’s sacrificing daughter Iphigenia for his ship’s smooth passage to Troy to retrieve Helen—to internal battles between the females, themselves cast out by patriarchy. Helen, like Klytemnestra, is another female lost in the power struggle among men from warring sides. Klytemnestra’s un-healable wound of losing Iphigenia leads to her killing Agamemnon, and Molora opens with her gloating over her “justifiable” act. It is as if Klytemnestra is “disciplining” and “punishing” Agamemnon, to use Michel Foucault’s terms. However, her female body and mind have endured the physical pain of bearing children, the mental grief over losing them, and psychological anguish over violent dreams of birthing snakes who feed on her breasts, and anticipating Orestes’ return with dread. When Orestes does come back after 17 years of exile to claim what is rightfully his, he prays to his “ancestors” to “light the way” (55). Orestes confronts the dreaded gap between killing his mother to avenge his father’s murder, and not committing this act. He knows what he has to do; his sister is eagerly awaiting his return for that one act. Murder is awful in any situation, but here, for a son to kill his mother takes on further horror. To kill the one who has given one life carries special prohibition in an ethical realm, and this is true however justifiable the murder might be for the many wrongs perpetrated by the mother. Elektra describes herself and Orestes as “orphans … outcasts/ Banished from our home” (56). Initially, the Chorus agrees with them: “Makubenjo! [Let it be so!]” (57-58). Then, in “scene xv: vengeance”, one of the women, MaNOSOMETHING appears before Orestes after he has killed

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Klytemnestra’s lover, Ayesthus. Orestes “is unsure if she is real or a vision. He drops to his knees stunned and hears these words: ‘My child, why do you kill? … A human being should never be murdered … Do you know that human blood will haunt you always? What you have done is terrible. Never kill again’” (69-70). Orestes tells Elektra that he feels “lost”; however, he bemoans: “Let me kill my mother, then let me die” (71). But when he raises the axe to kill his mother, a woman from the chorus begins “to sing a haunting song.” Although the words of the song are not translated, they convince Orestes that he “cannot shed more blood” (75). He wants to “walk away” with his sister and “rewrite this ancient end” (76). When Elektra takes the axe to kill their mother, the women of the Chorus “grab Elektra and overpower her. Elektra screams in rage as they wrestle the axe from her hands. They restrain her and she finally breaks down and weeps for all the injustices done to her, her brother and her father. She slowly finds her breath. UMASENGWANA (Milking/ Friction Drum) begins its deep, haunting sound” (77). The image of “finding her breath” evokes Elektra’s dreadful oppression under her mother when she could hardly breathe but kept the semblance of life going so that she could avenge her father’s murder. Having disarmed Elektra, the Diviner of the Choral group steps forward and prays for unity among blacks and whites (in line with the South African reality). “We pray for our children that they may stop crime and killing each other. We ask that … (we) speak the truth” (78). Orestes does not kill his mother. Although the Xhosa women invoke what is commonly known as the Christian injunction of “thou shall not kill”, their conviction not to kill is rooted in their indigenous knowledge systems that guide Orestes and Elektra to break out of the cycle of violence. Their key interceding into the play’s conclusion justifies their ancestral wisdom and women’s ways of knowing that are “submerged,” to use Michel Foucault’s expression, under patriarchal domination. Molora’s ending is different from the Greek original where Orestes does kill his mother and is pursued by the Furies before goddess Athena comes in to deliberate and forgive him.

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The Chorus’ “sonic wisdom” This Chorus, part of “the Ngqoko Cultural Group” that began in 1980 is “committed to the indigenous music, songs and traditions of the rural Xhosa communities.”6 It is their sound that is the driving force that enables Farber to “radically reinvent” the Greek Chorus device that expressed the conscience of the community. Farber was captivated by the “unearthly sound of the Ngqoko Group’s UMNGQOKOLO (Split-tone singing) … a haunting texture of sound” (Molora, 13 emphasis in original). “It’s an extraordinary technique that they’re trained in from a very early age,” remarks Farber in her interview with Independent Weekly. She continues: It turns the vocal cords into some kind of extraordinary musical instrument, that doesn’t sound human but can only come from a human being, because it’s so organic… It’s an absolutely unearthly sound … reduc(ing) sound to resonances and bass notes that create…a calling, back to something ancestral, regardless of what culture you come from. It grounds the emotional storyline that the three actors carry. It sounds like earth—if you could amplify what’s going on beneath granite and rock and lava and water… When I heard their sound, I felt this is what wisdom, what forefathers sound like; what ancient truth, what that gravel sounds like.7

Farber travelled to rural Transkei and met with the group, sharing the Oresteia story with them that elicited much discussion of the choices and dilemmas facing the characters, especially the ethical ramifications of killing for vengeance. Farber decided to have them act as the Chorus of “ordinary African women” like the many who had witnessed and been part of the TRC hearings across the country. The Chorus of Xhosa women is silent witnesses to the action for most of the play. But, when the time comes for Orestes to kill Klytemnestra, they intervene with words, and one of them, a spiritual diviner sings and chants; they prevail. Farber herself “least expected” this kind of end but she saw it “as absolutely organic” and she listened to these contemporary women’s ancient wisdom. The diviner, Farber notes, “was praying for the children, for the

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wisdom of their decision—and we actually use that at the end of the play … They made it clear what would be unacceptable to them as witnesses.” In a curious scenario, by preventing Orestes or Elektra played by black actors, from killing Klytemnestra, the Chorus of black women are part of what Mohanty describes as “antiracist, feminist frameworks or ways of seeing, interpreting, and making connections between the many levels of social reality we experience … outlin(ing) a notion of feminist solidarity” (3). This is a complex reckoning—the Xhosa women, given their experience of oppression and marginalization at the hands of the majority white population of South Africa could easily have encouraged the black Orestes to kill his white mother. However, in this strange and estranged history of “solidarity” between black and white women in South Africa, the non-violent action preserves life for mother and son. Mohanty defines solidarity “in terms of mutuality, accountability, and the recognition of common interests as the basis for relationships among diverse communities” (7). Further, Mohanty asserts that such feminist solidarity “constitutes the most principled way to cross borders—to decolonize knowledge” (7). Decolonization in the South African context is different from other parts of the colonized world since the colonizers are also settlers who continue to inhabit the land after the end of apartheid, but who have to accord a level of “autonomy and self-determination [as] central to the process of liberation and can only be achieved through ‘self-reflexive collective practice’” (8). Such decolonizing with solidarity can build an ethical and political society where differences of race, cultural practices, class differences can be bridged in imaginative works as in Molora. In Farber’s bringing together of the Xhosa women and the Greekbased characters, there is also a gender connection across time and space. I do not mean to romanticize or essentialize the female ties but in line with postcolonial theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s useful injunction, I use a “strategic essentialism.” The progressive feminist thought is “deeply collective” (Mohanty 4), and borrows across national boundaries and learns from different sources, including the unlikely source (only because we do not know about it) of the Xhosa women whom Farber’s play brings to our attention.

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Farber accomplishes a tour de force by discovering the Xhosa women and making their voices paramount at the end of Molora. Their own ways of knowing are given primacy over the usual, even hegemonic, Greek world-view espoused in Greek tragedy. The crucial significance of indigenous ways of knowing, oral, written, and in expressive forms of music and dance are recognized in postcolonial feminist theory.8 Such female knowledge is recognized by feminist scholars in various fields, such as Critical Race and Legal theory expert Patricia Williams whose comment is appropriate here: “To be without documentation [and this includes oral forms of knowledge as true in African contexts] is too unsustaining, too spontaneously ahistorical, too dangerously malleable in the hands of those who would rewrite not merely the past but [my] future as well” (54). The phrase “learning from below” is useful in the progressive feminist thought that includes the voices of the marginalized in society. Farber’s inclusion of the Xhosa women’s wisdom in her play echoes Spivak’s remarks on the importance of Bengali writer-activist Mahasweta Devi’s “interventionist journalism.” As I remark in my book, Politics of the Female Body, “Spivak’s always carefully crafted and particularized theorizing here benefits from … being open to new modes of learning via indigenous knowledge, not romanticized but recognized as valuable, and to be judged by criteria different from hegemonic European norms of reason or literacy” (Katrak 2006, xix). For Spivak, the possibility of learning from below must be earned by the slow effort at “ethical responding. Mahasweta’s fiction resonates with the possibility of constructing a new type of responsibility for the cultural worker” (Imaginary Maps, xxvi). In Spivak’s conversation with Mahasweta Devi, the latter notes: “a creative writer should have a social conscience. I have a duty toward society … I must remain accountable to myself ” (xvi). This echoes Farber’s role as a writer intervening from her privileged position of whiteness to shed light on the possibilities of a just, nonracial and nonsexist South Africa. Like the Xhosa women, the Indian tribals whom Devi writes about have songs that they do not write (they are non-literate) but that they retain in memory “of fights, of natural calamities” that are passed on (xviii).

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I place Farber’s rewritten ending from the violence of a son killing his mother to a healing and positive conclusion in a postcolonial feminist frame where the old Xhosa women use their female power to change Orestes’ murder-driven mind. After all, they have raised him as his several mothers when Elektra had entrusted them to keep Orestes safe. These non-biological Xhosa mothers convince Orestes not to kill his birth mother since that will only continue the murderous cycle. Rather, they inspire him to resist the impulse for vengeance and indeed to give up this act that he has spent his whole life preparing for. He is a victim of this fate but he chooses a different future for himself when the old Xhosa women triumphantly change a violent, foregone conclusion. However, it is important to recognize that it is not a “happily ever after” kind of ending. “The most difficult choice,” remarks Farber, “is to stand up as the children do in the piece, and help Klytemnestra to her feet. There are no hugs. No one says, ‘We accept you back into the family’” (Independent Weekly). Farber continues: Instead, they say, ‘You must go your way and make peace with what you’ve done. Whether you should die or not is something we will take on no longer. We are turning to our own healing, rather than healing based on the destruction of anything else. We are breaking the cycle… To face an ending that engages us in something besides the primitive call for revenge—this is the most difficult choice one can make. It’s where the challenge begins, not ends: a very complex process of putting things back together again. (n.p.)

After Klytemnestra’s near-death experience of anticipating Orestes’ axe on her body, she is left to her own internal demons and to whatever tormented way she may continue to live with the knowledge of her violent acts. This positive rewriting of the ending is believable and profoundly moving in my reading of the text. However, for other scholars such as Glenn Odom, “the play prevents the culmination of both reconciliation and the tragic form, leaving the audience in the same transitional space that South Africa is itself experiencing. Spatially, Molora forestalls both the universalizing impulse of tragedy and the monumentalizing impulse of reconciliation.”9

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Odom places the play in its context of South Africa’s real-politic, where the state that was paramount during apartheid regime continues to be so even in post-apartheid times. This is similar to the situation in most postcolonial societies where “state intervention, control, discipline, and surveillance” continue to prevail, as Mohanty and Alexander point out, and where “the state figures centrally in any analytic attempt to grapple with colonial legacies” (Introduction xxiii).10 In post-apartheid, free South Africa, the troubling aspects of re-building the nation now in the hands of black people, cannot escape the pitfalls of nationalism that functions by strategic inclusion and exclusion of its own populations along racial, sexual (when lesbians are excluded as “antinational,” not fulfilling their procreative duties) and class divides. In postcolonial societies, “affiliation with the nation-state,” as Ella Shohat argues persuasively, “becomes highly partial and contingent” since the nation is not “a unified category.” Rather, heterogeneity at a national level enables a feminist articulation of a “contextualized history for women in specific geographies of identity,” remarks Shohat. “Such feminist projects, in other words, are often posited in relation to ethnic, racial, regional and national locations” (184). However, many post-colonial nation-states “remained, on the whole, ethnocentric, patriarchal, bourgeois, and homophobic” (195). Conflicts inside the nation’s “imagined communities” to use Benedict Anderson’s phrase, include the marginalized, disenfranchised, internal migrants who hardly experience full citizenship. This scenario of inhabiting what Edward Said calls “imagined geographies” (qtd. in Shohat 195), is doubly poignant for the black people of South Africa who lived under a colonial yoke enforced by apartheid, and who after apartheid ended, have to continue the struggle for full belonging in a divided, albeit free South Africa. Even with all the problems of configuring a “nation” where diverse peoples belong, the concept of nation is still useful if we “interrogate its repressions and limits, passing national discourse through the grids of class, gender, [and] sexuality” (208). What Shohat presents as a goal, namely to disavow “a grand anticolonial metanarrative” that upholds “one truth” in favour of “heteroglossic proliferations of difference… as energizing political and aesthetic forms of communitarian self-construction,” is achieved

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in Farber’s play where the voices of the Xhosa women prevail in their embodiment of a just and non-violent future for South Africa. Klytemnestra escapes the death that she anticipates from her son, and although Farber presents a strongly de-romanticized notion of motherhood in how she tortures Elektra, nonetheless, Farber includes a back-story as it were, partly based on the Greek original and partly fictionalized that makes Klytemnestra somewhat sympathetic. She is not condemned outright for killing Agamemnon since he had sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia on the gods’ command, for the Greek ships to have favourable winds for their journey to Troy to rescue Helen. In Molora’s first scene entitled “testimony” Klytemnestra gloats over her murderous act: “Here I stand and here I struck/ and here my work is done … I revel like the Earth / when the spring rains come down … ‘Here lies Agamemnon my husband/ made a corpse by this right hand./ A Masterpiece of Justice./ Done is done” (22-23). Klytemnestra, as a mother, never forgave Agamemnon for his heinous act of killing Iphigenia. “If you were a mother,” she tells Elektra in “scene vii: grave”, “you/ would have done the same. This brutal/ father of yours, whom you mourn and / mourn, sacrificed your sister–/ For some godforsaken Holy War! / He let her die. / He the begetter only with his seed/ For he did not toil for her for nine long/ months as I did. / –The mother that bore her” (36-37). The mother carrying her child for nine months and then birthing her in pain is entirely different from the father who only contributes his “seed” and moves on with his life. “A woman giving birth is an animal in/ pain./ Hurt her child— and the wound is hers…/ Cuts her where she cannot heal” (41). Klytemnestra claims that she has exacted “the justice of a mother” by killing her husband and that an “eye for an eye, blood for blood … will always be men’s only truth” (42). Although Elektra defends her father noting that he had “no choice” and that his killing of Iphigenia “was the price of war,” Klytemnestra retorts, “Until you have borne a child—don’t you/ dare talk to me about the price of war” (37-38, emphasis in original). Another major incident that is included in Farber’s adaptation is that Agamemnon murdered Klytemnestra’s first husband and first child, “then took

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me for his wife.” The reader-viewer is drawn into the dilemma of sympathizing with Klytemnestra for these awful losses. Elektra is unmoved and even for the reader/viewer of Molora, further dilemmas remains in Klytemnestra’s killing Agamemnon not only to avenge her children’s murders but also to satisfy her lover Ayesthus. Klytemnestra’s female resistance to patriarchal domination is expressed in her overt act of killing Agamemnon. Usually, female resistances, for fear of reprisals are not as overt as Klytemnestra’s; more commonly, women use covert forms of resistance so that they can survive their acts of defying patriarchal power—for instance, choosing strategically to speak or remaining silent, even using the female body as a weapon to either comply with or deny patriarchal demands for labor, sex, and other tasks. In Molora, Elektra resists by not revealing to her mother where Orestes is hiding and this costs her Klytemnestra’s rage and torture. Elektra bears this pain, and the psychic outsiderness that her mother imposes on her. Orestes was much younger than Elektra and too young to process his father’s murder, but as he grows up he knows that his rightful place in the House of Atreus is appropriated by the imposter Ayesthus. He has little trouble killing him, but driving the sword into his mother’s heart is an altogether different act. Although the drive for vengeance to gain justice is halted, and the ethical boundary of a son letting his murderous mother live is upheld, the play ends with Klytemnestra’s words that evoke, above all else, grace: It falls softly the residue of revenge Like rain. And we who made the sons and Daughters of this land, servants in the halls of their forefathers… We know We are still only here by grace alone (79)

Molora shows an imaginative possibility of a way forward, a path differently paved with grief and acceptance of wrongdoings, a way ahead that asserts Ubuntu, i.e., our common humanity with all its flaws and triumphs.

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Notes 1. In Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003), 1-2. 2. In an interview with Bryan Woods, “MoLoRa: The Independent Interview with Yael Farber”, Independent Weekly (Arts Blog), March 17, 2010. 3. Information from 4. In an interview with Belinda Otas, “On Molora and Moving Forward in South Africa: An Interview with the Rising Star of South African Theatre”, in The New Black Magazine, 2008 (www.thenewblackmagazine. com). 5. In her note to Farber’s Molora, titled “The Power of Speech,” 9-11. 6. See note on “The Ngqoko Cultural Group” in Yael Farber’s Molora (London: Oberon Books, 2008, Repr. 2010), 12-13. 7. From my experience of music in India, the split-tone singing”, the “earthy sounds” are reminiscent of the North Indian Drupad style of intoning words and singing as expounded most prominently by the masterful Gundecha brothers. 8. See Ketu H. Katrak, Contemporary Indian Dance: New Creative Choreography in India and the Diaspora (Basingstoke and London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). 9. In an article titled “South African Truth and Tragedy: Yael Farber’s Molora and Reconciliation Aesthetics.”, in Comparative Literature, 63:1 (2011), 47-63. 10. See their Introduction to M. Jaqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, editors, Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures, ed. M. Jaqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade Mohanty (New York and London: Routledge, 1997).

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Works cited: Alexander, M. Jaqui and Chandra Talpade Mohanty. 1997. Introduction to Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures, eds. Alexander and Mohanty. New York and London: Routledge. Xiii-xlii. Cole, Catherine M. 2010. Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission: Stages of Transition. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Farber, Yael. (2008) 2010. Molora. London: Oberon Books. Farber, Yael. 2010. “The Ngqoko Cultural Group.” In Molora, 12-13. London: Oberon Books. Katrak, Ketu H. 2011. Contemporary Indian Dance: New Creative Choreography in India and the Diaspora. Basingstoke and London: Palgrave Macmillan. —. 2006. Introduction. Politics of the Female Body: Postcolonial Women Writers of the Third World. New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press. Ix-xxvi. Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. 2003. Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Nield, Sophie. 2010. “The Power of Speech.” In Molora by Yael Farber, 9-11. London: Oberon Books. Odom, Glenn A. 2011. “South African Truth and Tragedy: Yael Farber’s Molora and Reconciliation Aesthetics.” Comparative Literature, 63 (1): 47-63. Otas, Belinda. 2008. “On Molora and Moving Forward in South Africa: An Interview with the Rising Star of South African Theatre.” The New Black Magazine. URL: spx?index=1362. Accessed: 26 September 2014. Shohat, Ella. 1997. “Post-Third-Worldist Culture: Gender, Nation, and the Cinema.” In Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures, ed. M. Jaqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, 183-209. New York and London: Routledge. Soyinka, Wole. 1999. The Burden of Memory, The Muse of Forgiveness. New York and London: Oxford University Press.

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Williams, Patricia. 1991. The Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of a Law Professor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Woods, Bryan. 2010. “MoLoRa: The Independent Interview with Yael Farber.” Independent Weekly (Arts Blog), March 17.


The idea of “subjectivity” or “selfhood” is a discourse in the literature which promotes the cultural logic of construction of human collective selves. In poststructuralist/postcolonial paradigms, the subject position is always constructed via a wide network of association, interpellation with an ideological body. Many cultural thinkers interpret it in terms of its concerns of public engagement, or interpersonal relations. For such critics/thinkers, “subjectivity” is a matter of “performance” (Butler 1990), “interpellation” (Althusser 1971 [1969]), “negotiation” (Bhabha 1999), “difference, or reciprocal determination” (Deleuze 1972), etc. It is due to its performative-ness that it can be located in every site where resistance/power operates. My contention is that the notions of “subject” and “selfhood” are supplementary to each other. However, their natures differ as both have a blurred distinction. If the subject is “performative” and “public” then the self/selfhood is “reflective” and “personal” to be precise. They are also deeply connected with the temporality of existence. In life, we have as many contradictions as we have selves. Thus the idea of subjectivity or selfhood is well-grounded in the very idea of psycho-physiological being. There has always been a serious debate over the nature of “being”: as to whether consciousness determines the being (Hegel), or sociopolitical conditions

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determine being (Marx). However, the fact remains that “self ” does not have any final definition to offer on its own. It just is. For the subject, there are countless conditions to determine it, yet no authentic categorization of it is possible, as nobody can claim that “a” is a more real subject than “b”. So the very theorization of “subject” in itself is problematic and open to challenge. “Subject” and its “agency,” though not new, gained currency during the heyday of poststructuralism, the 80s, in the postcolonial paradigms in the early 90s, and later on in the literary discourse of the “third world” countries with a special focus on gender and sexuality. However, the idea of “subject” (unified or fragmented) was most seriously discussed/reflected upon in the modernist, avant-garde literary writings as a discrete agent of meaning; as modernism tends to reveal the inner life of the subject as a “sinister, inexplicable flux” (Selden 2005, 99). Why is there a need to discuss the idea of self and subject in writings is a serious question. One possible response may be that we tend to listen to a speaker or narrator to engage ourselves with the text. We more often than not identify ourselves with some character or narrator in the story (novel or play) or TV show in our day-to-day life; in the process of interaction the character’s self sometimes becomes one’s extended self due to some similitude, physical or psychological. This makes us think about the nature and identity of the subject again and again. The similarity and difference in the positions of the subject (character in discussion) or selfhood has been discussed at length by Bertolt Brecht with regard to his idea of “dual subject” in his stylized acting-technique, which is conflated with the poststructuralist idea of fragmented, incoherent subjectpositions, as Brechtian characters are wrought with many layers of their inherent contradictory positions on the stage. I The configuration of subject/self in modern times in Eurocentric tradition can be traced back to the 18th century, which originates in Descartes’ neologism “Cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am). For Descartes, the very act of thinking or experiencing implies the existence of a psychological subject,

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which he subsequently identifies with an immaterial mind (Encyclopedia Britannica). The act of reflection presupposes the existence of the “I” who thinks. Here selfhood is projected as “subjectivity.” In literary writings, the sense of selfhood/subjectivity has been present since the earliest times and literary pieces were recognized on the basis of individual authors. Moreover, the subject was in the centre to validate the meaning of the text, exerting authorial intrusion from outside. However, there was also a growing tendency to sublimate the ‘author’s self ’ through the special power of artistic negation which is commonly termed as “self-effacement”; Keats refers to it as “negative capability” in Shakespeare. In Renaissance writings, the subject was always found in a state of inner turmoil or under the threat of “erasure” (Derrida’s term), the classic example being the oft-quoted soliloquy of Hamlet, “to be or not to be.” The flickering desire which emerges from Hamlet’s innermost selfreflects the continuous threat to the unified recognized the subject position of the character. Here the “subject” is thwarted by the presence of political power in the guise of Claudius. Claudius is the “Other” for Hamlet and at the same time, a powerful “signifier” and a “difference” in the construction of the latter’s subject-position. The evident point is that there was no definite idea of a universal/unified subject-position in the 16th century but of many temporal subjects. In the 19th century, “subject” and “self ” in the form of sublime “ego” acquired a special artistic dimension in the Romantic school of poetry. Nature was but a manifestation of the transcendental soul or subject which introduced/ produced them. In a sense, the subject was more stable, unified and holistic, unlike during the Renaissance period. The twentieth-century literature in all of its massive experimental projects (in terms of generic/art form: stream-ofconsciousness, imagism, and symbolism so forth) projects a “complete subject”, though alienated. Things were falling apart as it were and hence there was a desperate urge for reintegration and reunification with the past as the only resort to diagnose such social destabilization. Eliot’s “a heap of broken images” and man as a wreckage out of the “stony death” (2) is the testament of modernist anguished subject position. In the sixties, postmodernism/poststructuralism affect our cultural understanding, with epistemology changing our worldview drastically. Literary writings would no longer project a central truth, cohesion

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in structure, cause and effect order, or a singular meaning. The authorial intention was rendered invalid in the reception and consumption of literary artefacts. Roland Barthes enunciates the death of the author along with Derrida who overrides the notion of the “centre”. These conceptual measures opened up new avenues for both “readers” and “text” in the literary parlance. ‘Text’ acquired an autonomous status and ‘subject’ multiplied itself in literary pieces: Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, and Deleuze are the key thinkers of such an anti-establishment project/discourse that led to a theoretical reawakening. In poststructuralism, subjectivity is considered an ideological construct, a process of an on-going negotiation in language. In its spatio-temporal dimensions, post-structuralism/modernism celebrates the demise of the real (Baudrillard), subject (Foucault), sex (Deleuze), etc. But amidst these nihilistic postulates, the importance of “subject” has not been eliminated completely, the reason being that such subject was considered an intrinsic part of the structure. It became reciprocal to the object it referred to, instead of controlling the latter. There was no scope for going beyond subjectivity. This argument makes the fact clear that realization of subjectivity is imminent. This is also because the idea of the subject in narrative frameworks acquaints us with the milieu in which works are written and grounded. It is the subject through which life gets spoken about. Here I wish to draw attention to Catherine Belsey’s view of “subject” and its association with “identity” as these ideas are somewhat related to my discussion of “dual subject” and “selfhood”. While distinguishing identity from the subject she makes the following observations: ‘Subject’ can be more precise than ‘identity’ as a way of thinking about the issues. First, as a grammatical term, it places the emphasis squarely on the language we learn from birth, and from which we internalize the meanings, including those of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ our culture expects us to live by. Second, it builds in the ambiguity of the grammatical term itself: I am free to say and to do what I like to the degree that I accept a certain subjection to those cultural norms. And third, it allows for discontinuities and contractions. I can adopt a range of subject positions, and not all of them will necessarily be consistent with each other. ‘Identity’ implies sameness; that’s what the word means. Subjects can differ–even from themselves.” (Belsey 2007, 52. Emphasis added)

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As a matter of fact, “subject” in postructuralism is the product of a language game. It is circulated through sentence structure, sometimes as an agent of a verb or action in a language, or sometimes as a signifier in a story or narrative. So the subject oscillates between language (linguistic unit) and objective truth (facts). Since language functions as a set of signifiers to the object or a phenomenon (as Saussure stipulates), it goes without saying that it “constructs” the world rather than reveals it. Here, language is the only viable medium to have world experience and consequently our selves/subject positions. The underlying ideology that there can surely be no position outside of language is the fulcrum of subjectivity/identity formation. In the whole politics of constructivism, sometimes language itself is seen functioning as a “metalanguage”, or a way to fundamental truth. Whether it is meta-language or simply language, subjectivity cannot be viewed objectively or with detachment prior to language. However, the transparency in language has been criticized in this intellectual phase. For a further understanding of the subject position and its duality, psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan especially needs a mention here. In the Lacanian sense, “subject” is completely unstable, an entity which is not fixed. Lacan categorically states that “no signification can be sustained other than by reference to another signification,” and that “language signifies something quite other than what it says” (cited in Malcolm Bowie 1991, 150). While making a comparison between Lacan’s notion of subject and that of Freud’s ego, Shannon Forbes perceptively remarks about the slippery nature of subject that “Lacan’s subject is irremediably split by language, yet both Freud’s id/ego construct and the doomed quest for fulfilling signifiers initiated at Lacan’s mirror stage emphasize the fragmentation and conflict inherent in an individual’s identity and perception of that identity” (“Performative Identity”, Journal of Narrative Theory 37, 3 ). Lacan’s concept of subject is closely linked with his idea of “desire.” Further, he conceives that it is the desire of individuals which is the inevitable component of their subject-position condition. However, he maintains that the subject’s desire is not necessarily erotic. For him, it is not the sexual imperative which motivates desire, but the loss of the real. He uses “Other” (with a capital ‘O’) to relate or inscribe the position of

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the subject. Lacan in his influential postulation of three phases: oedipal, mirror and symbolic, emphasizes the fact of the formation of human being/subjectposition. He maintains that human beings are an “organism-in-culture” and in the symbolic phase they are (subject-as-child) subjected to all troubles. We are born organisms and we become subjects, and it is made possible “by internalizing our culture, which is inscribed in the signifying practices that surround us from the moment we come into the world. We turn into subjects in the process of learning language…” (cited in Belsey 2007, 57). Louis Althusser, the structuralist-Marxist maintains that the subject is the destination of all ideology and the place where it is reproduced. This is the source of its power: ideology is internal; we are its effects; we cite it unwittingly every time we reaffirm the “obvious” (39). Althusser further stresses that we are always already subjects, and as such constantly practice the rituals of ideological recognition. In other words, we as subjects are always inside ideology. All of us assume various subject positions in our daily lives, and our actions and interactions are conducted according to the cultural and ideological norms or protocols associated with them. Precisely subjectivity according to Althusser is a “matter of interpellation” and the ideology we are associated with, or comes in thereafter. Here the subject is assumed to be the result of the prevalent dominant ideology and the ‘construct of language’ respectively. Derrida critiques the Eurocentric “metaphysics of presence” by emphasizing the absent referent. He supplants the very idea of the signified with endless signifiers without final signification. His repudiation of presence in speech has undermined the homogenized, unified notion of the presence of selfhood or subject position. He argues that signifying items are characterized by relationships or structures which deprive them of the stability or “self-identity” that would enable them to be grasped by a reflecting subject (Roden 2004, 94). Like his idea of the trace, subject always shifts between different ‘chains of signifiers’ without arriving at any final signification. Derrida’s conceptualization of the subject would be the “differed subject position” (if it is possible). Michel Foucault argues that subjectivity is not something which is given to us but is instead the effect of power, knowledge and other influences.

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He makes a connection between subjectivity and power, which has not been attempted before. In his view, “power” is the decisive factor in the construction of self and other. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari consider subjectivity as the process of becoming. For them, subjectivity does not refer to a person, but to the potential for an event of matter becoming subject, and the myriad ways in which this might take place. The subject is a qualitative multiplicity. “Subjectivation – as a relation to oneself – is a multiplicity as well; as such, it is not based on any code, including moral, but is rather artistic, or aesthetic and ethical… The dynamics of becoming, when any given multiplicity changes in nature as it expands its Connections” (Deleuze 2007, 8, emphasis in original). Deleuze also differentiates between identity and subjectivity: subjectivity does not presuppose identity but is produced in a process of individuation which is always already collective or “populated” (Semestsky 2007, 213.). Homi K. Bhabha, one of the influential thinkers of postcolonial studies who shares the intellectual tradition of postructuralist thinkers Derrida and Lacan, has emphatically deliberated over the idea of “identity” politics in contemporary literary discourse. Rejecting the reductionist idea of binaries, he advances the idea of “hybridity.” He observes that identities are always dialogic (mentioned earlier) and they are intricately linked with hybridity. Hybridity he, later on, defines as an ‘in–between-space’ highlighting the fluid nature of identity. In this, he emphasizes upon the fact that identity hinges on the fringes, on the structure of limit. He further maintains that cultural identity is an ongoing negotiation through an agency which engages itself with people in a counterproductive way or discursively. This discursive nature of subject runs through the entire debate of subjectivity in the postcolonial context. Incorporating the idea of identity politics in poststructuralist/postcolonial discourse, John McLeod defines its nature and function aptly in Beginning Postcolonial thus: Subjectivity is constituted by the shifting discourses of power which endlessly speak through us, situating ‘us’ here and there in particular positions and relations. In these terms, we are not the author(s) of ourselves. We do not construct our identities but have them written for us; the subject

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cannot be “sovereign” over the construction of selfhood. Instead, the subject is ‘de-centred’ in that its consciousness is always being constructed from positions outside of itself ” (192).

II Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was an avant-garde, modernist German theatre practitioner and theorist who rejected the dominant dramatic styles (“realistic” and “naturalistic”) and postulated the idea of anti-illusionistic theatre commonly known as agit-prop theatre. Brecht, unlike Ibsen and Strindberg, virulently rejects the “illusionism” of Aristotelian theatre because it intends “to draw an audience, by the power of this illusion of reality, into an empathy with the performance, to take it as real and feel enthralled by it. The audience was the passive consumer of a finished, unchangeable art-object offered to them as ‘real’. He contends that such a play does not stimulate them to think constructively about how it is presenting its characters and events, or how they might have been different. In this regards Terry Eagleton observes that “the dramatic illusion is a seamless whole which conceals the fact that it is constructed, and prevents its audience from reflecting critically on both the mode of representation and the actions represented” (1976, 30, emphasis in original). Hence he is an avid Marxist theatre artist practising theatre for constructive social change, and prioritising message over medium as he was also a ceaseless experimenter. It is against this backdrop Brecht held that a theatre which merely interpreted the world (in the form of action-representation on the stage) was also one that accepted the world “uncritically.” Such theatricals tend to elicit emotion (in the form of empathy) among theatre goers instead of inviting them to think “critically,” thereby making them “intellectually disabled” in the reception of the performance. Following the critical line of Marxist ideology, Brecht puts in sustained efforts to cultivate an experimental dramatic style which would augur a change in the theatregoer’s consciousness, with a possibility of making them think that the corrupt world order is “changeable” and should be changed. Accordingly, he advocated the concept of a non-emotional form of presentation-narration which culminates in the “epic theatre”: a theatre of a

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political sort, narrating the incidents on stage, demonstrating the character and incident rather than purely re-enacting them in action form. As in a dramatic theatre, the suffering of the characters would promote “awareness” and a sense of “awe and wonder” among the audience/spectators, and acts as a therapy by letting out the deep negative psychic impressions such as “fear” and “terror.” Hence Aristotle enunciated the idea of “formalism, organicism, mimesis” which reckons with the fact of ordered form, coherent and united in the story-line and with a representational value in theatre. This notion of mimetic performance that focuses on certain dignified, unified (complete) subjects (characters) is the product of pure consciousnesses or sense of “complete being.” Mimesis was considered the prime source to reception and recognition of “subjectivity” (character) as a homogenous, coherent entity designed to give pleasure, which subsequently would sublimate into “catharsis” (a term Aristotle used for the outlet of negative feelings). This intellectual thinking established the pattern of projecting the character as a “whole” and as a finished product in itself. It undermined the idea of “multitude,” with its basis in contradictory levels of personality and ‘states of mind’. Brecht’s technique to make the audience empathetic participants led him to promote the idea of dual-acting. This technique is a type of acting which requires a special alertness and conscious awareness on the part of the actor while playing a role/character on the stage: in Brecht’s ‘epic theatre,’ the actor is at once “in character” and also standing “outside” the character, aware of the political, historical, and economic forces driving him or her. Brecht’s main idea was to enable the audience intellectually and to “make the spectator adopt an attitude of inquiry and criticism in his approach to the incident” (Willett 1959, 31). Brecht’s “alienation effect” or distanciation technique (inspired by Viktor Shlovsky) completely changed the idea of the character. The subject (character) begins to identify a disruption or fragmentation in her/his self. From being an object of reflection s/he starts reflecting upon him/herself in the course of the performance. The nature of self-conscious acting style not only gives space to the actors to think about the character but also provides them with an opportunity to display their own inner self-maintaining a critical distance.

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There self becomes multiple entities. Brecht shows the actors how to play a dual role and also how they can comment upon their own selves. Through this continuous self-awareness, actors feel the difference in their own self which is similar but not the same. In “Theatre for a Short Organum,” he describes the role of Charles Laughton as Galileo: “the actor appears on the stage in a double role, as Laughton and as Galileo; that the showman Laughton does not disappear in the Galileo whom he is showing… that Laughton is actually there, standing on the stage and showing us what he imagines Galileo to have been. Of course, the audience would not forget Laughton if he attempted the full change of personality…” (194). This Brechtian alienation acting where the actor is advised to use the: “not…..but” (197), facilitates the audience to “gaze” at the character and actor in close proximity simultaneously. The self, being presented or projected by the actor is constantly displaced or dislocated from one subject position to another and hence, it never lets the spectator have a final “subject” position or self throughout the performance. Brecht further maintains that the character must be able to make the inside out through his/her special conscious acting. He reiterates, “Even if he plays a man possessed he must not seem to be possessed himself, for how is the spectator to discover what possessed him if he does? At no moment must he go so far as to be wholly transformed into the character played” (99). By and large, Brecht insists that the actor has got to play a double role, a ‘double consciousness’ on the stage, while in the process of playing a character on the stage to show his own self along with the character he is trying to project. To quote Brecht again: When he appears on the stage, besides what he actually is doing he will at all essential points discover, specify, imply what he is not doing; that is to say he will act in such a way that the alternative emerges as clearly as possible, that his acting allows the other possibilities to be inferred and only represents one out of the possible variants, he will say for instance …. Whatever, he doesn’t do must be contained and conserved in what he does. In this way every sentence and every gesture signifies a decision; the character remains under observation and is tested. The technical term for this procedure is ‘fixing the “not…but.” (137)

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Here the Brechtian idea of “subject” (character) is coterminous with the Derridian configuration of “signifier” (which is free-floating and refers to an image of something else). In many ways, the duality in subject position or selves appears to be a chain of continuous displacement. For example, a Brechtian actor first appears as a person, then a character, speaking the thoughts and feelings of the author then displaced from both; character and speaker which further signifies that the actor’s lived experience is different from the character’s thought process. In this (poststructuralist) framework subjectivity or conscious self is ‘representational’. This performative nature of subjectivity is the zeitgeist of poststructuralism. However, the traces of disrupted self in dramatic writing can be found right from the realist playwrights such as Strindberg. In the Preface to Miss Julie (1888), Strindberg said that because his figures were ‘modern characters’ he had deliberately made them ‘uncertain, disintegrated’: “My characters are conglomerations of past and present stages of civilization, bits from books and newspapers, scraps of humanity, rags and tatters of fine clothing, patched together as is the human soul” (cited in Krishna Rayon 1995, 118). This acting technique is well carried out in the characters of Hayavadana exactly and Karnad seems to show the kind of duality Brecht stipulates for his character. We notice as the play progresses that an actor is playing the character as the temporal self of the latter with a critical disassociation.

Truncated ‘subject’ in Karnad’s Hayavadana (1972) Girish Karnad (b.1929), one of the avant-garde Indian postcolonial playwrights and a film actor who writes in Kannada and translates them himself into English (or vice-versa) has employed the regional folk forms of drama such as Yakshagana, for meaningful theatre. He employs the unconventional, antitheatrical method against realistic dramaturgy to highlight the complex sociopolitical issues postcolonial India witnessed over a period of time. His plays are deep-rooted in myths, folktales, legends, history and plural oral narratives; nonetheless, they bear a contemporary relevance and give the readers space and scope for ‘intellectual thinking’. In his theatrical enterprise, he follows the

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pattern of the multiple plot view (play-within-play), anti-hero/characters, and alienation devices which incorporate music, mime, mask, dance, improvisations, and stylized acting, drawing upon both from Brecht and the indigenous folk theatre tradition. His characters again depict the individuals without being anyone, and they are types rather than individual personalities. This epical strategy makes his theatrical productions more meaningful and relevant. In such theatre characters/ actors are encouraged to be demonstrative, and as a result, their interiors get split open. This interactive acting method helps pull down the imaginary ‘fourth wall’ between the spectator and characters. The technique employed is the narration of events by the string-holder (popularly called sutradhar). This conception of portraying multiple subjects and the positioning of the self will be highlighted in the analysis. Though the narrative of Hayavadana is taken from the Kathasaritsagara, Karnad has extensively drawn upon Thomas Mann’s novella, The Transposed Heads for its thematic concerns and subversive dimensions. The play is extremely subversive and interjected with much humour that engages the audience at the very first reading. The whole play is replete with contradictions and irony; yet again life moves as the text progresses. To Anand Mahadevan, this play gives a rare opportunity to understand two cross-cultural ideas on the theme of the duality of body and mind (2002), while Dharwadker considers it a “deoreintalized contemporary Indian theatrical version” (2006, 334). The main plot of the play moves around the lives of three characters – Devadatta, Kapila and Padmini. Devadatta and Kapila are intimate friends (the former a brahmin and the latter a blacksmith). Devadatta is fair complexioned, cerebral, and meagre, while Kapila is dark skinned, robust and has a fabulous body, muscular and athletic in nature. Kapila hails from the lower community. Devadatta falls in love with Padmini, the beautiful daughter of a businessman of Dharampur. Through the mediation of Kapila, he gets married to her. In due course of time, the married couple along with Kapila plans to visit the fair of Ujjain, the route to which is through a forest with a temple of Goddess Kali and a Rudra (Shiva) temple. When Devadatta visits the temple of the goddess, he pays obeisance to her and feels overwhelmed by the blessings of Kali as he has a beautiful wife. Out of reverence and gratitude, he offers his head to Kali

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as promised. When Kapila discovers this fact, he is terrified that he would incur the curse of killing his friend and of facing ignominy in society. Hence without much consideration, he too offers his head to Kali. With both of them dead, Padmini in deep anguish and moral frustration comes to offer her head to the goddess, but she is interrupted by the goddess herself, who has been dozing and is disturbed by the banality of the absurd killings. Amply pleased by the devotion and moral faith of the two friends, the Goddess decides to give Padmini the boon of their lives, if only she would attach the dismembered heads onto their bodies. Padmini in utter confusion attaches the head of Devadatta to Kapila’s body and vice-versa, resulting in a strange mix-up of lives, from friendship to blood relations. A serious moral dilemma ensues as to who is Padmini’s real husband. Who owns Padmini? They approach an ascetic to resolve the issue, and he maintains that the head is superior to the body because the head (intellect) controls the body (desire). Padmini now gets a husband who has Devadatta’s head and Kapila’s body. Padmini’s eternal desire to have both a fabulous body (Kapila) and an intelligent mind (Devadatta) materializes through the mishap, which some critics refer to as a “Freudian slip” (see Mukherjee 2008). After the spectacular exchange of the heads of Kapila and Devadatta, there is both huge difference and a similitude in them. Each one’s identity is not of a pure/complete being; each is neither Devadatta nor Kapila. Or perhaps both! Since they are mixed up, their roles are incumbent on “dual acting”. In the performative text, the actors have to play the character and simultaneously comment on the action in a “meta-theatrical” fashion. There are two incidents which need to be highlighted to show the dislocation of the subject position: first, the transposition of Kapila’s head onto Devadatta’s body and vice-versa, and second, Padmini’s subjection as the narrator in the course of the story. In the first case, this otherwise moral dilemma suggests that Devadatta and Kapila can never get to be or acquire their true self or position. Kapila is forbidden to aspire for Padmini and Devadatta desired Kapila in the whole scheme of the things. In Act II, Padmini’s persona speaks in the guise of a Bhagavata (the Bhagavata traditionally being the narrator of the play) who here reveals the psyche of Padmini. Here Bhagavata is displaced by Padmini.

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BHAGAVATA: …If Devadatta had overnight changed and had gone back to his original form, I would have forgotten day by day. But that’s not how it happened. He changed day by day. Inch by inch. Hair by hair … ‘Kapila if that Rishi had given me to you, would I have gone back to Devadatta someday exactly like this?’ But doesn’t say anything. She remains silent (Karnad 2006, 169).

Finally, quite aware of her dislocated subject-positions, she cannot put up with the different disjoined subject identities: “Yes! You won, Kapila. Devadatta won too. But I – the better half of two bodies – I neither win nor lose…?” (170). She does live temporarily like the deity Ganesha (elephant headed god) who is the husband of Siddhi (power/perfection) and Riddhi (knowledge): Padmini as the lover of intelligence (Devadatta) and strength (Kapila). However, in her case, she fails to establish harmony between the two. She is caught between the association of two personalities, and this leads to a split in her identity. In Ganesha’s case, there are no contradictions in the self-hood of Ganesha despite the contrariness. He is represented as the perfect harmony of ‘body and mind’, ‘intelligence’ and ‘prowess’, without a perfect body, but more in a ritualistic fashion. This gives a complex twist to the play and makes it a folkpredominant narrative framework. This ritualistic treatment of the deity is disjunctive to the main story; it immensely resembles the story without offering any reconciliatory note to the human predicaments. This divine intervention is meted out on the stage to the dual action of the character. The character highlighting the role of Ganesha is played by a boy on the stage who bears a mask not to reveal the deity but to demonstrate him in the performance. Erin Mee comments, “He is, in Karnad’s production, a little girl wearing a red mask who sometimes “breaks character”. None of these ways of seeing Ganesha cancels out the other. In fact, to make sense of a performance the spectator has to keep all levels of reality in mind at once” (Mee 2008, 154). Karnad intends to argue that the very categorization or binary between head and body is problematic, which he infers from Mann’s novella. His reflexive framework to portraying desire and identity is an attempt to obliterate the fixed notion of the subject or individual self and reflects in a way the postcolonial concept of the subject’s desire to control the primitive (body).

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The mixed up characters Kapila and Devadatta are truncated individuals; neither a half nor full, a situation which Bhabha would justifiably refer to as ‘liminal’. When Padmini feels a potential threat to her ‘subject position’ (until now she has had the privilege of having a fabulous mind-body in her husband) after the mind starts controlling the body, she recoils, and a strong desire arises in her to disappear from the displaced or truncated subject-position. In Freudian psychoanalysis, this is understood as ‘Thanatos’, or death-will. Kapila-Devadatta now resolves to fight the conflicts of identity arising from their lives, conflicts which are not easy to resolve as life is not either body or mind but a complex package of both. A fight ensues and each is killed by the other. Padmini immolates herself on the pyres of Devadatta and Kapila. This saga of sacrifice is not the symbolic projection of whether the mind is superior to body or body to mind. Rather, it is an alternative framework for thinking about the politics of fringes; an idea which considers that any truth or meaning is not dependent on the structure it comes from, but exists instead in the realm of pure association from outside, away from the ideas of the imaginary and the real. The subplot of the play is based on Hayavadana (horse-headed man), the eponymous character of the play whose story is diagonally linked with the human story (Padmini-Devadatta-Kapila). The horse-headed man has the torso and voice of a human being but the head of a horse. The comic appearance of the horse-headed man is juxtaposed with the other divine entity, the elephant-headed Ganesha. The horse-headed man “lacks any vestige of divinity and appears painfully suspended between the animal and the human worlds” (Karnad 2006, xxvii). In order to get a complete self, he performs all sorts of religious rituals, from performing the holy journey (Kashi and Kumbhkonam) to performing drama, aiming to become a complete human being. His search, which combines both the metaphysical and the ontological, underlines the fact that the real self a person wants to be is a myth. It does not exist in the sense that there is no pre-existing position or pure position of the self. And to achieve a desired self or subject position is a wild goose-chase. In the course of the play, when he asks for a boon from the goddess to be a

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complete being, to his surprise, he becomes a complete horse. The indented irony in the structure of the plot is maintained to emphasize that the desiring subject ends up being the undesired object. This instance also shows a clear break between the self who feels and the self who constitutes the very notion of selfhood. Dharwadker opines that “unlike the god, Hayavadana cannot endure to remain mixed up; unlike the humans, he does not possess a prior self that can reassert itself….: Hayavadana achieves wholeness by relinquishing his human characteristics, and turning completely into a horse” (xxvii). The fact remains that even if human beings have a prior self, it is quite often risky to reassert because it tends to lose you the one you desire. Thus the clear instances of Padmini whose subject position is wrought with duality and flux, the horse-headed man who is not able to combat the contradictions and the obliterated self of Devadatta-Kapila, Kapila-Devdatta are drawn along the lines of Brechtian dramaturgy which again conflates with the poststructuralist notion of the incoherent subject. Hence the duality in characterization in Hayavadana may be fashioned after the ‘dual acting’ method of Brecht and his ‘complex seeing’ proposition. The characters in the play seem to undergo a continual fissure or friction from the unified notion of subject/ selfhood (intersecting poststructuralism) and enter into a displaced/truncated subject position. The play thus highlights the displaced subject positions through the complex triangular relationships between ‘Kapila-Devadatta’ and Padmini on the one hand, and the horse-headed man on the other.

Notes: 1. See David Ayers. Modernism: A Short Introduction. Blackwell Publishing, 2004. South Asian Edition, Atlantic Publishers & Distributor, 2005. 2. In a personal mail, Sidney Homan talks about the anti-establishment project of epic theatre, actor’s self-conscious role, and intellectual audience in playmaking in his “The Threepenny Opera: A Director’s Take on an Unconventional Musical.” 3. The estranging formula of the Russian Formalists was meant to show the literariness of the special use of language in works which makes

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them possible. However, it was limited in its scope as they were merely concerned with the poetic form and moreover ‘a piece of language was estranging did not guarantee that it was always and everywhere so: it was estranging only against a certain normative linguistics background. For details, see the “Introduction” to Terry Eagleton’s Literary Theory.

Works cited: Ayers, David. 2004. Modernism: A Short Introduction. USA and Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Bhabha, Homi K. 1990. Nation and Narration. London and New York: Routledge. Belsey, Katherine. [2002] 2007. Poststructuralism: A Very Short Introduction. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Indian edition. Bowie, Malcolm. 1991. Lacan. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Dharwadker, Aparna Bhargava. 2006. Introduction to Collected Plays: Girish Karnad. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. —. 2006a. Theatres of Independence: Drama, Theory, and Urban Performances in India since 1947. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Deleuze, Giles, and Claire Parnet. 2007. Dialogues II, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. London and New York: Continuum. Eagleton, Terry. 1976. Marxism and Literary Criticism. London: Routledge. Fink, Bruce. 1995. The Lacanian Subject: Between and Jouissance. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Jameson, Fredric. 1999. Brecht and Method. London & NY: Verso, Radical Thinkers. Karnad, Girish. 2006. Hayavadana: Collected Plays I, edited by Aparna Bhargava Dharwadker. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Leod, John Mc. 2010. Beginning Postcolonialism. New Delhi: Viva.

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Mahadevan, Anand. 2002. “Switching Heads and Cultures: Transformation of an Indian Myth by Thomas Mann and Girish Karnad”. Comparative Literature, 54 (1, Winter): 23-41. Mukherjee, Tutun, ed. 2008. Girish Karnad’s Plays: Performance and Critical Perspectives. New Delhi: Pencraft International. Mee, Eric B. 2008. “Hayavadana: Model of complexity.” In Girish Karnad’s Plays: Performance and Critical Perspectives, edited by Tutun Mukherjee. New Delhi. Pencraft International. Rayon, Krishna. 1995. From Post-Industrial to Post-Modern Society. USA and Oxford: Blackwell. Roden, David. 2004. “The Subject.” In Understanding Derrida: An Invitation to Philosophy, edited by Jack Reynolds and John Roffe, 93-102. New York: Continuum Press. Selden, Raman, Peter Widdowson and Peter Brooker. 2005. A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Theory. New Delhi: Pearson. Semetasky, Anna. 2003. “The Problematic of Human Subjectivity: Gilles Deleuze and the Deweyan Legacy.” Studies in Philosophy and Education 22: 221-225. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2001. General Editor Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton & Company. Wolfreys, Julian. 2001. Introducing Literary Theory: A Guide and Glossary. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Willett, John. 1959. The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A Study from Eight Aspects. London: Methuen & Co. LMT. Williams, James. 2005. Understanding Poststructuralism. Chesham Bucks: Acumen.


There’s nothing that can help you understand your beliefs more than trying to explain them to an inquisitive child. – Frank A. Clark Arundhati Roy’s twinned child protagonists named Estha and Rahel were the darlings of the literary world for a few years since 1997, the year in which her novel The God of Small Things was published. The God of Small Things is not children’s literature, in the sense, to apply Barbara Wall’s criterion, that it is not addressed to an implied child reader. The book only partly fulfils the other traditional requirements to qualify as children’s writing which Wall lists but rejects in her narratological survey of the genre – the life of a child protagonist (or protagonists) as the subject matter; “a clear-cut moral schematism” (or didactic character); brevity; simplicity of structure, syntax and vocabulary; “active rather than passive treatment of the subject”; “dialogue and incident rather than description and introspection” (8); child-centred language; disregard for probability; an optimistic tone; and a “light-hearted outlook on life” (153). Indeed children are the protagonists of the novel under our consideration. Though The God of Small Things is not very lengthy, it employs a complex form

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of discontinuous narration, which is fairly difficult even for adult readers to keep track of. As for the didactic aspect, if it means indoctrinating children in established social norms, the book hardly wishes to instruct. The God of Small Things reveals the violence of such norms, and endorses a renegade ethos. Instead of optimism and light-heartedness, one finds an oppressive world whose harshness produces tragedies for both children and adults, enduring in the case of the former. In a work of what Elleke Boehmer calls “extravagant realism,” descriptions such as that of Sophie Mol’s funeral approximate magical realism rather than fantasy. To go back to Barbara Wall’s revised criterion, the narrative is not at all addressed to children. Of course, the question of what suits children is entangled in debates surrounding cultural relativism and cultural transition. But we can say with reasonable certainty that Estha and Rahel appeal more to the conscience of adults than to the reading interests of children. They are participants in a cute tableau or a nativity play staged for adults. Other substantial differences notwithstanding, the book is generically similar to Henry James’s What Maisie Knew (1897). Further, Roy’s novel is not only about children, but also about the wider social contexts which condition the lives of both children and adults. Partly due to the above-discussed generic ambiguity, critical attention on the children of the novel per se, except for isolated statements, has not been of the order one would have expected. Nevertheless, it remains a fact that Estha and Rahel occupy more than three-fourths of the narrative space of the novel. Their language is primarily the language of the novel – a cryptic version of the free indirect discourse – and is a potent narrative tool at the hands of the author. It is one of the commonplaces of Roy criticism that The God of Small Things presents the history of South India through the eyes of the sevenyear-old twins. This paper looks at the ideological implications of telling a story about the adult world from children’s perspective, as it happens in Roy’s Booker-Prize-winning novel. The child is often viewed as the unaccounted for subject of history and the most vulnerable object of ideological conditioning.1 Narratologically, the comparatively limited knowledge, intelligence and experience of

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child-protagonists constrain the authorial task of granting information and perspective to the adult reader. So authors are compelled, as Henry James is in What Maisie Knew, to supplement their child-protagonist’s perspective with comments by an omniscient narrator. Superficially, this is a limitation upon Roy’s narrative as well. Though it is for the most part focalized through the twins, their perspective is also supplemented by an omniscient narrator. Besides, a part of the narrative flows from the reminiscences of a grown-up Rahel who returns to Ayemenem from America after her divorce. But Roy finds in the children themselves immense narrative and (counter-) ideological possibilities, and the specifics of how the novel, a politically explicit text, utilizes these possibilities form the crux of my argument. The children’s world in Roy’s novel is situated at what Julie Mullaney calls “the nexus of a variety of intersecting discourses of race, religion, gender, sexuality, caste, and class” (8). The adults of this world have internalized the ideologies surrounding these and their everyday practices are conditioned by a naturalized complicity. As Ammu says, human beings are “creatures of habit” (50). Roy’s seven-year-olds, however, are in the initial stages of social conditioning and they retain the capacity for an unhabituated view of the world. Paradoxical as it might seem in the light of the above discussion on the limitations of employing a child’s point of view, the possibility of looking at the world anew from a child’s perspective becomes a powerful device in the hands of the author for a subtle political critique – to have the underlying principles of this world, which produce and constrain human lives, meticulously deconstructed. Through free associations, innocent wonder, and apparently naïve questions, the children in the novel explicate and challenge the takenfor-granted and unconsciously lived laws of the adult world, and facilitate a ‘transvaluation’ of its values. Inflecting mirrors for adult phenomena, their perspective lays bare the assumptions which are taken for inviolable truths and underlie everyday practices. For instance, when the narrator says that “Rahel slipped out of the play [the series of concocted adult- and child-responses called “What Will Sophie Mol Think”] and went to Velutha” (175), the implication is that adult behaviour is only role-playing, the performance of roles which social expediency demands. Children’s thought processes reveal

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the interconnections which are camouflaged under the adult perspective. The twins’ perspective reveals the constructed character of categories such as race, class, and caste. The twins also deconstruct the history of their land which is refracted through their little eyes. The strategy of filtering reality through children’s eyes is functionally similar to Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt (estrangement effect), which prevents the members of the audience from losing themselves passively in represented reality and encourages them to be consciously critical observers. When the children look at the world as if for the first time, they are able to see the strangeness of its unarticulated laws, a strangeness which is unavailable to the adults under the naturalized, habitual perspective of everyday life (for example, Rahel’s observation on the non-acknowledgement of the body in an orthodox Christian value-system – “no breasts” in convents!). One of the ways in which the child-narrative deconstructs the adult world is through burlesque literalizing of adult clichés. The reason Margaret demands a divorce from Chacko is significant: “She told him that she needed her own space. As though Chacko had been using her shelves for his clothes” (117, italics as in the original). What is strange for the child is an alibi for the explication of adult thoughtprocesses. Children ask questions whose answers are known to the adult audience but seldom reflected upon. They turn the arc lights of curiosity and questioning on the status quo and open it up for scrutiny. At the meta-level, the text thus drives home the constructed character of reality and hence its alterability. The child’s perspective gives the narrator what I call the freedom of triviality to lay bare the triviality of social behavioural codes. The criteria to distinguish between clerks and aristocrats, according to Ammu, is three-fold – one should not blow spit bubbles, should not shiver one’s legs, and should not gobble (84). None of these would have its comic efficacy without the alibi of a child-narrative. These criteria appear as questions asked by Captain von Trapp, the Teutonic fathersurrogate from The Sound of Music, in Estha’s imagination (106). However, it needs to be remembered that not the entire narrative is focalized through children. In fact, the novel opens with an adult perspective,

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that of an adult Rahel. As has been pointed out earlier, the naïve child-narrative is supplemented by an analytical omniscient voice.The presence of the second voice does not annul the possibilities of the child-narrative. On the contrary, the latter provides a powerful alibi for what I call an aesthetic of emphasis and explication, for drawing attention to overlooked assumptions of the social world, for incremental explanations, increasingly analytical in proportion to the narrator’s choice to critically dwell on any phenomenon. Without the verbal freedom afforded by the child’s diction, it would not be possible to suggestively call a policeman a Touchable Policeman (with the T capitalized), a phrase that draws attention to, and invites a critique of, the entrenched character of caste-divides and exclusions. The innovative typography, with a heavy dose of capitalized and italicized words, takes up for a renewed glance matters which are brushed aside. The capitalized title of the play “What Will Sophie Mol Think?” reinforces the Postcolonial cultural implications of the demand to fare well, to showcase one’s most attractive characteristics, before another race. A passive, italicized “Returned” (156), referring to the return of Estha to his father, and the separation between the twins, brings alive all its implications for the children and also how easily it is conceptualized by an insensitive adult world which objectifies the child. Returning to the aesthetics of explication, let us examine the passage where the narrator says: “In a purely practical sense it would be probably correct to say that it all began when Sophie Mol came to Ayemenem.” The passage concludes with the statement “that it all began when Sophie Mol came to Ayemenem is only one way of looking at events…. That it really began in the days when the Love Laws were made. The laws that lay down who should be loved, and how” (32-33). The first way, a short-historical personal perspective, is not only the child’s way, but also a naïve adult way. Roy is hinting at the fact that it is only a surface-level perspective on events which is given through the childnarrative and that a deeper analysis is imperative, which reveals the working of historical forces and interconnections hidden from the naïve narrator. For the deep-structural analysis to follow, Roy has to artificially amplify the naivété of the child-narrative (children’s beliefs concerning the free burial of accident

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victims who die at zebra crossings and free bus rides for those who are born in buses are examples). At the meta-level, the text has to deploy a form of Socratic irony (ignorance feigned so as to elicit reflection). The entire novel is structured by a retrospective hermeneutic. The novel has a penchant to go over the same set of events again and again, for clarification. The epistemological relevance of this exercise lies in the function it serves in deciphering what preceding events had meant. The retrospective deciphering of meanings, individual and social, is significant because the child-protagonists through whom the story is told are “[a] pair of actors trapped in a recondite play with no hint of plot or narrative” (191). My larger point is that this retrospective hermeneutic is an analogue of ideological critique, which needs to accompany a naïve appreciation of the child-narrative. Ideological critique reveals the camouflaged assumptions beneath the innocent surface of things. It shows, for example, how the microcosmic world of familial relationships reflects the macrocosmic forces which it is subject to. What the naïve perspective sees, to use Freud’s terminology, is only the ‘manifest content’ of reality. What the ideological critique, represented in the book by the analytical narrator, does is to lay bare the latent social thought. The dynamics of the child’s world also enable the author to address larger questions – concerning family, class, caste, race, and gender – within the small, immediate compass of life. One cannot miss the discriminatory thinking involved in the distribution of resources within the family when Roy informs us that boiled water was served only for Baby Kochamma, and Sophie Mol, the English child, while others took tap water. Postcoloniality is in the family. Similarly, Mammachi, in the guise of historical reminiscence, nostalgically recapitulates to Rahel a time when the Untouchables had to wipe even their footprints off the ground with a broom. But the ingrained rules of caste rules which set the parameters for social interaction and exclusion have hardly any effect on the children, who feel at home with a Paravan such as Velutha. In their small world, children do not consider themselves bound by received norms and notions. However, it has to be admitted that the child occupies “very little space” in a world organized according to the adult scale of priorities. But the novel

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celebrates the child’s small and intimate world as an essential experiential category, and accords value to its priorities. The novel is the result of an imperative and obligation not to forget small things: “Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story” (32-3). Objects, images, memories, and lives themselves are to be salvaged across conventional boundaries of time. Mnemonic tokens of childhood, such as a silver crucifix on a “string of beads” (a rosary) which Rahel retrieves from the past, and the Wisdom Exercise Notebooks the twins used, have an experiential value under a revisionist paradigm. Many critics have noted the asymmetry between public and private histories (Mullaney 25) in the novel, and an endeavour to unearth the latter. While the subtext of the novel’s narrative is about the subterranean connections between the big and the small, it should also be noted that the child’s desire to salvage the small and the personal is an analogue of the small things’ struggle for legitimacy against a greater world of overarching structures, insurmountable laws, and forces of conformity. The life of the twins is conditioned by deep-lying social structures and norms. Being the children of a Syrian Christian woman who had married a Hindu, they are ostracized in the family, and the society at large. Their mother being a divorcee who has returned home, they have no “locus standi” (read inheritance rights under the Christian Women’s Inheritance Act then) at their maternal home. Their destiny is changed by a revealing constellation of events – Ammu’s affair with a Paravan named Velutha, the death of Velutha and Sophie Mol, Ammu leaving the house, and the Return of Estha to their father, events over which they have had no control. The pathos of Estha and Rahel’s situation is that they are wrongly made to believe that they are responsible for Velutha’s death and for their mother’s plight. Adults make the twins pawns in their game of deceptions. At the police station, Estha is asked to falsely identify Velutha as the children’s kidnapper, an act which gives the boy an undeserved guilty conscience, and deforms his personality for the rest of his life. The false charge of kidnap spices up the false charge of rape, a camouflage to cover up the voluntary character of Ammu’s relationship with Velutha and to guard the family honour. The manipulation of the children represents a

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twisted amplification of the insecurities of the child’s world. Paradoxically, they are made to simultaneously perform the roles of both an arbiter and a pawn. They fail to recognize that they are victims, not perpetrators. Further, they have no avenue to give vent to their grief or anger, and nowhere to lay the responsibility for what happens to them. The God of Small Things is not only about the cost of adult actions borne by children, but also about the violent effect of historical forces upon children through adults who themselves are trapped within social structures organized round patriarchal norms, and caste- and class-divides. Their tragedy, the result of every force of history having conspired against them and against those whom they love, lends the narrative a bitter tone. The narrative is not only a critique of the insensitive adult world that tramples on their lives. Moreover, the novel seems to suggest that the destiny of these least reckoned of history’s subjects is the sphere where the effects of historical forces are registered, and in Roy’s revisionist historiography is made the criterion to evaluate the desirability of the latter. Being its innocent victims, these little ones are the legitimate arbiters of state action (which appears as police brutality) and social norms. Though children’s point of view is nothing new in the history of fiction, it is significant that Roy has unapologetically and without condescension incorporated children’s diction to narrate her story. When she grants the childsubaltern his/her voice and perspective, by extension, the move also stands for the empowerment of several categories of underdogs, a politico-ethical imperative which Roy has consciously chosen to follow. The granting of the narrative point of view to the subaltern and literary recognition of his/her language is a liberating phenomenon in that it gives the subaltern a voice, the right to articulate reality on their own terms. The God of Small Things not only defends the claims of children, especially claims of emotional deprivation, against an aggressive adult world but also celebrates their capacity to create their space amid networks of adult authority. The children’s world has an autonomous logic of its own. To claim that children’s politics merely replicates that of the elders would be to deny this possibility. Though Rahel is thought by adults to envy Sophie Mol, which is only natural

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given the neglect and discrimination the twins suffer, the children share a rapport once left to themselves. They compare the disposition of their mothers (150). The twins share their cousin’s maxim that “the absence of children, all children, would heighten the adults’ remorse” (292). In a world which is blind to children’s reality, none except Rahel understands Estha’s misery on being sexually abused by the Orangedrink man. Given the fact that language plays a vital role in shaping the world for us, and in creating its meanings (Roy calls language “the skin of my thought”), it is not surprising that one of the ways in which Estha and Rahel carve out their niche in the adult world – their “own Locusts Stand I” – is through linguistic experiments that resist standardization. The language of the novel, on the surface, merely reflects a child’s diction. But through its tactical deployment, the author reveals how language is both an ideological palimpsest and a site of symbolic resistance, in terms of agency, if not in terms of impact. For instance, the twins find a word such as “bell boy” illogical; the bellboy they meet at Hotel Sea Queen was neither a boy nor did he have a bell. When what is said is not meant, it serves as an analogous revelation of the hypocrisies of the world, just as Alice’s adventures in Wonderland analogously expose the illogicalities of the real world. Critics have elaborately spoken on the twins’ subversive appropriation and re-creation of the colonial language. I attempt to see what each linguistic practice, both the child-characters’ and the child-narrative’s, symbolically means. Their practices include: i. Collaged or compounded words (such as “suddenshudder,” “furrywhirring,” “sariflapping,” and slipperoily) signify the possibility of making culturally prohibited connections. ii. Regional aphorisms signify looking up to alternative traditions and experiential worlds. iii. Non-standard punctuation signifies non-standard ways of dealing with continuity and connection. iv. A reworking of capitals signifies the possibility of emphasizing what is overlooked and de-emphasizing what is culturally privileged.

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v. Neologisms (such as “hostling,” “stoppited,” and “bursty”) signify creation of new things out of what is given. vi. Puns recover culturally occluded meanings. vii. Anagrams suggest the possibility of rearranging what is given. viii. Palindromes (such as Malayalam, Madam I’m Adam) explore the reversibility not only of words but also of action. ix. Splitting of words (such “Lay Ter” and “Bar Nowl”) suggests breaking off from established practices in saying things (One need not carry the baggage of the adult world). x. Non-standard spellings signify non-standard ways of communicating reality. All these practices involve the concept of alternatives in which one can trace the original. This subversive play with language is a mark of the bricoleur. Literally the word means a tinker, but by extension, it means one who makes a creative use of what is available. Such creative appropriations – alternative use of what is offered (Michel de Certeau calls it the poetics of productive reception) – include, in particular, counter-ideological manipulations, and in general all strategies of altering and subverting the given order of things. To push the word-world analogy further, such creative linguistic practices imply the possibility of transforming the given. Alterability of the word is an anticipative analogue of the alterability of the world.

Note: 1. Roy’s own statement, “My childhood’s greatest gift was a lack of indoctrination” (The Chequebook 106) is an exception.

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Works cited: Boehmer, Elleke. 2000 “East is East and South is South: The Cases of Sarojini Naidu and Arundhati Roy.” Women: A Cultural Review. 11 (1/2): 61-70. De Certeau, Michel. 1988. The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press. Mullaney, Julie. 2007. The God of Small Things: A Reader’s Guide. New York: Continuum. Roy, Arundhati. 1997. The God of Small Things. New Delhi: India Ink. —. 2004. The Chequebook and the Cruise Missile: Conversations with Arundhati Roy. Ed. David Barsamian. Cambridge, MA: South End Press. Tickell, Alex. 2007. Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. London: Routledge. Wall, Barbara. 1991. The Narrator’s Voice: The Dilemma of Children’s Fiction. London: Macmillan.


Christos Tsiolkas is a gay Australian writer of Greek origin. His The Slap scratches beneath the surface of a seemingly placid multicultural suburban life, where seething resentments and regrets are almost always at the brink, and where the incident of the slap catalyses these thoughts and emotions to eventually challenge “the whole nexus of interpersonal relationships” (Vasilakakos 259-60). In fact, Tsiolkas’s literary setting paints the suburban space as far from sterile and materially comfortable, drawing away from the complacent associations of urbaneness and calmness that the idea of a suburb evokes. The novel begins with an assemblage of figures, at a barbeque being held at the suburban home of Hector and Aisha, with family and friends over as guests. This rather innocuous setting builds up to the violent climax of an adult man slapping a child not his own. To summarize, the child is the precocious three-year-old Hugo, the only son of Rosie and her alcoholic husband, Gary, who are not as well off as their more affluent counterparts. Harry, Hector’s cousin, is the one who slaps Hugo when the latter throws a tantrum during a game of cricket with the other children and moves as if to hit the former’s son, Rocco. Rosie and Gary take the matter to the police and eventually to court,

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despite Harry apologising later, albeit reluctantly. The novel uses the incident of the slap as an opportunity “to create a panoramic mosaic of almost epic proportions and examine multi-prismatically the whole spectrum of family life in modern multiethnic and multicultural Australia” (Vasilakakos 2013, 260). The narrative range of the novel is thus quite broad, and structured to tell the story of four women and four men belonging to different age groups and different ethnic backgrounds, and spanning three generations – each harbouring his/her own perspectives and preoccupations. Written to accommodate a forward moving narrative on the one hand and differing perspectives that depart from and return to the central incident – the slap of the title – Tsiolkas presents “a slice” of “contemporary Australian society” (Klein 1). In doing so, he destabilizes the complacency associated with familial and social relations by highlighting the issues that persist between the eight characters and their corresponding chapters – Hector, Anouk, Harry, Connie, Rosie, Manolis, Aisha, and Richie – as well as secondary characters such as Manolis’ wife, Koula, Harry’s wife Sandi who is of Serbian origin, a Lebanese girlfriend named Kelly, Anouk’s younger lover called Rhys, Connie’s bi-sexual father and her aunt Tasha, a Vietnamese called Van who bootlegs DVDs, and the Aborigine Bilal and his white Australian wife Shamira who both converted to Islam. “Three of the men are related by blood [Hector, Harry, and Manolis]. Three of the women are soul sisters from way back in Perth [Aisha, Anouk, and Rosie]. The other two are two high school best friends [Connie and Richie]” (Klein 1). The multicultural and diasporic quality of the characters and their contexts reflects what Avtar Brah identifies in Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities, as the composite nature of diasporic communities that are created by a “confluence of narratives” that impart the sense of a shared history (183) wherein “all diasporas are differentiated, heterogeneous, contested spaces, even as they are implicated in the creation of a common ‘we’” (184). Hector’s parents and Aisha’s in-laws, Manolis and Koula, represent the first generation of Greek immigrants to Australia, with the memories and roughhandedness of old still evident in their behaviour and attitudes toward the younger generation. For example, even after fifteen years of marriage, Koula still disapproves of Hector’s marriage to a non-Greek, and casually and rather

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irrationally still refers to the Anglo-Indian Aisha as “The Indian” (Tsiolkas 2010, 352). The incident of the slap and the resultant fracturing of ties disturb Manolis, Hector’s seventy-one-year-old father, greatly. His sincere attempts to assuage the fracturing ties between family members – Aisha sides with Rosie and refuses to visit Harry’s home – makes him sad at the superfluous nature of interpersonal relations, especially since, unlike Koula, he had always harboured a soft corner for his daughter-in-law: “So it all meant nothing, all those years of shared jokes, of affection, of defending her, of caring for her children, of assisting her and Hector with money and with time? Love and family meant nothing to her” (401). He realises with regret that he was an “[o]ld old fool, to believe they cared for him, respected him, would listen to him” (402). John McLeod in Beginning Postcolonialism points to the “generational differences” that come into play when considering diasporic communities. Not all who live in a diaspora may have an emotional connection with the “old” homeland (2002, 207). His sadness is compounded by the unhappiness of his own marriage as well as the falling away of old ties. The close “mateship” (Vasilakakos 2013, 265) that had once been shared with fellow migrants, the shared struggle in a foreign land, all this had fallen away over the years despite new-found prosperity and comfort, all in consideration of “the sacred Greek family” (402). Manolis mourns his generation’s decrepit health and struggles to come to terms with the concerns of his adult children’s own generation. He regrets the direction of banality his life has taken, as well as the frayed relations of once sincere bonds he had enjoyed with other Greek migrants out to seek a better life in a foreign land. He becomes preoccupied with an impending sense of an end, which accompanies his days. His regrets are somewhat tempered by the sombre realisation that those who defied the conventions of marriage and family life, such as the high-flying chain-smoking Thanassis, would also meet the end of “Black Death” – as much as Manolis himself eventually would. The superciliousness and duplicity of the relationships, as well as the hedonistic materialism around him, fills Manolis with despair:

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In the end, he avoided the plaza, the shops in High Street. He was in no mood for gazing at things; his stomach turned in disgust at the thought of the senseless temptation of so many objects. He also wanted to avoid the faces of his neighbours, the groups of old Greek men and women who congregated at the mall as they once did around the village square as youths. He had left his damn village a lifetime ago, sailed across the globe to escape it, but the village had come with him. (Tsiolkas 2010, 403-404)

The irascible and cocky Harry and his wife Sandi represent the upperclass nouveau riche. Harry is a busy man, running a successful business. Yet his wealth does not temper his avarice – he has a mistress and also indulges in hard drugs such as cocaine. Unlike the other characters who feel guilty about their extramarital affairs and desires, Harry sees no conflict between maintaining a mistress and his responsibilities as a husband and father. That he slapped a child also does not make him feel guilty, although he does apologise for it. It is revealed in the novel that he also beat his wife, Sandi. Hector and Aisha are part of the middle class, while Rosie and Gary – the parents of the three-year-old Hugo who is the child slapped by Harry – belong to the lower middle class. They represent the second generation along with Anouk, Bilal and Shamira, and Tasha. The youngest generation is represented by the high-school teenagers, Connie and her homosexual friend Richie. Hector, handsome and virile, is married to Aisha, an Australian of Indian origin. Hector’s parents, Manolis and Koula are Greek migrants who had come to Australia seeking better opportunities and to escape the instability and persecution that followed the Second World War in Greece. Comfortably ensconced in a well-paying but an unrewarding government job, Hector’s seemingly ideal married life, with a working wife balancing a veterinary job and their children, is thrown into question: “Why did he always feel embarrassed when he mentioned his job, as if it was somehow not quite legitimate, not real work? Or was it that he hated that it sounded so dull? … What did he want to be instead? A rock and roll star, a jazz muso? They had been teenage daydreams” (Tsiolkas 2010, 25). He is nevertheless presented as handsome – for his wife, a “beautiful man” – who fits in with her notions of attractiveness.

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Unable to come to terms with his desires, he reveals to Aisha his brush with infidelity with another woman – but not his current affair with her co-worker, the nineteen-year-old Connie. Hector desires to return to his carefree younger days, away from the tedium and strain of responsibility and duty of taking care of a family, which drives him to pursue an almost predatory relationship with the young Connie. Tsiolkas describes a young Hector, at the beach, caught in a black and white photograph, the black and white forebodingly telling of an age long since gone. His confession of an affair with another woman forces his wife Aisha to repress her baser reactions and her sorrow, partly because of the guilt of her own infidelity with a fellow veterinary practitioner, and partly because of her desire to preserve what little semblance of the family life they had spent time and resources to build. This, however, does not stop her from fantasising a different life to the reality of her situation, so concretely defined by her responsibilities as mother and wife in a family, and friend and professional outside of it. Her desire to sustain the narrative of an idyllic family life has perhaps also been motivated by the fact that she and her husband occupy a somewhat central position in their social circle. The slap and the naïve timing of Hector’s confession, and the resultant re-examination of her desires “disturbs” (Vasilakakos 2013, 260) this notion greatly, to the extent that Aisha’s faces the crisis of disillusionment with regards to her family life and her friendships: [S]he knew… that to be with him was to move forward into an uncertain future. Rosie, her friendships, they all represented life and youth, yes, they were part of her, who she was. She could betray Hector and choose another life. She felt a growing excitement. It would be a new life in a new world, with Art, in a new country, a new city, a new home, with new work. She would make a new body for herself, a new history for herself, a new future for herself. She could construct a new Aisha” (Tsiolkas 2010, 425).

In such a background, McLeod’s diasporic conceptualisation as subject to differences of class, race, gender, religion and language, not to forget the generational differences in diasporic groups, can be seen in narrative action. Diaspora, as tackled by Tsiolkas, sees his characterization as “dynamic and shifting, open to repeated construction and reconstruction” (207) whereby the

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figure of the contemporary Australian is continually refigured, and any notion of identity is rendered ultimately futile. The uncertainty of Aisha’s fantasy reaffirms the reality that “[t]hey were not newlyweds, adolescents embarking on a new affair… They were husband and wife, parents” (379). Aisha believes her situation to be unfair, and resents that she is assumed to be capable of accommodating more than Hector – she has to contend with his family, whereas he doesn’t suffer such a complication. She thinks bitterly that “… you’ve bound me to your life… How had it happened?” (388). This is a far cry from Hector’s assumption that “they shared a respect and tolerance for family” (9). Hector and she had become, to Aisha’s disdain and reluctant acceptance, “more than the sum of their [individual] parts.” Then there is Anouk, Aisha’s close friend, a television soap-writer dissatisfied with her job, who aspires to be a writer. She has grown disillusioned with what she sees as the superficiality of her vocation. She is in a love affair with a younger man who is the star of the show she works for, and during the course of their relationship, learns that she is pregnant with his child. She is described as “awed by his youth… it was almost overwhelming, the softness of his skin… She was both aroused and sad” (60). Anouk ultimately opts for an abortion in order to focus on her career. Also, Anouk’s sadness, unlike Hector’s who yearns for his youthfulness, stems from the sense of hurt and loss experienced from an older love affair, and she realises that her personal history is writ large in her current liaison: [m]aybe he was only too aware of the ruthlessness of time, saw ahead to the moment when she would no longer find him attractive… She had not possessed such wisdom then and overcame her sorrow by first detesting and then pitying what she had thought was Jean-Michel’s weakness. (66)

For the childless and independent Anouk, Hugo deserved the slap for behaving as he did. This view strains her once close friendship with Aisha and Rosie. Unlike Anouk, who chooses career over family, Rosie, on the other hand, devotes herself to Hugo, continues to breastfeed him, as Ron Klein notes, in an almost “excessive show of maternity” (2). Her husband Gary is an alcoholic and an aspiring artist, which, given the fact that he has a family, is not

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the ideal vocation to aspire to. Although not explicitly spoken about, this fact somewhat diminishes his standing with the other men, with Hector especially finding Gary disagreeable. Connie and Richie are best friends and teenagers at the threshold of adulthood, offering a contrast to the bleak and cynical adult world presented in the novel. They too are drawn into the hedonistic lifestyles that the adults indulge in – “…endless nights of parties, clubbing, seeing bands, taking drugs, drinking, chatting up girls” (18). Yet, there is also the innocence and freshness of youth that accompanies their narrative. Connie, who lives with her aunt Tasha, divides her time between school, working with Aisha at her veterinary clinic and babysitting for Rosie, thus developing a soft corner for the child Hugo. Like the older Manolis, Connie is privy to a number of differing worldviews, but is unable to stop herself developing feelings for Hector, who does not discourage it initially. Richie, slowly but surely discovering and opening up about his homosexuality, also falls in love with Hector, creating a somewhat awkward rivalry with Connie. Connie eventually grows out of “love” with Hector and begins anew a relationship with Ali, a boy her own age and with whom she shares an easy rapport. Richie is relieved that the most important person in his life – his mother – accepts his homosexuality. He shares an intimate moment with another classmate, Lenin, towards the end of the novel, thus leaving room for some hope in an otherwise bleak adult story, full of envy and cynicism and regret. Looking at the Greek migrant families and the diasporic community they are part of through the lens of John McLeod’s register of “generational differences,” Kalra, Kaur and Hutnyk problematise the view that while the term ‘immigrant’ has greater political potency than diaspora, the latter has increasingly come to mean communities who have “never migrated but are the offspring of migrants,” reaffirming the sense of “not belonging to a particular place” (14). Tsiolkas himself hints at such a sensibility when in the epigraph to his first novel, Loaded, Tsiolkas quotes Richard Rodriguez, a writer born of immigrant parents in the United States: The immigrant child has the advantage or the burden of knowing what other children may more easily forget: a child, any child, necessarily lives

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in his own time, his own room. The child cannot have a life identical with that of his mother or father. For the immigrant child this knowledge is inescapable. (14)

Mother, father, child, and the family they constitute, the old and the young, friends and friendships, mates and mateships – these roles and relations are presented as far from stable, challenging the idealistic construction of family and multi-ethnic and multi-cultural sociality in idyllic suburbia. As such, each chapter presents not only the story of the character to which it is dedicated, but also the strands of stories of the other characters, including those to whom Tsiolkas gives their own respective chapters. In effect, the novel covers a demographic consisting of “a mixture of family, friends and work colleagues…” (Tsiolkas 2010, 9), which raises questions related to issues such as the generation gap, class envy, and racism. The incident of the slap means different things to each of the characters in the novel. In the narrative, however, it is referred to only in bits and pieces as a somewhat incidental occurrence. Though it seems to be the central reason – the seed that takes root and branches out with overreaching implications and effects, it primarily serves as a literary device, the “thematic nucleus” as John Vasilakakos terms it, that seemingly holds a central position because of the moral implications of the act spilling out on the other events that define the characters. According to a review by Ron Klein, “[a]mong the drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sex abuse (rape), domestic abuse, verbal abuse, bigotry and racism, the titular slap may be the least reprehensible of the social problems portrayed… which may be Tsiolkas’ ironic point” (1). As Vasilakakos also notes, the slap … is supposed to be the thematic nucleus of the novel. I’m using the term “suppose” because, in essence, it is not. Specifically, it seems that the writer’s main concern is not to explore the nature and causes of the above physical assault and decide whether it was right or wrong and all the consequential reasoning (e.g. whether it was acceptable, just, moral, lawful, etc.) Simply put, driven by this unfortunate and allegedly superficial but controversial incident… […] …Through the epiphenomena of the “slap” incident (which essentially functions as a solder and connecting link among the above chapters) and through the dissimilarity (in age, race, financial status, sex, experience, etc.) of each one of the characters, there

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unfold[s] the narration… about the controversial incident… [and] …their innermost lives… (2013, 260)

With different and dissimilar points of view flowing from the eight unique narrative voices, The Slap can be said to recall Mikhail Bakhtin’s “novelness” of the novel (“Forms of Time” 147), in which Bakhtin’s neologism – heteroglossia (“Novelistic Discourse” 67) – is pronouncedly evident in its form and structure. Language, for Bakhtin, is conceived of as “dialogic” (“Epic and Novel” 27) at every level of communication, representative of different (and differing) worldviews, genres, and socio-ideological discourses. The world of The Slap, it seems, deliberately invokes this dialogic heteroglossia in order to subvert the monologic narrative of idyllic family and friendship that is in truth hypocritical and superficial. The narratological truism, in fiction, of the omniscient narratorhero-central protagonist is dissipated by having a deliberately diasporic quality. Each narrative voice proffers a different perspective and worldview that splays open the hitherto accepted discourse around the social and interpersonal relations shared by those who have witnessed the event of the slap, challenging the accepted notions around family and its responsibilities, as well as friendship and its loyalties, which are tested to their limits by the slap and its resultant effects. Hector and Aisha re-examine their priorities as “husband and wife, parents” (379). On another front, the official discourse around a national identity is critiqued. McLeod writes of “diasporic communities [who] have been ghettoised and excluded from feeling they belong to the ‘new country’, and suffered their cultural practices to be mocked and discriminated against,” not to mention the potential “marginalising [of ] certain groups inside their limits, such as lesbian and gay people” (208) who become doubly-marginalised. Manolis struggles to understand the concerns of the younger generation and cynically concludes that “they had bred monsters” (401). Manolis’ wife Koula cannot hide her inadvertent and irrational prejudice against her own daughterin-law, Aisha, referring to her rather callously as “The Indian” (352). Harry is forced to apologise in order to avoid being further drawn into the legal implications of his action but remains unchanged from the avaricious and

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abusive man he is. Anouk’s relations with her best friends are breached by her view that the child deserved the slap by having behaved in a spoiled and brash manner. Connie and Richie’s friendship is tested because both have feelings for Hector. Rosie obstinately refuses Harry’s apology and takes the matter to court, despite Gary’s reluctance – “most likely,” according to Vasilakakos, “because Harry was much more fortunate (financially and socially) than her” (264). By focusing on generational differences in a multi-ethnic, multi-racial as well as multicultural setting, Tsiolkas invariably looks at differentiations not strictly along countries and their ever contingent geopolitical assertions of ‘boundaries’ and ‘nationalism’ but via the notions of the unease of diasporic relations, where transnational linkages also provide a “disruptive critique” to issues related to ethnicity (Kalra 2005, 16). The charge against ethnicity, as quoted in Diaspora and Hybridity, points to Avtar Brah’s assertion that its denotations include an over-emphasis on a certain essentialism that draws attention to the processes by which “boundaries are maintained and fixed” (16). Sneja Gunew notes, “ethnic essentialism still dominates most ‘ethnic’ representations, at least in the ways they are read by the mainstream” (81) and one aspect that can be found in Tsiolkas’ novels is the putting at unease of the notion of a commensurate and unproblematic national, religious, communal or ethnic stability in an increasingly multi-ethnic/cultural/racial society that socio-political perspectives invariably gloss over or oversimplify, denigrating the complex interrelations that subsist in human relationships in such a setting. However, as far as diaspora and ethnicity are concerned, Kalra, Kaur and Hutnyk reiterate Flora Anthias’ caution in assuming that diaspora can form an effective appellation to the absolutism of ethnocentric identities. Quoting Anthias, these authors cite the examples of ethnic groups who may organise and exist as transnational groups but maintain strict and more often than not, rigid boundaries (16) that serve as protectionist measures if not exclusionary ones. Anthias warns: The perception of diasporas as breaking ‘the ethnic spectacles’ with which the world was previously viewed, may vastly underestimate the continuing attachment to the idea of ethnic and therefore particularist bonds, to a new reconstructed form of ethnic absolutism. (567)

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Although Kalra, Kaur and Hutnyk admit that the problems of essentialism cannot be completely removed from diasporic theorization (and subsequently, its representation), they point out that “diasporic and ethnic groups are not mutually exclusive categories.” This affords a reading of Tsiolkas’ novel from the point of view of similarities between the processes that form ethnocentric identities to the operation of nation-state building with its complex policies and ideological apparatuses. In this way, diaspora, as represented in The Slap, shifts the focus away from ethnicity to the realm of multiple identity formations that can be analysed despite the rhetorical assertions of the nation-state or particular ethnocentric groups (Kalra 2005, 17). One of the ways the novel does this is through its narratological levels, which reflect a kind of polyglossia (“Epic and Novel” 12), denoting for Mikhail Bakhtin the “fraught” and uneasy “co-existence” between national languages in a rapidly changing multicultural context. Next, the dialogism of social heteroglossia that arises from the “internal stratification” (“Discourse in the Novel” 263) of any single national language into multiple languages of generations and age groups, making language tendentious “between language and its object (that is, the real world)” (“Epic and Novel” 12); the dialogism of rhetorical discourse (“Discourse in the Novel” 268) in which communication is oriented toward “the listener and his answer in everyday dialogue” (280); and finally, the dialogism of the word, that in “all its various routes toward the object, in all its directions… encounters an alien word and cannot help encountering it in a living, tension-filled interaction” (279). A reading of The Slap exhibits these characteristics in its use of multiple voices as well as styles of voices in the narrative. Polyglossia is invoked in the multicultural and multiethnic setting, for example, when Koula reverts to Greek to complain or make her point even though she can speak English. The social heteroglossia comes to the fore in the way Tsiolkas manages to mirror the styles of language and thought of each different generation. As noted by Klein, Tsiolkas has a great gift for dialogue, which captures the cadences of the novel’s visceral, masculine, chick, philosophical, or youthful voices. Harry’s section, in particular, is a bit of a rough, working-class, sexist, racist diatribe. Connie’s and Richie’s are filled with youthspeak; Manolis’

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more refined. References to places, music, movies and current pop culture give the novel a contemporary feeling. (2)

Within the narrative is prevalent the rhetorical discourse with regard to family, friendship and “respect and tolerance” (Tsiolkas 2010, 9) for the same, which the event of the slap throws into the dialogism of the word, whereby larger issues are contended with more sincerely, albeit with a lot of tension and conflict. The novel primarily focuses on this last type of dialogic orientation, given that the events unfold in a multicultural and multiethnic setting. In this sense, Bakhtin’s heteroglossia constitutes an important aesthetic feature that lends to the novel “the “centrifugal” and “decentralizing” (“Discourse in the Novel” 272) energies that disrupt the “monologic” (279) tendencies of “officialliterate” (296) discourse. Bakhtin also uses the term “carnival” (“Novelistic Discourse” 77) to refer to the polyphonic (Speech Genres 149) features of the novel – where the dialogism consists not only of everyday speech but is explicitly ideological. Bakhtin’s use of the term polyphony, though referring to carnivalised literature and bearing a historical link to parody and satire, was also a means of evoking dialogism (xviii). Bakhtin assigns to the polyphonic characteristic of carnivalised literature the features of being “heterogeneous and flagrantly ‘indecorous,’ interweaving disparate styles and registers” (McHale 1989, 172). In The Location of Culture, Homi K. Bhabha explores the “great history of the languages and landscapes of migration and diaspora” (235) where he advocates “new, exciting ways of thinking about identity” (McLeod 2000, 217). The contingent nature of language following its poststructuralist register and its multivocality of expressions gives root to a postmodern carnivalesque mode of existence – the idea of a postcolonial identity itself reserves for Bhabha a paradigm-shifting experience. The ‘in-between’ position of the migrant invokes a new register that shifts the notion of identity away from the discursive practices of the nation-state and from models of identity-based on nationality and “rootedness” (216). In this way, through its carnivalesque structure, The Slap is deliberately transgressive in its challenge of the ideals of family and friendship as sociological

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truisms par excellence. There is the contravention of conventional norms – social, sexual and verbal – as a means of exploiting the larger ontological dimensions of Australian society – “by proliferating within the novel a dialogic pluralism of ideas, mores, speech-styles, and genres, it projects a plurality of worlds that may then be counterposed to the monologic world of official reality” (Polanki 22). Tsiolkas employs a carnivalised technique of world-construction wherein there subsists as an undercurrent a multiplicity of conflicting world-views between the characters. He allows these prevailing subtextual tensions to be realised in order to countermand the official discourse of political correctness and haughty bourgeois liberalism that defines the interpersonal relations between family, friends and colleagues. The narrative voices of the characters build on this premise, divulging not only inner thoughts but pointers as to the personalities and construction of the other characters. This process of internal dialogism betrays the bigotry and narrow-mindedness that persists beneath the mask of social hierarchies and relations, thus suffusing hitherto personal spaces with political implications and subverting the notion of sanctity accorded to the former. This inversion of the carnival from form to theme along with the narrative exposition of the shallowness of official multicultural discourse alerts the reader, in a way, to the fictionality of the “real” world. As one reviewer notes, More than any other contemporary Australian novelist, [Tsiolkas] is possessed of a powerful sense of humankind’s capacity for hatred. His fiction acknowledges its primal allure, its negative validation; his characters often experience a surge of excitement when they allow themselves to think a vicious, bigoted thought. On this point, he is a furious moralist for whom the truths most in need of telling are hard, unpalatable truths.

These “unpalatable truths” are considered by Terry Eagleton as the process in which “the literary work of art projects out of its own innards the very historical and ideological subtext to which it is a strategic reply” (170). He remarks that “[f ]iction involves the reader in being both caught up in an illusion and sitting loose to it. It is thus a kind of irony, and as such writes large the nature of our everyday experience” (121).

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The menagerie of characters provides a substantial basis for the kind of postmodern reading that entails the clash of cultural spaces that inform and are manifested in the societal roles occupied by the characters, conceived as their central identities. That the characters are culled from different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds seems not to be the chief concern but the demonstration that transnational linkages remain implicit in the condition of interhuman experience – the Indian Aisha has an Anglo-Indian parentage, Hector and his cousins are second generations Greek Christians, Rosie and Gary are Australian lower-middle-class, and there is a Canadian with Czech and Chinese lineages, characters with Balkan forebears, and so on. Such a diverse social context in which the conflict of transnational experience persists is one of the narrative foci of the novel, undermining the notion of an egalitarian multicultural milieu that sits easily with its reality under the patronage of the nation-state. Such realities as depicted in the novels, in turn, serve to disrupt the “totalising discourse” (Vaughan 1) that glosses over such complications. Angela Meyer considers Tsiolkas’ fiction as the means of examining the “suburbs in the age of almost extreme political correctness” and contends that the novels resist the apparently smug bravura of an official rhetoric built on a “supposed ethos of egalitarianism” (“Discomfort”). The complexification of events that occurs in the novel reflects the underbelly of the Australian experience, effectively deferring any denouement as ideally defined by the rhetoric of “egalitarianism.” Arguably, Tsiolkas’ fictional horizon does not set out to declaim the ideal of such a notion but to disabuse it, in a manner of speaking, of the “fiction” of history, or as Jacques Derrida put it, the “extremely determinate responsibilities” of Australian socio-political institutions. The novel dwells on issues that cut across these concerns, with an emphasis on individual motives and a demonstration of these motives in their reciprocal contexts. As in the previous novels, the diasporic experience is described in visceral and immediate terms, not least through the violent slap at the beginning of the novel. The novel uses the incident of the slap as an opportunity “to create a panoramic mosaic of almost epic proportions and examine multi-prismatically the whole spectrum of family life in modern multiethnic and multicultural Australia” (Vasilakakos

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2013, 260). The narrative range of the novel is thus quite broad and structured, telling the story of four women and four men belonging to different age groups and different ethnic backgrounds, and spanning three generations – each harbouring their own perspectives and preoccupations. The slap, whether or not it is condoned, provides a shared context that encourages an engagement within the lives of the characters with themselves, and their relationships with each other, which they define at face value as family and friendship. The true nature of these relations eventually emerges as the crisis of the slap forces them to take sides and make their stands clear to each other, irrespective of age, class and sex. Some, such as Manolis, regret such a momentous shift in hitherto accommodating and sometimes warm ties. Others, such as Hector and Aisha, are forced to re-examine and eventually reaffirm their commitments. For the younger generation of Connie and Richie, there is the hope of time. There seems to be little by way of redemption to be had in the course of the narrative, as Tsiolkas demonstrates – the child Hugo, not knowing better, and perhaps having imbibed some of the mannerisms of his parents, spits at an old man: “The shock had left him, there was only disappointment on his face now, and an unbearable, condemning resignation…” (Tsiolkas 2010, 455). Ultimately, the slap does not spur a tidal wave of change or inspire a refashioning of alternatives to accommodate their subjectivity as individuals that is radically different from the realities of their lives as family and friends. There is perhaps a little more honesty though, and it is in this that there is the acknowledgement of what Noel Rowe calls a “bonum honestum, i.e., a good unto itself ” (28) – a process of disabusing the human subject from the trappings of a narrow and downsized understanding of personal history. Mikhail Bakhtin, commenting on the role of a writer, notes: The peculiarities of polyphony. The lack of finalization of the polyphonic dialogue (dialogue about ultimate questions). These dialogues are conducted by unfinalized individual personalities and not by psychological subjects. The somewhat unembodied quality of these personalities (disinterested surplus). Every great writer participates in such a dialogue; he participates with his creativity as one of the sides in this dialogue. (Bakhtin 1986, 151)

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As Tsiolkas himself admits in an interview, “It’s as simple as that. I have no grand answer” (Vasilakakos 2013, 102).

Works cited: Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin. 2006. The Post-colonial Studies Reader, 2nd edition. New York: Routledge. Assumi, Elika. 2015. “Not at Home in the Nation: Naga Identity and Everyday Life in the Contemporary Indian City.” PhD diss. The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. Bakhtin, M. M. 1986a. “Discourse in the Novel.” In The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, Edited by Michael Holquist, translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press. 259-422. —. 1986b. “Epic and the Novel: Toward a Methodology for the Study of the Novel.” In The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, Edited by Michael Holquist, translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press. 3-40. —. 1986c. “Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel.” In The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, Edited by Michael Holquist, translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press. 84258. —. 1986d. “From Notes Made in 1970-71.” Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Ed. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Trans. Vern W. McGee. Austin: U of Texas P, 1986. —. 1986e. “From the Prehistory of Novelistic Discourse.” In The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, Edited by Michael Holquist, translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press. 41-83. Brah, Avtar. 1996. Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities. London: Routledge. Eagleton, Terry. 2012. The Event of Literature. London: Yale University Press. Fludernik, Monica. 1994. Diaspora and Multiculturalism. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi B. V.

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Gunew, Sneja. 2009. “Stammering ‘country’ pedagogies: Sickness for and of the home.” Journal of Australian Studies 29 (86). Kalra, Virinder S., Raminder Kaur and John Hutnyk. 2005. Diaspora and Hybridity. London: Sage. Klein, Ron. 2011. “Book reviews: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas.” Review of The Slap. Transnational Literature. 3 (2): 1-3. jspui/bitstream/232 8/15280/1/Slap.pdf. McHale, Brian. 1989. Postmodernist Fiction. New York: Routledge. McLeod, John. 2000. Beginning Postcolonialism. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Meyer, Angela. 2009. “Discomfort is sometimes what is most precious to me about great art.” Crikey, 29 January. http://blogs.crikey. com.a u/literaryminded/2009/01/29/discomfort-is-sometimes-what-is-mostprecious-to-me-about-great-art-christos-tsiolkas-on-the-slap. Polanki, Gautama. 2006. Cloud Atlas: The Postmodernist Mythopoeia of David Mitchell. Hyderabad: Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages. Rowe, Noel. 2008. Ethical Investigations:_Essays on Australian Literature and Poetics. Ed. Bernadette M. Brennan. Sydney: Vagabond. The Medusa vs. The Odalisque. “The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas.” Australian Book Review. 306 (2008). slap-by-christos-tsiolkas.html. Tsiolkas, Christos. 2010. The Slap. London: Tuskar Rock. Vasilakakos, John. 2013. Christos Tsiolkas: The Untold Story. Victoria: Connor Court, 2013. Vaughan, Michael. 2011. “‘What’s haunting Dead Europe?’ Trauma fiction as resistance to postmodern governmentality.” Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature 11 (2): 1-10. index.php/jasal/article/ viewfile/1655/2764. Young, R. C. 2008 White Mythologies: Writing History and the West, 2nd edition. New York: Routledge.


This paper analyses Githa Hariharan’s In Times of Siege (2003), which was written against the backdrop of NCERT textbook controversy and foregrounds the fissures in historiography in India. Drawing on Homi K. Bhabha and Benedict Anderson’s theoretical assumptions about the historical relationship between the nation and the narrative, the paper problematizes the issue of the ideological construction of history in the context of academic/ historiographical disputes, which reflect unresolved tensions between varying versions of historical events, often contesting official archiving. In the light of postmodern assumptions of history writing as envisaged in the theory of Hayden White, this paper intends to attempt a deconstructive reading of In Times of Siege, which questions some fundamental conclusions of different schools of historians—Marxist/nationalist; secular/right-wing which claim to be scientific, objective and authentic narratives of the past—and simultaneously explores the possibility of framing an apolitical school/university curriculum of history. The paper also endeavours to discuss the issue of censorship and cultural control of historical imagination in postcolonial India. Benedict Anderson defines a nation as “an imagined political community [that is] imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined

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because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion” (Anderson 2006, 6). The media also creates imagined communities through targeting a mass audience or generalizing and addressing citizens as the public. Thus we see that though the nation is imagined as a unified entity, different people have their own ways of imagining their nation or community; the cultural ties which bind an individual to his society vary from person to person. Partha Chatterjee too argues that India with its unique characteristics and contradictions needs to be seen, felt, imagined and experienced in different ways. He calls for the freedom of our colonized thinking which literature frames, defines, and propagates. Following Anderson’s argument that a nation is first and foremost an “imagined community” and his view of the space and time of the modern nation as incorporated in the realist narratives of novels, Bhabha suggests that nations themselves are forms of narrations (Bhabha 1990, 1-7). Thus the space and time of the modern Indian nation are embodied in Hariharan’s narrative fiction. Her intention behind writing such a narrative is to construct a site of literary resistance. Viewed from this perspective, In Times of Siege can be regarded as a “counter-narrative” in Bhabha’s terms. But this effort in the context of the academic-political dispute narrated in the novel is fraught with dangers and seems to principally advocate the unitary nature of imagining India and framing a narrative of the nation with a closed ending. The novel can be read in the light of Edward Said’s theory of resistance literature which posits that every narration is fraught with the possibility of its own resistance. This novel, though aiming at creating a resistance narrative and argues for the freedom of expression and plurality of vision in imagining a nation, simultaneously runs the risk of privileging one kind of version of history over the other(s). In Times of Siege is a direct introduction to the political culture of contemporary India and is a postcolonial narrative about the history and its control. In it, the presence of the past has been invoked to re-interpret the present and the contemporary in our times. In societies where many unofficial pasts such as myths, legends, etc. exist, cultural politics involve comprehending the core of the present resilience and working on solutions to make a trouble-

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free future. We protect ourselves against all strange knowledge(s) lest it should breach our faiths and ideologies. Githa Hariharan’s novel talks specifically about how nation figures in many (un)official narratives prevalent in our times. The novel traces the demise of anti-colonial nationalism and the new turns which nation-states have taken in the postcolonial era. A historical novel at the core, it is concerned with historiography, history, the processes of history’s appropriation and establishing a monopoly over it, defying the idea of history as a museum. One day, Prof. Shiv informs Meena that he has written a course module on social reform movements in the medieval India which has a lesson on Basavanna. A controversy brews when an organization called Itihas Suraksha Manch (ISM) objects to the portrayal of Basava in the module. Shiv’s act to defend his stance creates a heated academic debate over the authentication and appropriation of history: as he tersely puts it, “but why this sudden anxiety about a historical figure we have safely consigned to textbooks till now? And from such unlikely quarters. I can only think of one answer, a fear of history” (Hariharan 2003, 97). The goal before him is to ensure that “… he is patriotic, Hindu, Indian” (89) and at the same time, he has to give proof that “he can say and do the right things, transform himself into a twenty-first-century echo of the dissenting Basava” (89). He reveals his conception of History as a “layered terrain of past merging into the present, [which] shrinks to the size of a module, a black and white booklet of lessons then that too goes. There is only a lone, orphaned atom left behind, a sullen impoverished particle of knowledge” (150). The series of fictional events depicted in the novel, and the names of some historians mentioned in veiled form may make one readily conclude that In Times of Siege is written against the backdrop of the NCERT textbook controversy, which had sent shock waves across the Indian society. This controversy happened in free India in two parts: first, during the regime of Janata Party government at the centre from 1977 to 79, an attempt was made to rewrite certain portions of the NCERT history books as these were deemed inappropriate by a group of historians. The alleged motto behind this kind of act was to saffronise history in the garb of making Indian history nationalist in tone and flavour. In 2002 again, the BJP led NDA government at the centre

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attempted to rewrite the history books through a new National Curriculum Framework (NCF) saying that it wanted to purge the Indian history of dynastic control and cultural distortions caused by the Communists. The NCERT issued a directive to the CBSE to remove certain sections which hurt the sentiments of certain religious communities. Under this plan, some of the portions of the NCERT history books were re-written and re-circulated among students. However, in the 2004 parliamentary elections, the Congressled UPA came back to the centre and re-issued the so-called pre-saffronised NCERT books with suitable modifications aimed at de-saffronising history. As we read the novel it becomes evident that most of the time the arguments raised by Prof. Shiv coincidentally come very close to what Marxist historians of Indian history have been trying to say for the past few decades. This results in a kind of power imbalance in the narrative in favour of the communist historians. Defining the function of history and the historian, Shiv says that he has been charged with “distorting facts and introducing an ideological bias into a lesson in the university’s medieval Indian history course” (76). Though as a whole, by evoking Basava at the end of the novel, it tries to counter the balance of power by laying emphasis on cultivating free and independent thinking. To illustrate this power imbalance in the narrative, the arguments from the various stakeholders in the issue need to be examined carefully by sorting out genuine allegations from baseless generalizations. In order to contest the novel’s own politics in subtly placing one version of history over the others, I shall discuss some of the key charges made by the two widely different groups of historians regarding the rewriting of history in government-sponsored school textbooks. Communalism in India became a very strong cultural trait during India’s colonization by the British. The British tried to divide the Hindus and Muslims so that it might become easy for them to facilitate their administration in India. The government in free India tried to devise a way to root out this evil of communalism in the dissemination of knowledge. To achieve this end, the official discourses of history were somewhat tampered with at numerous places. But in doing so, the historians/writers were not careful enough and also weeded out some portions which could genuinely be used by a

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follower of any religion to take pride in his/her religion. There are many issues in our history which are controversial and lack consensus among historians, for instance, whether Aryans invaded India or they were indigenous people of our country. Were they the inhabitants and architects of Indus/Saraswati river valley civilization? Issues such as the catalogue of our achievements in the fields of Science and Mathematics, whether beef eating was practised in Vedic civilization, and the ancientness of the Vedas, etc. have been raised in the novel as well. Mridula and Aditya Mukherjee in their essay, “The History Text Book Controversy: An Overview” ask that “if the teaching of modern scientific advances hurts the religious sentiments of one or the other group should it be banned altogether?” (Mukherjee and Mukherhee 2004, 10). Romila Thapar, another key historian and ideologue of the group, writes in her article “Propaganda as History won’t Sell”: The confrontation is being projected as between leftist and rightist historians. The confrontation is not between leftist and rightist historians but between professional historians and politicians sympathetic to the Hindutva persuasion…. History is not an arbitrary narrative where myth can override facts. There is also today the viability of contending interpretations, but each has to be based on accepted historical methodologies. (Thapar 2004, 14) Here I have tried to analyze Prof Shiv’s conception of historiography in the novel and to critique some of the fundamental assumptions implicit in his idea of history. Basically, Prof Shiv in the novel and Marxists’ general conception of historiography try to exclude myths and legends from the official versions of their history writing, calling them as unscientific and fabricated. In framing the account of Basava, Prof Shiv remarks: Wading through the numerous contradictory accounts of Basava’s life means parting several meeting rivers. Separating history and myth, pulling apart history and legend. Deciding which chunks of history will keep the myth earthbound; which slivers of myth will cast light and insight on dull historical fragments. The two have to be torn apart, their limbs disentangled, to see who is who… (Hariharan 2003, 87)

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Marxists have dominated the official history writing in India for almost two decades, so much so that what they have written has become the uncontested official version of history. They regarded Indian society as one, where innumerable inequalities have existed owing to Hindu religion and colonial rule. These historians, inspired by the new poetics of historiography of Hobsbawm, E P Thompson, etc., tried to remove the religious elements from the official historical discourses of the nation. They seek to rewrite the history of India from the perspective of the marginalized and downtrodden. D D Kosambi in his book Culture and Civilisation of Ancient India writes: The religions themselves do not constitute history, but their rise and change of function is excellent historical material…. Most of the surviving ancient Indian documents are overwhelmingly religious and ritualistic. The writers were not concerned with history or with reality. Trying to extract history from them without some previous knowledge of the actual structure of Indian society at the time of writing gives either no results or the ludicrous conclusions that may be read in most ‘histories’ of India. (Kosambi 1965, 15)

Marxist historians wanted to find alternative ways of reading history. Echoing Kosambi, Romila Thapar in her book The Penguin History of Early India remarks “the more serious concern with history was its recognition as a discipline with a method, including the search for readings that incorporated viable alternative ways of explaining the past” (Thapar 2003, xviii). She goes on to count the difficulties which historians face in establishing the facticity of myths so as to make them feasible historical evidence, “But because of their fluid chronology, and the fact that they are generally not records of actual happenings, myths can only be used in a limited way. Mythology and history are often counterposed and myth cannot be treated as a factual account” (xxii). In weeding out myths from the discourses of history, they undermined the importance of religion in the process of nation-building or at times consciously/ unconsciously transgressed the process of nation-building and presented history as the jumbled collection of facts and evidence. This approach to root out myths from the past completely is a methodological fallacy in the process

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of history writing and shows their ignorance that the difference between the history and the myth is blurring gradually. In the novel, Prof Shiv’s approach to construct a factual account of Basava’s life appears more to have been inspired by the Marxist historiographers’ method to write history. He reveals that his objective is, “to write a lesson that weeds out stereotypes, makes realistic assessments. To take this fragment from the medieval past and reconstruct an entire range of possibilities” (Hariharan 2003, 40). This approach to demystify myths and to squeeze out factual history from them is a problematic task and politically undermines the importance of myths in our culture. A postmodernist approach to historiography has reassessed the importance of myths in historiography and adopts a ‘constructionist’ view of history. Philosophers like Roland Barthes have viewed the study of myths as a way of explaining our present with the help of the past. This practice was given prominence in many of the postcolonial writings where it was not possible to restore completely the damaged/lost cultural past of a nation in its original form. Barthes in his book Mythologies (1957) acknowledging the immense potential of myths writes that “myth is a language” (Barthes 1972, 10). Highlighting the similarity between history and myth, Lyotard in his book The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979) opines that in our postmodernist era history itself has become a modern myth. He classifies knowledge as of two types – Scientific and Narrative – with myths, stories etc. belonging to the latter. He acknowledges that traditional knowledge has the “preeminence of narrative form” (Lyotard 1979, 19) and that scientific knowledge does not “represent the totality of knowledge” (7). It has always “existed in addition to and in competition and conflict” (7) with the narrative. The process of legitimation or validation of these two types of knowledges is different and cannot be compared. Thus the way through which scientific knowledge, which is discursive in nature, establishes itself in society cannot be the ground to disregard myths or narratives in general as unscientific. Ironically, science in the 19th century used rules or “language games” of narrative knowledge to legitimize or validate itself. In explaining the process of legitimation Lyotard precisely points out that there are no facts, only interpretations. These interpretations function as facts within communities

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of consensus and are never value neutral. On one hand, where narrative knowledge does not give primacy to the questions of its own legitimation, on the other, it considers scientific knowledge as simply a variant upon itself. But this does not hold true the other way round. Scientific knowledge considers the former as belonging to “a different mentality: savage, primitive, underdeveloped, backward, alienated” (27). Lyotard explains that scientific knowledge cannot know and make known that it is the true knowledge without resorting to the other, narrative kind of knowledge, thus highlighting the mutual interdependence of the two. This argument of Lyotard changed the whole conception of historiography in postmodernism and inaugurated what critics like Hayden White designate as the “literary turn” in historiography. Assessing the implications of Lyotard’s arguments on historical narratives, White in his book Metahistory (1973) comments on the nature of problems related to historiography, Historiographical disputes on the level of ‘interpretation’ are in reality disputes over the ‘true’ nature of the historian’s enterprise. History remains in the state of conceptual anarchy in which the natural sciences existed during the sixteenth century, when there were as many different conceptions of ‘the scientific enterprise’ as there were metaphysical positions…. So, too, disputes over what ‘history’ ought to reflect similarly varied conceptions of what a proper historical explanation ought to consist of and different conceptions, therefore, of the historian’s task. (13)

He argues that the principles or poetics of writing literature and history are essentially same, thus leaving little or no difference between history writing and storytelling. The conception of history as something to be ‘found out’ or ‘discovered’ by a historian “obscures the extent to which ‘invention’ also plays a part in the historian’s operations” (7). He identifies romance, tragedy, comedy and satire as four basic tropes borrowed from literature which determine the emplotment of historical narrative. Also, four other major tropes – metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony, which poetry uses – decide the use of language by historians. Thus, a historian uses ‘narrative tactics’ in the construction of history. Unlike Marxist historians, he problematizes the boundaries between myth and history by showing that history too, like its neglected counterpart

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myth, belongs to what Lyotard calls ‘narrative knowledges’. He even dwells on the question of ideological contamination of historical narrative and says that in every narrative of our past there is an irreducible ideological component, and identifies four basic ideological positions, viz. anarchism, conservatism, radicalism, and liberalism, which a historian can adopt in framing his/her narrative. So on the one hand, if it is necessary to teach history in a way which strengthens the ties of our country, on the other we should reassess the vast potential which our myths can have in the process of nation-building. We must re-interpret our mythical past in a way so as to make the secular fabric of our nation strong. Various ideologies should be in continuous dialogue with one another over the issues on which opinion stands divided so as to establish some kind of consensus by way of giving conclusions, provisional though they might be. This process will ultimately purge the process of curriculum framing and textbook writing of any insidious motives. The evocation of Basava at the end not only reinforces the secular fabric of our nation but also provides a common ground for historians to argue with and understand each other. No writing is ideologically ‘innocent’ and gaps and fissures can be located in any writing motivated by any ideology. To blame one side for all the distortions in the representation of history and to entirely justify the other side would mean portraying the entire picture in black and white whereas the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes. Whatever the truth may be, it must conform to the ideals and idea of the modern secular nation as envisioned in our constitution and should be based on scientific and rational thinking. Any attempt at portraying a sectarian, one-sided, monolithic history of a country like India is fraught with danger and the country may run the risk of losing its key cultural characteristic, i.e., its heterogeneity or unity in diversity. Thus, a Marxist claim of developing a secular historiography and its relation to modernity is a contentious one and might be critiqued on several grounds. A historian irrespective of his/her ideological orientation needs to have a proper understanding of secular ideals and should have firm belief in the ideals enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

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Works cited: Anderson, B. 2006. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso. Barthes, Roland. 1972. Mythologies. Trans. By Annette Lavers. NY: The Noonday Press. Bhabha, Homi. 1990. “Introduction: Narrating the Nation”. In Nation and Narration, edited by Bhabha, 1-7. NY: Routledge. Hariharan, Githa. 2003. In Times of Siege. New Delhi: Penguin Books. Kosambi, D D. 1965. The Culture and Civilisation of Ancient India in Historical Outline. London: Routledge. Lyotard, Jean-Francois.1979. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Mukherjee, Mridula, and Aditya Mukherjee. 2004. “Communalisation of Education.” In The History Text book Controversy: An Overview. New Delhi: Delhi Historians’ Group, 2004. e-book. n.p. Thapar, Romila. 2003. The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. New Delhi: Penguin. —. 2004. “Propaganda as History won’t Sell.” In The History Text book Controversy: An Overview. New Delhi: Delhi Historians’ Group. e-book. n.p. White, Hayden. 1973. Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in NineteenthCentury Europe. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.


In an age of globalisation, transnational migration is a fact of life. Indian diasporic literature, which has caught global attention in recent times, is usually by and about educated migrants or their descendants. Topographical shifting, cultural transaction, and multiculturalism form a complex framework in the field of global migration. In Addition, the_concept of roots, alienation, longing for a lost world, nostalgia, and hybrid identity are interlinked with the diasporic phenomenon. They form recurrent themes in the writings of Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, V.S. Naipaul, Bharati Mukherjee, Kiran Desai, Jhumpa Lahiri and other writers of the Indian diaspora. All diasporic literature, thus, abounds in issues related to crossing borders, original homeland, adopted homeland and identity. The daughter of Indian immigrants from the state of West Bengal, Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London and raised in Rhodes Island in the United States of America. Lahiri’s mother wanted her children to grow up with an exposure to their Bengali heritage and the frequent childhood visits to India make Jhumpa Lahiri a sensitive chronicler of the Bengali immigrant experience. She authentically portrays the diasporic experience in her first collection of short stories The Interpreter of Maladies which won her the prestigious Pulitzer

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Prize in the year 2000. In 2003 Lahiri made her debut as a novelist with the publication of The Namesake which was adapted into a popular Hollywood movie of the same name. Moving between events in Calcutta, Boston and New York, the novel explores the ideas of isolation and identity, the clash of lifestyles, the disorientation of cultures, and the space between the first generation and second generation immigrants. Unaccustomed Earth, her latest and second collection of short stories published in 2008, is also a reflection of life with two separate cultures and how people cope with one another. Imbued with fine details of both Indian and American cultures, Lahiri’s writings speak with universal eloquence and compassion to everyone who is an immigrant. The story of The Namesake is set for the most part in America where Ashima and Ashoke are trying to make new lives for themselves following an arranged marriage. Married to Ashoke after having met him once briefly, Ashima follows her husband to the US as he is working to earn a doctorate degree from a prestigious American University with a prospect of settling down “with security and respect.” With a heavy heart, she waves goodbye to all her people, who have come to see her off at the Dum Dum Airport. She, who had never imagined leaving her parents and going to the other end of the world, goes just because her husband is settled there. She becomes the iconic image of a typical Bengali woman who does not take her husband’s name and wears saree and bindi all through the novel. She is unable to relate herself to America or the ways of living over there. She is often homesick in the three-room apartment which is too hot in summer and too cold in winter, very different from the descriptions of the houses she had read in English novels. She cannot look upon this house as her home because it stands in sharp contrast to her parents’ home, back in Calcutta, full of loving faces and usual routine activities. She is displaced here and yearns to go back to Calcutta, thinking of the activities going on there by calculating the Indian time, which is ten and half hours ahead, on her hands. She deeply misses the faces that are familiar to her since birth as the only family she has here is Ashoke, who has to work all the time, leaving her waiting for the time to pass until he gets home for the evening. She gets nostalgic on every other thing and tells Ashoke to finish his studies as soon as possible so that they can return to India.

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From the beginning of the novel, we see Ashima in tune with her original culture as during her pregnancy she fondly and frequently loves to eat rice krispies mixed with planter peanuts and onions, a snack that is sold for pennies on Calcutta sidewalks and railway platforms. She fondly reads and re-reads letters that come from home, she “keeps her ears trained, between the hours of twelve and two, for the sound of the postman’s foot on the porch, followed by the soft click of the mail slot in the door” (Lahiri 2003, 36). She often goes through the same Bengali short-stories, poems and articles from the Bengali magazine which is part of the small treasure she has brought with her. This yearning for home, coupled with sweet memories of homeland creates a painful situation where imaginary homelands are created in the minds of the immigrants. The novel is highly charged with emotional overtones. The first such instance is the hour when Ashima is hospitalised for child-birth. She is cut off by curtains from the outside world and the strange room stinking of medicines intensifies her fear of loneliness. In India, a mother giving birth would be surrounded by family and friends. With only Ashoke by her side, the feeling of loneliness is obvious, and Ashima feels alienated and vulnerable. Soon after child-birth, her emotions continue to trouble her. This time she is terrified to raise her child in a country where she is related to no one, and pities her son for having entered the world deprived of the love of a large family and ceremonies that would have followed his birth. The naming ceremony of the baby is another hour of emotional strain. Here again, the clash between the Indian and American culture is made evident. In India, the name would not have been important right away, and the parents sometimes take years before deciding on a child’s good name. Ashima and Ashoke desperately wait for her grandmother’s letter with a name for the baby as it is a Bengali tradition to have a respected elder choose the name of a child. The letter doesn’t arrive and the hospital norms force them to decide on a name before Ashima is discharged from the hospital. The child is named Gogol after the Russian author Nikolai Gogol, whose book had played a significant role in saving Ashoke from a traumatic train accident that happened before his marriage. The struggle the parents have with the naming of their child is obvious, but it also symbolises

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the disconnect and distance Ashima and Ashoke experience from the rest of the world. The strain that these incidents leave on Ashima’s nerves does little to make her feel at home in this alien land. It is with the passage of time, however, that Ashima slowly learns to be independent. She starts enjoying motherhood, and as her husband is busy all day, takes Gogol out in the pram to the market place, talks to strangers who show interest in her little child, and at times goes to meet her husband in the campus. As Ashoke gets a new job as Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University, they have to move to a university town in the suburban area outside Boston. Here there are no streetlights, no stores, and no public transportation for miles together. Ashima feels more displaced than ever now. “For, being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy – a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts” (Lahiri 2003, 49). Relief comes in slowly when they make their circle of Bengali acquaintances there. Together they practice Indian customs, celebrate marriages, child-births and festivals wearing their traditional dresses, thereby recreating the spirit of Bengal. As for Ashima, this group of Bengali people becomes a substitute for the family, relatives and friends she has left in India. Visits to India cannot be very frequent, and the happiness, ease and comfort the couple feels when they are in Bengal can be sensed by their children also, who being second-generation immigrants do not feel the same connection and ache to come back to America. Ashima, however, makes conscious efforts to preserve the Bengali culture and customs in America and also works towards passing them on to her next generation. She tries to bring up her children the way it is done in India. Ashima and Ashoke make arrangements that are very significant. The couple sends Gogol to Bengali language and culture classes at the house of one of their Bengali friends. In doing so, they expose them to their own traditions and religious customs, their habits and mannerisms, their rites and beliefs. There is an instance of culture clash when Ashima is disgusted that Gogol’s school took the children to the local graveyard. Schools back home would never do any such thing in the name of art. Nevertheless, it is interesting to

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note that the immigrants, while making all possible efforts to keep their own heritage and culture alive in foreign lands, wittingly or unwittingly assimilate the ways of the host country also. One afternoon, as Ashima teaches Gogol to memorise a four line poem by Tagore and names of various Hindu gods and goddesses before she settles for an afternoon nap, she switches the television to channel two and tells Gogol to watch ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘The Electronic Company’ in order to keep up with the English he uses at nursery school. For the sake of Gogol and Sonia (Gogol’s sister), Christmas is celebrated. It is for the children’s sake that Ashima prepares American dinner once a week though Ashima and Ashoke themselves prefer Bengali food. It is, however, worthy to note that the significance of the core values is never undervalued as the compromises made by the parents are only in relation to the peripheral ones. As years pass by, Ashima is the cement that keeps the family together. Bound herself to her own culture and traditions forever, it must be difficult to watch her children adopting aspects of the American lifestyle. She does not approve of Gogol and Maxine living together and there is an occasion where Ashima refuses to admit this to her Bengali friends, as this is part of the culture of the host country and not her own. There is a conflict with Sonia when she leads a very active social life during high school. Also, as Ashima addresses Christmas cards in Chapter Seven, she is wistful that Gogol and Sonia did not come to celebrate Thanksgiving with her. Their need to be independent is contrary to the need she felt at their age to be near her family. And yet, inspite of their traditions and reservations, Ashima and Ashoke’s acceptance of Maxine in their son’s life, and Ashima’s consent for Sonia’s marriage to Ben, a young man half Jewish and half Chinese, indicate their changed perspective. Life in America is not smooth sailing for Ashima. Her husband, though_ as Indian at heart as his wife, is more practical and easily fits himself into the American framework from the beginning of the novel. Life for Ashima gets very lonely at times, with her children growing up and living away from her. Still, as life goes on, Ashima takes up a job in a library, has a few American friends and manages to drive a car by herself. When Ashoke has to spend nine months at a university outside Cleveland, Ashima decides to stay alone in their

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house at Pemberton Road. In many ways, the one thing that Ashima can count on is her husband, and their love and understanding that Ashima holds very dear. Together they have suffered the loss of their parents’ and other relatives’ deaths thousands of miles away from home. Nothing, however, had prepared Ashima for her husband’s sudden loss and when he dies, she mourns his death deeply. Ashima feels lonely suddenly, horribly, permanently alone, and briefly, turned away from the mirror, she sobs for her husband. She feels overwhelmed by the thought of the move she is about to make, to the city that was once home and is in its own way foreign. (Lahiri 2003, 278).

The death of Ashoke brings about a change in the life of Gogol and Sonia also. They experience the trauma that their parents had experienced during the loss of their parents. They now share the anguish that their parents felt for being far away from home. Gogol begins to feel tenderly towards his father after his death, whereas his attitude towards him, while he was alive, was generally impatient. The thing most conspicuous, though, is the change that life has brought in Ashima. She is not the tearful and distressed nineteenyear-old Ashima who had first accompanied her husband to Massachusettes after marriage, having now evolved into a mature person who carries all Hindu values and bears all experiences of the new land in her heart on her way to her homeland. She, who had always longed to go back to her homeland, has grown attached to the foreign land in which she had come to love her husband. Hence she takes a decision to live for six months in India and six months in America with Gogol and Sonia. She is no longer completely Bengali, but she has not become an American either, and it seems as if she is at peace with that. Ashima at the end of the novel does not belong to any fixed boundary – and true to her name, which means one who is limitless and without borders, she is a resident both of India and America.

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Works cited: Agarwal, Malti, ed. 2007. New Perspectives on Indian English. New Delhi: Atlantic. Kapur, Manju. 2008. The Immigrant. New Delhi: Random House. Lahiri, Jhumpa. 2003. The Namesake. London: Harper Collins.


“There are so many stories to tell, too many, such an excess of the intertwined lives events miracles places rumours, so dense a commingling of the improbable and the mundane! I have been a swallower of lives; and to know me, just the one of me, you’ll have to swallow the lot as well. Consumed multitudes are jostling and shoving inside me…” These lines from the opening page of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children appear just about 20 lines after the opening line of the book “I was born in the city of Bombay…once upon a time.” (Rushdie 1981, 11). This colossal jump from the personal to the public, the singular to the many, lends in more ways than one an unassailable “Facebook” quality to the epic story of Saleem Sinai, the single and yet not single protagonist of the book. Also, consider this. Firstly, Saleem Sinai is friends with the midnight’s children who too, like him, experience what we may call “midnight complex”, a strange psychological frame of mind borne from being forever “handcuffed to history”. Secondly, the fact that each one of the children is born with special powers makes for superhuman profile pictures: one user posts a picture of himself walking through mirrors, another, a dual picture of himself/herself – as a boy and as a girl and so on. Thirdly, having been gifted with the magical

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powers of telepathy, the children literally “login” and “chat” with each other every night and “share” events and pictures and once in a while “update” their status. Users here send “Friend Requests” that one could “Accept” or “Decline”. And yes, one can also effectively “Block” users from accessing their accounts, like Saleem does to keep Shiva from knowing about his true identity! In this paper, I attempt to construct a Facebook account for Saleem Sinai, from the events described in the pages of Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie’s expansive Postcolonial epic. This may quite often call for use of text, image and language in a way that matches the Facebook genre. The paper itself, wherever required, is designed to read like Facebook pages. Not a very long time ago when we said we were not doing anything, we meant we were really not doing anything of significance. Today, when we are not doing anything, we are feasting on the fruits of globalization: we are social networking! And that is certainly an act of great importance because it feeds back into the process of globalization. Quite recently, the entire world witnessed an interesting and concrete demonstration of this: even as PM Narendra Modi was attempting to “network” with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at the company’s head office in California, USA on his second visit there as Prime Minister to expand the Digital India initiative last September, Zuckerberg himself was reaching out symbolically by adding the colours of the Indian flag to his profile picture on Facebook; and within hours thousands of Indians across the globe had added the digital flag to their own profile pictures. As I watched Zuckerberg’s India-coloured picture unfold on my television set on that late summer evening when “clock hands” were almost beginning to “join palms,” I was struck by the familiarity of it all: Saleem Sinai’s arrival at the stroke of midnight into a green and saffron world, the colours of Independent India. And then came the bewildering thought: what if Saleem Sinai had a Facebook account?! So I decided to go back to the place where it all began: Facebook. I googled the word and within forty-one seconds the search engine returned a staggering 17,24,00,00,000 results! I didn’t wait to read the number right! I hurriedly typed in a few other words, one after the other, that I expected to beat the Facebook results. But believe it or not none of them came anywhere close;

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even “god” for that matter was left miles behind! Itching to know the reasons behind this unfathomable popularity of Facebook, I headed to the other most popular site on the internet today, Wikipedia. The opening paragraph read “Facebook is an online social networking service headquartered in Menlo Park, California. Its website was launched on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg with his Harvard College roommates and fellow students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes,” and went on to provide details of its inception and early years. (Wikipedia) The next paragraph provided details about its make-up: “After registering to use the site, users can create a_‘user profile’, add other users as_‘friends’, exchange messages, post status updates and photos, share videos and receive notifications when others update their profiles. Additionally, users may join common-interest user groups, organized by workplace, school or college, or other characteristics, and categorize their friends into lists such as ‘People from Work’ or ‘Close Friends’.” Also, “Facebook enables users to choose their own privacy settings and choose who can see specific parts of their profile…. Users can control who sees other information they have shared, as well as who can find them in searches, through their privacy settings.” (Wikipedia). That Salman Rushdie’s narrative framework in Midnight’s Children matches so much with the template described above must not be mistaken for coincidence. It is the work of a genius who understands that at the heart of postcolonial reconciliation is a hybrid collage of “intertwined lives events miracles places rumours … [a] dense commingling of the probable and the mundane!” (Rushdie 1981, 11). For Rushdie, any attempt at postcolonial repair and regeneration must presuppose the existence of fragmentation – physical and ontological. “That is why” he points out in Imaginary Homelands, “the narrative constantly throws up new stories, why it ‘teems’.” (Rushdie 1992, 16). These “stories”, these postcolonial fragmentations, diverse and distant – in time as well as space – can make no meaning if they continue to remain scattered and disjointed. If they are to “end up meaning – yes, meaning – something,” they must “[leak] into each other…like flavours when you cook.”(Rushdie 1981, 39). They must come together like “consumed multitudes” (1981, 11). Much like pieces of a “puzzle.”

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The therapeutic value of Facebook for Saleem would come from the possibilities it creates to piece the puzzle together, to repair discordances, sew up the fragmentations, seamlessly; leaving no sign of “fissures” whatsoever. So then, dhan te nan… (as they croon dramatically in Bollywood to the unveiling of the opening scene) welcome to Saleem Sinai’s Facebook account, complete with postcolonial interjections: a long shot taken through a window of huge ecstatic crowds covered in green and saffron lights streaming down from fireworks high under the midnight sky and his name Saleem Sinai in a mix of green, white and saffron with a puzzling ‘?’ after it makes for his Cover Photo. In the smaller inset box sits Saleem’s Profile Photo, a comparatively somber picture, of him as an oversized naked just-born baby-boy, with a cucumbernose, and both hands graphically handcuffed to a map of pre-Partition India! The About box reads ‘Date of Birth August 15, 1947, on the stroke of midnight; Lives in Bombay, India, Also lived in Pakistan Hide!, Bangladesh Hide!; Nationality Indian; Ethnicity Muslim by upbringing, Anglo-Indian by birth Hide!); Nicknames Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy, Sniffer, Buddha & Pieceof-Moon, Works at Mrs Braganza Pickle Factory. Relationship Married. One son, who is not his son! Timeline Friends with Midnight’s Children for 21 years (with intermittent breaks), Last with Parvati-the-Witch, 2 years ago!’ Srinagar 1915. Not surprisingly, the first post on Saleem’s Timeline is a puzzle in itself: an image of “a large white bed sheet with a roughly circular hole some seven inches in diameter cut into the centre” fit to frame and captioned “my talisman, my open-sesame” (Rushdie 1981, 11). Saleem can give birth to himself only if he can unravel this puzzle of “The Perforated Sheet,” the first clue that Rushdie offers the reader in his book. To do this Saleem travels some thirty two years into the past to the year 1915 when his grandfather Adam Aziz, the German returned doctor in Srinagar, having treated Naseem Ghani through a perforated sheet is posed with the challenge of piecing her various parts together, and making for himself “a badly-fitted collage of her severally-inspected parts” (26). The resolution of this ‘human puzzle’ leads to Dr Aziz making Naseem Ghani his wife and consequently Saleem’s prospective grandmother. Thus, this post of the “partitioned woman”

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rightly marks the beginning of Saleem’s “clock-ridden, crime-stained, puzzleridden, birth (12, italics mine). Amritsar 1919. This time it’s a cartoon; equally hilarious if not more! Brigadier Dyer’s troops are shooting into the protesting crowds at the Jallianwala Bagh and in the middle of it is a caricature of Dr Aziz falling forward to the ground with a full-on sneeze in his face and a bullet speeding above him, missing him! “Yaaaak-thoooo!” reads a bubble above him with its tail pointing towards his face! But Saleem’s consort Padma, Rushdie’s surrogate reader is certainly not amused. In fact, she is irked by the unrelated post that does not “fit” into her “universe of what-happened-next: ‘At this rate,’ Padma complains, ‘you’ll be two hundred years old before you manage to tell about your birth.’” (1981, 39). She can’t wait to get to the end of the puzzle of who fathers Saleem, even as Saleem conjures up a new father every once in a while. January 1947. A pregnant Begum Amina Sinai, dark-skinned in a white saree is standing in a small dingy room on a slum rooftop, housing a snakecharmer, mongoose-dancer, bone-setter, peepshow-wallah and Shri Ramram Seth, the seer, who, perched in mid-air six inches above the ground and grotesquely silhouetted by the light from a lantern, is prophesying the birth of Saleem; all in an incomprehensible poetic puzzle: “A son…such a son!…A son, Sahiba, who will never be older than his motherland – neither older nor younger….There will be two heads – but you shall see only one – there will be knees and a nose, a nose and knees….Newspaper praises him, two mothers raise him! Bicyclists love him – but, crowds will shove him! Sisters will weep; cobra will creep….Washing will hide him – voices will guide him! Friends mutilate him – blood will betray him! … Spittoons will brain him – doctors will drain him – jungle will claim him – wizards reclaim him! Soldiers will try him – tyrants will fry him….He will have sons without having sons! He will be old before he is old! And he will die…before he is dead.” (1981, 87). This is just a “trailer” of Rushdie’s art of puzzle making; in the hundreds of pages that follow, his treatment of the plot transforms the book itself into one big “postcolonial puzzle” that must be “solved” before it can mean anything.

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At any given time a piece in a puzzle can acquire meaning, can be of any value, only if it can “live” in that space between multiple oppositions. Rushdie provides a good analogy of it in his book Imaginary Homelands wherein he invokes Raj Kapoor’s famous song Mera Joota Hai Japani: “O, my shoes are Japanese/ These trousers English, if you please/ On my head, red Russian hat – / My heart’s Indian for all that” (1992, 11). And likens it to the spirit of Midnight’s Children. Almost Midnight. August 15, 1947. There are two parts to this post. So let us split the screen vertically. On the left Mr Jawaharlal Nehru is making his first (and last) “midnight” speech ever, “Long time ago we made a tryst with destiny….” And soon, “A flag unfurls: it is saffron, white and green.” (1981, 116). That the colours here are meant to be pieces of a puzzle comes home to the reader a few lines later. Here, through the post on the right. It reads, “On the ankle of a ten-chip whopper with eyes as blue as Kashmiri sky – which was also eyes as blue as Methwold’s – and a nose as dramatic as a Kashmiri grandfather’s – which was also the nose of a grandmother from France – [Miss Mary Periera] placed his name: Sinai.” (1981, 115) Caption: “The two, synchronous midnight births.” (1981, 115). Consider the several pieces that must merge in the post here for the narrative to be able to give birth to India and to Saleem Sinai, in one go! And hey, what’s this?! Padma has posted a video of herself on Saleem’s timeline: A full-bodied Padma is screaming angrily into the camera: “All the time…you tricked me. My mother, you called her, your father, your grandfather, your aunts, What things are you that you don’t even care to tell the truth about who your parents were? You don’t care that your mother died giving you life? That your father is maybe still alive somewhere, penniless, poor? You are a monster or what? (1981, 117) Saleem has commented on Padma’s post “No, I’m no monster. Nor have I been guilty of trickery. I provided clues….” (1981, 117, emphasis added) Pay attention to Rushdie’s use of the word “clues” here. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “clue” as “something that helps a person find something, understand something, or solve a mystery or puzzle” (“Clue”).

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Mr Methwold. Close-ups in two windows. Before. “So now, without more ado, I present him to you, complete with centre-parting in his hair…a sixfoot Titan, this Methwold, his face the pink of roses and eternal youth. He had a head of thick black brilliantined hair, parting in the centre.” (1981, 95, emphasis added). After. “[I]n the moment after the disappearance of the sun Mr Methwold stood in the afterglow of his Estate with his hairpiece in his hand” (1981, 113, emphasis added). The clues keep coming at the reader from left right and centre. To miss one is to miss the train. Rushdie’s “clues” come in many forms and work at various levels. Quite often he stitches words and pictures together to create a style that is quite Facebook-like. For instance, the juxtaposition of Jawaharlal Nehru’s letter to little Saleem with a picture of the boy inside a photo-frame allows him to bring the narrative strands together, the personal and the public, that is so crucial to solve, understand Rushdie’s “midnight puzzle”: “Dear Baby Saleem, My belated congratulations on the happy accident of your moment of birth! You are the newest bearer of that ancient India which is also eternally young. We shall be watching over your life with the closest attention; it will be, in a sense, the mirror of our own” (1981, 122). Enter the pickle-jar! Even as we click the Page Down button a glass picklejar begins to appear on the screen: “[A] rubber diapraghm stretche[s] over its tin lid and [is] held in place by a twisted rubber band.” Inside the bottle is “a quantity of brine water in which floating gently [hangs] an umbilical cord.” Saleem is clueless: “But is it mine or the Other’s?” (1981, 123). Look! Little Saleem has posted a selfie! Clues. Clues. Clues. And clues. He has a face like the moon, large and perfectly rounded, but is a little small for his visage. He is fair skinned but his two dark birthmarks, one, going down his left hairline and two, a dark blotch on his right ear makes him look out of shape. His icy sky-blue eyes, bulbous temples sticking out of the head and an extraordinarily large cucumber-nose complete his disfigurement (123-24). Earlier we zoomed past carpets, silver spittoons, cycles, monkeys, slums, vultures, half-eaten hands, Ravana-masks, bioscopes, and now it will be snakes, ladders, languages in the streets, voices in the head.

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Saleem’s Tenth Birthday. 1957. Sends Friend Request to the surviving 581 children, including Shiva, his midnight-twin. 581 Clicks. 581 Accepts. A Kerala boy stepping into mirrors; a Goan girl multiplying fish, a werewolf from the Nilgiri Hills, a Kashmiri “boy-girl,” a metal eater, a flying girl, a time traveller and…. A thousand and one midnight’s gifts. Parvati-the-Witch. Later Layla. Saleem is especially drawn to Parvatithe-Witch, the midnight child who had received the finest gifts of magic and sorcery. Her post shows her standing “amid gasping crowds while her father drove spikes through her neck” (1981, 196). Knees. From the nose and knees. Shiva, Saleem’s “other” head from the prophecy. Shiva’s post has a warrior-picture of himself surrounded by smaller pictures of Rama (drawing the bow), Arjuna, Bhima, Kurus and Pandavas. Welcome to the Midnight’s Children Club. MCC. Saleem posts them a picture of himself as the mighty Ravana, with a thousand and one heads! But soon must Block Shiva from entering his head! And thank heavens, Facebook and most social network providers today recognize and value the need for such secret hideouts. Rushing past posts of fisherman’s fingers, pointing fingers, broken fingers, drained sinuses, suicides, deaths, murders, and blocked profiles… Pakistan. 1965. CUTIA. Saleem. The Sniffer dog. Bangladesh. 1971. Saleem. The Buddha. Delhi 1975. Emergency. Aadam. Voiceless. Elephant ears. 420. Thieves. Prison walls. Impotents. 1977. Aadam again. Abracadabra. The empty pickle-jar. Spermatozoa. Truly, as Rushdie writes, “Reality can have metaphorical content; that does not make it less real. A thousand and one children were born; there were a thousand and one possibilities which had never been present in one place at one time before” (1981, 197, emphasis added). Like pieces of a puzzle.

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Works cited: Clue. Rushdie, Salman. 1981. Midnight’s Children. New York: Alfred Knopf. —. 1992. Imaginary Homelands. London: Granta. Wikipedia.


The structure of the public sphere in Afghanistan, due to the internal political development, is affected by social and cultural conventions that constrain the freedom of women, and perpetrate on them a sort of institutional subjection. Afghan women have limited freedom, and are forced to follow norms and traditions that dictate an acquiescent and submissive status for women. The repression and suppression of women is manifested in all spheres of life, be it the familial, political, social, and/or legal systems. Such discrimination against women is deep-rooted in Afghan culture, customs, attitudes, and practices. Women’s lives have been incessantly marred by a succession of brutal regimes one after the other, as well as religion, patriarchal domination and other sociocultural barriers. Women are also targeted by the violence of armed struggle. Since the outbreak of long destructive armed conflict in 1978, distinct phases of the war have been characterized by a profound social impact on the future of women, and are particularly threatening to the identity and autonomy of women. Apart from incidents that contributed to the deterioration of Afghan quality of life such as the aerial bombardments during the Soviet period which generated large-scale population movements and the Mujahedeen period which was marked by ferocious, internecine warfare that scarred all aspects of Afghan life, women’s rights have been devastated by extra-judicial executions,

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torture, rape, disappearances, displacement, forced marriage, trafficking, and abduction. It was only after the 9/11 that women in Afghanistan, owing to the western media, became a source of interest to the international community, which began to feel obliged to save them from the atrocities of the Taliban. The intervention of external powers from non-Islamic countries has given rise to a sudden mushrooming of documentaries, movies, novels and articles portraying the hitherto unfocussed plight of the Afghan women in the last thirty years of the troubled history of Afghanistan. It is exactly this that Khaled Hosseini and Siba Shakib pen in their fictional narratives. Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns and Shakib’s Afghanistan Where God Only Comes to Weep attempt to portray the existential crisis experienced by women in a war-torn country where they are used as pawns in the game of power-politics. They not only portray the replacement of one brutal regime by another that subjugates women by depriving them of their basic rights, but the patriarchal tradition and religious oppression as well which play an important role in making the lives of these women miserable. I focus on these novels to explore the woman’s question, especially from the time of the Soviet invasion until the fall of the Taliban. These three decades of conflict, pregnant with associated lawlessness, insecurity, and weak governance, have had a significant impact on the status and situation of women in Afghanistan. In addition, I investigate the oppression of women in the private and domestic spheres under the domination of patriarchal traditions, where women have for centuries been viewed as inferior, as objects of pleasure and as child-bearing machines.

Political Expression: The Status of Women In Afghanistan, woman’s body or the idea of women has played a significant role in determining the country’s politics, and in justifying political power in a society governed by “the power struggles between contending political factions that use women’s rights as a litmus test of Islamic legitimacy” (cited in Kandiyoti 1991:32). The ruling regime’s policies and prescribed life-style for women have been merged with religion and tradition throughout the twentieth

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century, though there are exceptions where the rulers tried to follow western modality to bring women out of the restricted life. Whenever rulers in the past wanted to give liberty and equality to women and tried to disregard ageold Afghan traditions, they suffered severe criticism and resistance from the masses and were overthrown, and a new regime replaced the earlier one. The alteration of political structures causes a disintegration of previous patterns of living and imposes a new social transformation, fortunate or unfortunate, on women. In this context, Zulfacar writes: In the 1920s women appeared in French style attire on the streets. In the 1930s, women were prohibited to appear unveiled. In the 1950s, to appear unveiled became a choice and the education was co-ed. In the 1960s and 1970s, some women worked with men, drove cars and sported miniskirts. In the 1980s, some women danced in clubs, some worked in factories and the dowry was outlawed. In the 1990s women were forced to take refuge in the veil from rival ethnic attacks … in the late 1990s, the Taliban outlawed the public appearance of women and prohibited them from participation in every aspect of public life. (Zulfacar 2005:27)

This description affirms that in the twentieth century, the state in Afghanistan, whether under monarchy, presidency or communism, made significant attempts to modernize conditions, and in consequence faced resistance which created political turmoil that overthrew them or forced acollapse. In the process, women have been used and abused by various regimes. In what follows, I shall explore in detail the oppression of women living against the backdrop of a multitude of traditions, ethnicities, tribal allegiances, and rural/tribal regions in the novels selected for study. Hosseini and Shakib’s portrayal of Afghan women under the Soviet regime is that of a life of repression and suppression by male compatriots and Russian invaders. Their novels reveal a kind of humiliation similar to the cultural entropy of Igbo society as represented in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and depict a state of chaos. In traditional Afghan society, the patterns of women’s lives were largely determined by a combination of cultural mores and religious practices regarded appropriate by men. Though there are differences between the cultural and local customs and traditions from one tribe to another,

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and one region to another, women’s subordination is a common feature in all parts of the country. The suppression of women is used as a political instrument to achieve a particular aim or agenda. To the locals, it works as a resistance to Western encroachment on the life and culture of traditional Afghan society as well as the demolition of Islamic religious practices, and to Westerners or Russians it functions as part of their strategy of promulgating Marxist imperialism in the country under the rubric of transforming the oriental image of the Afghan women. Under the nomenclature of modernity and freedom for women, the Russians try to infiltrate and penetrate deep into the psyche of the Afghan people by putting forward their own ideology without being sensitive to the traditional Afghan ways of life. The Russians opened doors for women to education, their participation in public ceremonies, and job opportunities. Educated people like Babi find the communist regime an advocate of women’s freedom, especially in the matter of education. He tells Laila: Women have always had it hard in this country, Laila but they’re probably more free now, under the communists, and have more rights than they’ve ever had before…it’s a good time to be a woman in Afghanistan. And you can take advantage of that, Laila. Of course, women’s freedom…is one of the reasons people out there took up arms in the first place. (Hosseini 2008:133)

He makes it clear that the fight against the Russians is to keep women backward and illiterate. He further tells Laila that he is not talking about the women of Kabul who had always been relatively liberal and progressive…taught at university, ran schools, held office in the government” but those in “the tribal areas, especially the Pashtun regions in the south or in the east near Pakistan border, where women were rarely seen on the streets and only then in burqa and accompanied by men…those regions where men lived by tribal laws. (133)

Contrary to Laila’s opinion, women like Laila’s mother have nothing to do with the freedom of women and abhor the communist regime as it had swallowed their sons in the war. There is another community, the Pashtun people, who are supporters of women’s freedom and pride – people who,

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like Baba in the novel The Kite Runner, hate the Russian regime as it had demolished their traditional culture. Veiling, which is connected to the oriental image of women in the West, has been banned, scorned or otherwise used as a decoy for the justification of the intervention of the West to rescue Muslim women. In this context, Cherie Blair, wife of Tony Blair, opines that “nothing more symbolizes the oppression of women than the burqa, which is a very visible sign of the role of women in Afghanistan” (“PM’s wife says burqa is a ‘symbol of oppression’”). In the same manner, the Russians justify their invasion in 1978 of Afghanistan by removing the “veil of terror” from the Afghan women’s body. Thus, the burqa has become a pervasive symbol of the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban and within certain segments of Muslim society. Hosseini examines the complexities of wearing burqa within Muslim culture, and in particular, in Afghanistan. Rashid dictates that Mariam wear a full length burqa long before the Mujahideen or the Taliban impose it. Though, in the beginning Mariam feels uncomfortable with it, later she feels protected as “[i]nside it, she was an observer, buffered from the scrutinizing eyes of strangers” (66). Thus, for Afghan people like the middle class Rashid and Shirin-Gol’s parents, the burqa operates as a tangible symbol of the emotionally powerful traditional ideas of the proper relation between women and men, and also refers to a set of religious ideas regarding the significance of exemplary feminine behaviour. Shirin-Gol’s mother compares the unveiling to nakedness of the body and for her the veil is a part of the body. For a woman like her, The veil is a liberating, not an oppressive, force. They maintain that the veil enables them to become the observers and not the observed; that it liberates them from the dictates of the fashion industry and the demands of the beauty myth. In the context of the patriarchal structures that shape women’s lives the veil is a means of bypassing sexual harassment and ‘gaining respect.’ (Afshar 1996:124)

The Russian efforts to unveil Afghan women meet with the same amount of resistance from native women as does the imposition of veil under the Taliban regime. The resistance comes not only from Afghan men but also from

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the Afghan women, who feel deeply attached to their rich past. It disturbs the normal life of people in the country, and in order to save the honour of their family and society, the common Afghan men join the resistance and become insurgents against the external Soviet law. Shirin-Gol’s father in the novel Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep tells his sons: In the past the English occupied our country and decided our fates, now it is the turn of the Russians. In the past the English dishonored and sullied our country and our religion, took away our power and responsibility for ourselves, robbed us of our freedom and polluted the soil of our homeland, now it is the Russians. We have no other way, it is time for us, too, to join the Mujahedin, go to war against the Russians, and, if it has to be, fight them to the last drop of our blood. To the last drop. (2002:12)

When men go to war against the Russians, life becomes miserable for the women and the children. They are left with no other alternative but to sell their bodies for money to buy food and satisfy their basic needs, and cannot but wail over the dead bodies of martyrs in the war against the Russians. The women also participate actively and passively in the war against Russians by killing themselves out of fear of being raped and/or by slaughtering the Russian soldiers. In the name of honour, the men also “would kill their wives or daughters if they’d been raped by the militia” (Hosseini 2008:247). The description of the life of the Afghan women under the Soviet regime as portrayed in the novels elicits contradictory responses from the Afghan women themselves. The lady teacher Shanzai who teaches Laila at school has a positive opinion about the Russians. In her opinion, the Soviet nation was the best nation in the world, along with Afghanistan. It was kind to its workers, and its people were all equal. Everyone in the Soviet Union was happy and friendly… And everyone in Afghanistan would be happy too…once the anti-progressives, the backward bandits, were defeated. (111)

For some women like Dr. Azadine, it provided greater opportunities for education, training, and employment. For others, like Laila, Mariam and Shirin-Gol, it brought destruction of their homes through bombs and rockets,

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and the death of their close ones; for Laila it left no option but to get married to the aged Rashid. For some women, it brought a life of mental disorder and hallucination due to the death of their close ones. For many, it meant an exile to the oppressive existence of a refugee camp. After the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, the change becomes uniform. Heavily armed and funded Mujahedeen groups indulged in clashes with each other for the control of the country and imposed fundamentalist restrictions on women as an extension of their control. Security for women became nonexistent, as their homes were invaded and their bodies used as rewards for victorious soldiers.

The Prospects of Women and the Politics of Civil War In the wake of civil war in the country, life becomes much more miserable for women. Both the repressive and ideological state apparatuses act with political motives to exert control over public institutions and territory. In this process women become easy targets of attack, being dragged into sexual slavery and rape, which is a form of torture, either by the state or the forces of resistance, or by both. In “Postscript,” the epilogue to A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini says that in the war-torn chaotic world of Afghanistan, women “were abducted and sold as slaves, forced into marriage to militia commanders, forced into prostitution, and raped, a crime particularly heinous and unforgivable that was used to intimidate families who were opposed to one faction or another” (411). Rape is not only torture but it spreads terror as well. In addition to disgracing women, Afghan society as a whole feels shaken, humiliated, and powerless as they cannot protect their women. Povey observes that women suffered more during the civil war than while under the Taliban rule. ShirinGol says that her family is not leading a satisfactory life “with war, with mines, with hunger and everything else,” and owing to this she along with her family leads a life of wanderers in search of peace and a stable home from Pakistan to Iran. Shirin-Gol’s mother in the novel Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep and Laila’s mother in A Thousand Splendid Suns both experience “mental disorder” on account of the deaths of their sons in their fight against the Russians. It is also because of the civil war and bombardment that Laila loses

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everything and accepts Rashid as her husband. The kind of assaults against women in public or open places by the Russians, the State and the rebels force them to stay at home. That is why Laila and Mariam, in spite of all the injustices clamped down upon them by Rashid, do not dare leave their house. When they find an opportunity to escape from him, they do run away, but they are troubled, tortured and brought back by the policemen. Women become the victims of double oppression, first, at the hands of their own men for not obeying their whims and attempting to follow the western standards of life, seeking education and dignified living; and second, as targets of Russians for not following the latter’s policy of westernization. In Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep, a Russian lady comes now and then at Shirin-Gol’s home to make sure that she with her twins is going to school; with such initiatives Shirin-Gol’s husband gets irritated and he intimidates her when he comes to know about his wife’s orientation towards education. During the continuous migrations from one place to another, women suffer the most on account of displacement from their birthplace, uprooted, suffering fatigue and shell shock, and having to depend on begging for food, money, etc. They are required to wear thick purdah in order to avoid the gaze of men, and follow rules made by conservative tribal leaders and mullahs who control the camp. The urban and educated women find themselves and their activities severely restricted. Those who try to continue enjoying social and cultural freedom to which they are accustomed are ridiculed often and threatened by the men. For rural women, camp life has separated them from their extended families. Since women live in close contact with strangers in the camps, the men insist that they remained behind the walls of their home. The refugee women lead a strange life, which is far from the familiar. In traditional Afghan society, women are not permitted to take part in any activities except those that happen within the inner world of home and family, and for this reason, not only is Shirin-Gol threatened by the mullah and other men in a refugee camp when they come to know about her teaching the boys and girls in the camp, but also her husband Morad, who is warned

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to keep an eye on his wife’s ‘immoral’ behaviour, which for them is a sin. In addition to the crucial crisis in the camp, women are not provided ration and other basic amenities unless they make the ration-owners happy by fulfilling their physical appetite. Life is neither healthy nor safe for Afghan people in the refugee camp, especially women. Fielden observes how the fate of thousands of Afghan refugees was determined by god-like ration-maliks who imposed rules for their own advantage. He writes: The refugees, who were settled in the federally Pakistan’s tribal area, were also able to activate shared codes of traditions of hospitality (melmastia) and refuge (nanawatai) as a traditional norm in tribal customary law, Pakhunwali. The way local tradition interlinked with rules of transactions in the large-scale fields of refuge relief also created room for transforming depersonalized code of conduct in the large-scale bureaucratic relief administration into a personalized patron-client network. The scope to do this was created by rules stating that only individuals who could produce a certificate “duly signed and attested by a representative of one of the recognized political parties for afghan refugees,” would be provided with a ration card. (“The Geopolitics of Aid: 17)

Shirin-Gol struggles for food during her sojourn in a refugee camp in Pakistan, and when it becomes impossible to her—on account of her husband’s accident—to produce a ration-card she submits to “the kind smuggler” for food and money. Apart from such undemocratic conditions, she becomes the victim of rape and is thrown on the road in an unconscious condition by the policemen. After that incident Shirin–Gol consoles herself with the thought that she is not the only oppressed one, but there are thousands of women who are abused in a lawless world. In Iran, Shirin-Gol and her family get a warm reception in the beginning but after some time they become the target of Iranian people’s atrocities. She is attacked by Iranian boys with stones, and while trying to save her, her son is severely injured. The relief camps that assure them of providing a life of insouciance actually prove to be an illusion and instead increase their miseries. In these

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camps, parents become preoccupied with their own psychological stress and sadness and pay less and less attention to their children. Due to lack of sufficient care and attention, children become crazy, isolated, self-centred and introverts. Shirin-Gol’s eldest son does not obey his mother’s advice to return to Afghanistan and he continues to stay in Iran.

Women’s Plight in the Taliban Regime The Taliban, which means “a group of religious students,” a totalitarian regime, positioned itself in Afghanistan as a “Big Brother,” to use George Orwell’s phrase from the novel 1984. As in Orwell’s novel, in which Big Brother keeps an eye on everyone’s actions, the Taliban restricted people’s lifestyle and manners in the country. Under the rubric of revitalization, this group tried to keep people away from amoral behaviour that supposedly originates in modernization. It imposed a set-pattern of life for everyone in the country based on a particular Quranic interpretation. Zulfacar gives a very vivid description of the situation: Under the Taliban brand of Islamic rule, girls’ schools were closed; women were banned from public employment and prohibited from being seen by male physicians. They could only appear in the company of a close male relative. Even then, they were required to wear a burqa, a body-length covering with only a mesh opening to see and breathe through. They were not even permitted to wear a white-colored burqa, socks, or shoes, as white was designated colour of the Taliban flag. Women were not permitted to wear shoes that make noise, to laugh in public, or shop alone. In general, women were not to be seen or heard in public in order for men to avoid any form of evil temptation. (Zulfacar 2005: 44)

Hence, for women, life during the Taliban rule was full of atrocities as they were destined to confine themselves to the four walls of their homes, which culminated in ‘no autonomy and no status’ for women. Both novelists depict the degraded condition of women through the submissive, helpless and strait-jacketed women in the country, who are robbed of their basic rights. Khalid Hosseini in A Thousand Splendid Suns shows that women in Afghanistan not only suffer through bombings and indiscriminate

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shelling of civilian areas like everyone else and beaten, tortured, humiliated and imprisoned with their fundamental human rights violated over and over, but they also suffer from gender-based abuse. When the Taliban takes over the country, life for both the female protagonists becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Mariam and Laila have each been leading the life of a ‘pet cat’ under the rules made by their husband Rashid, a typical middle-class Afghani, but with the rise of the Taliban their life becomes “doubly colonized” as the Taliban gives official approval to Rashid’s conservative mentality. The Taliban discloses its policy for women in this manner: Attention women: You will stay inside your homes at all times. It is not proper for women to wander aimlessly about the streets. If you go outside, you must be accompanied by a mahram, a male relative. If you are caught alone on the street, you will be beaten and sent home. You will not, under any circumstances, show your face. You will cover with burqa when outside. If you do not, you Will be severely beaten. Cosmetics are forbidden. Jewellery is forbidden. You will not wear charming clothes. You will not speak unless spoken to. You will not make eye contact with men. You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten. You will not paint your nails. If you do, you will lose a finger. Girls are forbidden from attending school. All schools for girls will be closed immediately. Women are forbidden from working. If you are found guilty of adultery, you will be stoned to death. (270-271, italics in the original)

Thus, with the imposition of so many rules, women’s existence comes under question. In every sphere of life she faces restrictions, and is represented as a creature that needs instructions as to how to behave in a particular situation. Patriarchal society justifies the action of men with reference to the ideas of Koran:

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In Abrahamic tradition, God is male and created the female after his own image, sanctioning women to submit to men and obey their orders and leadership because men are considered superior to women. In Islamic traditions men are not only required to support women but are also responsible for disciplining them. (Emadi 2002:30)

A woman’s life under the Taliban rule is like that of Imtiaz Dharker’s protagonist in Postcards from God who, suffering under the weight of patriarchy, feels, …I’m nothing but a space, That someone has to fill.

The same is the condition of the Afghan woman in the Taliban era, where she finds herself deserted in a dystopia where she has no one to rescue her from continual oppression. Women, under stringent rules made by Taliban, are forced to suffer from a “dependency complex”. This is made explicit in the condition that they are not allowed to go to public places without a close male relative(s). In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Laila, after putting her daughter in an orphanage, has to suppress her motherly feelings because she cannot go out without a male chaperon and her husband is not interested in his daughter. One day, as she returns from the orphanage after meeting her daughter, she is interrogated in a very rude and sarcastic way by a Taliban official— “What is your name? Where are you going? Why are you alone? Where is your maharam?”(313). Her action of stepping out to meet her daughter is regarded as breaking the cultural rules, and infuriates the men who give her an inhuman beating. Under the Taliban regime, women are pushed into confinement. Arundhati Roy presents a realistic account of Taliban’s brutality in her essay, “War Is Peace”: Young boys—many of them orphans—who grew up in those times, had guns for toys, never knew the security and comfort of family life, never experienced the company of women. Now, as adults and rulers, the Taliban beat, stone, rape, and brutalize women; they don’t seem to know what else to do with them. Years of war have stripped them of gentleness, inured them to kindness and human compassion. They dance to the percussive rhythms of bombs raining down around them. Now they’ve turned their monstrosity on their own people. (246)

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In traditional Afghan society, women suffer most so far as their health is concerned. It becomes a source of misery for women as they are not allowed to be seen by male doctors. Due to the lack of the availability of a lady doctor in the hospital, Laila finds herself helpless and suffers from severe labour pains. The issue of care for women’s health is apparent in both the novels. A clear picture is presented in A Thousand Splendid Suns and Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep and to a lesser extent in the novels, The Kite Runner and Samira and Samir. In The Kite Runner, Amir’s mother dies during childbirth despite having sufficient money to be spent on proper treatment. This shows the non-availability of adequate health care for women even in a city in relatively prosperous times in Kabul before the Soviet Invasion. Laila in A Thousand Splendid Suns faces this problem while giving birth to her son. There is only one hospital that serves all women in Kabul, and the other hospitals which are nearby lack basic amenities, staff and medicines. Such hideous conditions of health care are portrayed by Siba Shakib, in whose novel ShirinGol helps Abina (a minor girl in the mountain) in her delivery using traditional and painful methods. Not only this, the Taliban official stops Azadine (the only doctor in the area) from giving treatment to women. About the falling standard of health facilities for women, Deoborah Ellis in her book Women of Afghan War says: The war and the chaos that comes with it has crippled the health-care delivery system…Women who are trained and could be of use are largely forced to remain at home. Although some women are permitted to provide health care for other women, the hospitals and clinics set aside for female patients are few and ill equipped. (97)

Hafizullah Emadi also in her Repression, Resistance and Women in Afghanistan supports her view and gives her opinion in the same tone: Gender ideology has greatly affected the status of women’s health. There are a limited number of health centres in the capital of every province, and women are generally neglected by their husbands and excluded from health care… Even in cases of emergency, medical treatment is conducted in absentia when the medical doctor is a man and the patient is a woman. (47)

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Apart from this, when Laila and Mariam try to escape to Pakistan from the tyranny of their husband Rashid, they are captured by the Taliban officials on grounds of the absence of a male chaperon and are brought back to Rashid, and pay the penalty. A similar incident occurs in the novel, The Kite Runner, where Hassan’s wife Farzana is beaten up by a Taliban official for speaking loudly in a country where ‘the ministry of vice and virtue does not allow women to speak loudly’ (190). The development of family law in Afghanistan does not respect women’s rights: Fear of punishment under Taliban edicts prevented tens of thousands of women from seeking education and employment or leaving home without a close male relative, effectively making them prisoners in their homes on account of their gender. Many of those accused of defying the edicts were taken to detention centres where they were humiliated or beaten by officials of the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. (“The Darkest of Ages: Afghan Women under the Taliban Peace and Conflict”: 237)

Shakib explores the atrocities faced by women from the time of the Russian invasion to the Taliban conflict, and as Shirin-Gol says: Women in Afghanistan have never had much. But since the Russians came to our country, since the Mujahedin have been fighting their wars, since the Taliban seized power in parts of the country, women have lost even their last rights and their last freedom. They have lost everything. Their honour, their dignity, their knowledge. (125)

The Talibani officials forbid Azadine, a lady doctor to go outside to provide treatment to women patients but she is allowed to give treatment to those “women who come to her accompanied by a maharam” (159). The only option for widows and unemployed women is to resort to prostitution or die on the road. The Taliban’s ban on women’s employment does not even fulfil its primary goal of “saving the honour” of society by ostracizing them from participating in public affairs. Contrarily, and against the Taliban’s religious traditions, the helpless women in the country become the literal “Madona-whores”. Shirin– Gol, in spite of being a literate woman, is forced to sell her body to “the kind

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smuggler” to fulfil the basic needs of her family after her husband’s accidental death. Her only consolation is that in a difficult time like this “…she is not alone with her shame” and there are markets where women “are offered and sold like cattle” (92). Although the Taliban, a Sunni Islamist Movement is known for its apparently strict adherence to Islamic law and decree along with severe and public punishment for crimes such as adultery and murder, its soldiers force people to give their daughters to them under the conviction that “… the Talib is a believer and an influential, powerful man”. Thus under the facade of power and security, the Taliban officials have people send them their daughters against their will, to please them, and the girls do not resist because they know nothing about the outside world. The female protagonists in the novels feel marooned in a dystopia under the Taliban regime like the portrayal of future women as wives, servants (Marthas), and breeders (handmaids) in Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Both novelists under consideration thus show that in Afghanistan, patriarchal oppression is the legacy passed on to women by the Soviet invasion, and the subjection of women reaches its lowest point during the Taliban regime. The Taliban’s policy to safeguard its position is twofold—by creating common consensus under the taxonomy of shielding religious traditions and by using force and promulgating terror among masses. Hence, the Taliban’s mode of oppression can be understood through Louis Althusser’s idea of state’s strategy of maintaining power through “Ideological State Apparatuses” (the religion, the church, the schools, the media, the art, and so on) and “Repressive State Apparatuses” (the police, army, law courts, and prisons that operate through actual or threats of coercive force/violence. The Afghanistan Ideological State Apparatus is informed by religion (especially the fundamentalist approach to Islamic religion under the name of revitalization) and Repressive State Apparatus is a projection of terror among masses by the use of arms, flogging and stoning at public places. Michel Foucault’s description of the double-faced Victorian view of sexuality in his book The History of Sexuality holds true of the Taliban. Foucault writes that Victorian morality was shallow as they (the Victorians) were conservative in talking about sex even while they frequented brothels.

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Hosseini and Shakib expose the hypocrisy of Talibans who in the name of religion suppress women’s sexuality by prohibiting them from visiting public places without wearing the burqa; they do not allow the women to be seen by male doctors as they (Talibans) are west phobic and ‘Madona-whore’ phobic, but at the same time they themselves rape women, molest children and forcefully marry girls to fulfil their sexual desires. The Taliban’s reclusive 36-year-old leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, justifies his regime’s treatment of women by saying, “A woman’s face corrupts men”. Their total repression is necessary, he explains, “Otherwise they would be like Princess Diana (“Veiled Threat”).” Thus, the repression directed towards women in a country like Afghanistan comes from structural relationship of power, domination and privileging of men over women. Such a gender-biased statement by the Taliban leader not only approves of Taliban’s authoritarianism in the country but justifies lawlessness, disorder, and anarchy where women are pushed to the margins. Here the question is not whether women can approach the state but the way women are approached by the state, which is often in the most violent way. One of the obstacles in the way of women’s fundamental rights is the way in which the traditional practices and conservative interpretations of social and cultural norms ostracize women,banning them from the public domain and restricting their private lives. These nauseating traditional practices are sanctioned by religion to keep a hold on women by tribal leaders and fundamentalists. Though such practices and related perspectives challenge the fundamental tenets of Islam, they are clamped down upon women to suppress them restrict their movement outside the home, leave them vulnerable in the face of violence and violate their basic human rights. As put by the Minister for Women’s Affairs, “Afghan women are facing unacceptable customs from decades ago that are just obeyed. These traditions do not have any religious or legal basis, but the people accept them” (Vogt 2009:43). In this way the concept of tradition has become in western eyes …the manifestation of new and more brutal forms of subjugation of the weak, made possible by a commodified criminal economy, total lack of security, and the erosion of bonds of trust and solidarity that were tested to the limit by war, social upheaval, and poverty. (Kandiyoti 1991:169)

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Community-Structure and Discrimination against Women In Afghan society, the female child experiences gender discrimination since the time of her birth. Giving birth to a male child not only tags the man (the father) as “a real man” but also it enhances the respect a woman (the mother) enjoys at home and in the society. In the novel Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep, the narrator tells us about her mother’s positional superiority after giving birth to a boy. The narrator Shirin-Gol says that “God has always been merciful to Shirin-Gol’s mother. He made her first child a son, so that her husband could feel like a real man, and wouldn’t have to knock her teeth out or divorce her, or take her back to her father’s house” (10). If a boy is born, the family celebrates the occasion because a son in a patriarchal society is considered to be a preserver of the family’s name and inherits property. If the baby is a girl, the occasion goes without notice because a girl is considered to be a disposable property destined to enter another’s home after marriage. In the novel, this discrimination at birth is clear when we come to know that Shirin Gol’s father celebrates the occasion of her brother’s birth while her sister’s and her own birth remain unnoticed. In the novel Samira or Samir, the commander feels frustrated when he sees that his first baby is a girl. To lift himself to a position of the “real man,” he brings up his girl child as a boy. In this way, the life of the girl-child becomes a challenge in itself. The situation becomes troubled when Samira approaches adulthood and feels shaken by her false identity. She falls passionately in love with a boy but due to her false identity as a boy she is intimidated. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Mariam’s life becomes a nightmare as she is childless and her husband calls her responsible for this. Nana says to Mariam “Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman…” (7). Thus in Afghanistan, the primary duty of a woman is of a breeder, as opined by Sir Richard Burton, “Women for breeding, boys for pleasure, but melons for sheer delight” (cited in Emadi 2002:29). In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Rashid’s behaviour towards his wife becomes one of “shifting moods, his volatile temperament, his insistence on steering even mundane exchanges down a confrontational path that, on occasion, he would resolve with punches,

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slaps, kicks, and sometimes tries to make amends for with polluted apologies and sometimes not” (97-98). Laila gives birth to a girl-child which according to Mariam is a less forgivable sin than hers as she is barren and does not give birth to any child. Afghan people’s preference for boy children becomes clear when Rashid while coming from the doctor suggests that his would-be-son’s name will be “Zalmai” and gets agitated when his wife asks. “What if it’s a girl?” (85). He feels frustrated when his wife, Laila, bears a girl. He does not pay attention to the baby and becomes distressed at the mere sight of the girl. Rashid brings various presents for his son Zalmai but does not allow his daughter Aziza to touch Zalmai’s gifts. When drought affects the country and survival becomes a challenge, Rashid prefers to put his daughter Aziza in an orphanage rather than his son. Afghan society denies women the right to take any decision regarding their future, particularly in matters pertaining to their wish to marry the men of their choice. In The Kite Runner, Sanauber is married to the aged, poliocrippled Ali. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, first Mariam and then Laila are married to the aged Rashid. He strictly warns both of his wives not to go outside without wearing a burqa and not talk to or show their faces to strangers. He says to Mariam that he does not like the women of Kabul as they come to his shop uncovered, talk to him directly, look into his eyes without shame, whereas in his opinion “a woman’s face is her husband’s business only”. He tries to strangle Laila when he comes to know of her meeting with a strange man, Tariq. In the same manner, Abina’s husband in Where God Only Comes to Weep is found saying, “You are my wife. Your father passed on the responsibility over you and his God-given right to determine you and your fate. If you won’t obey me anymore, I will take you back to him” (119). One of the culturally accepted ideals of honourable females is modesty, and their honour is supposed to rest in their ability to safeguard their virginity prior to marriage. Premarital sex is forbidden by Islamic laws. The preservation of patrilineal bloodlines and identity is a strong motive for safeguarding a woman’s virginity. A woman’s virginity is also considered to be the family’s

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symbol of honor. Laila’s mother tells her, “The reputation of a girl…is a delicate thing, Laila. Like a mynah bird in your hands. Slacken your grip and away it flies” (160). That is why in the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns Laila cuts her finger with a knife on the first night to prove her virginity. When a girl loses her virginity prior to her marriage she loses her family’s support also and has no possibility of finding another man who will marry her. In the novel The Kite Runner, Soraya, the daughter of General Taheri faces the same problem as she had eloped with a boy earlier and had physical relations with him. When she realizes her fault and comes back to her father’s home, people look at her with vile eyes and no one dares to marry her on account of her lost virginity. Soraya tells Amir about the different perspectives of the Afghan society on men and women. In a bitter tone she says: Their sons go out to nightclubs looking for meat and get their girlfriends pregnant, they have kids out of wedlock and no one says a goddamn thing. Oh, they’re just men having fun! I make one mistake and suddenly everyone is talking nang and namoos, and I have to have my face rubbed in it for the rest of my life. (156)

The idea of keeping women uneducated and backward is deeply entrenched in the psyche of the Afghan people. Shirin Gol’s father in the novel says “Girls who go to school become confused and curious, they know too much, they get greedy, they start demanding things, they become choosy, and what kind of man is going to marry a women like that?” (Shakib 2002:26). In the same tone, Shirin Gol’s husband Morad says “Men do not want wives who are cleverer than they are…” (41). Rashid in the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns says that this education system polluted the minds of women in Kabul: for him they are “whores.” In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Mariam’s father has three legal wives, yet he has sexual relations with the maid in his house. Rashid also gets married to two women—Mariam and Laila; and he justifies his having a second wife as a common practice in Afghan society: It’s a common thing and you know it. I have friends who have two, three, four wives. Your own father had three. Besides, what I’m doing now most men I know would have done long ago. You know it’s true. (209)

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But he gets irritated when he comes to know about his wife Laila’s meeting a stranger. Forced marriage and early marriage have been the salient issues to women for centuries in Afghanistan. Girls continue to be sold into marriage, often to provide sustenance for their families, as the lack of employment and income often means that daughters are the family’s only goods. In the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns first, Mariam and then Laila become victims of forced and early marriage. Mariam has a long cherished dream of going to school like her step brothers and sisters but she feels shattered when she is forced to get married to Rashid. Shirin-Gol does not want her daughter Noor Aftab to marry the young Talib because he (Talib) is a fundamentalist and inhuman like other Talibans. But she allows it in order to get money to run her family owing to lack of any income and employment for her father. Though this shows her helplessness, this decision serves two purposes— it provides protection for her daughter and a source of livelihood for some time at least. The Afghan male attitude towards women as commodities requiring protection results in their captivity at home and seclusion from men who are not related to the family. Rashid asks his wife Mariam not to go out from his house, except to a few places approved of him like the hamam to take bath and to the nearby canal to wash clothes. When his friends visit his home, he asks her not to come out of the room upstairs. Women in the traditional Afghan society are compared, bought, and sold like commodities. Rashid in the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns compares his wives Mariam and Laila to cars “Volga” and “Benz” in terms of their age and use in his life. He calls his first wife as “dehati”, “harami” and the new one as “queen” and “malika of his house”. Furthermore, his preference for his new wife, Laila becomes clear as he says “Well, one does not drive a Volga and a Benz in the same manner. That would be foolish, wouldn’t it?” (217). He assigns to his older wife, Mariam the task of guarding the honour of the second, Laila, as for him she is “dokhtar e jawan, and young women can make unfortunate choices” (218).

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Conclusion Khaled Hosseini and Siba Shakib’s portrayal of the Afghan women shows that in Afghanistan a woman’s daily life in the family is governed by statutory laws based on narrow and distorted interpretations of the Quran and Hadith or uncodified Muslim laws. The governing body in the country always plays an important role in determining the woman’s role and mode of conduct in the country. The imposition of strict laws on women relegate them away from the public sphere and also the age old practice of customs make them stereotypes of oppression. Both laws and customs are indicative of male domination. Under the Taliban regime women are essentially dehumanized as subhuman because the Taliban legally sanctions customs and severe laws that oppress women. The recurring image of burqa, scathing lashings and public executions at Gazi stadium presents the pathetic picture of women denied of basic rights and freedom. The gender policies in various regimes reveal the tendencies of marginalization of women and deliberate overloooking of identifiable patterns of oppression and injustice that deny basic rights which is especially true in the last thirty years of the Afghanistan’s history. It is a must for policy-makers of the country to invite participation and involvement of women in the decision– making process, both from top-down governing bodies and the bottom up rural participation. Moreover, it is not only the succession of various regimes that harass women but also socio–cultural barriers of oppression in tribal areas and rural Afghanistan where the Taliban sort of oppression has been in existence for centuries well before the Taliban (411). The prequisite for bringing women to the forefront is education. The same is opined by Laila’s father, Babi in the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns when he tells her: “Marriage can wait, education cannot….And I also know when this war is over, Afghanistan is going to need you as much as its men, maybe even more. Because a society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated, Laila. No chance.” (114, italics in the original)

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Thus, in Afghanistan, the administrators are in dire need of creating new policies for the betterment of women in the country and society as well. Hosseini in an interview expresses the hope that readers will develop a sense of empathy for Afghans and specifically Afghan women, ‘‘on whom the effects of war and extremism have been devastating. I hope this novel brings depth, nuance, and emotional subtext to the familiar image of the burqa-clad woman walking down a dusty street’’ (“Interview with Khaled Hosseini”). He continued, asserting that under the Taliban: Women were denied education, the right to work, the right to move freely, access to adequate healthcare, etc. Yet I want to distance myself from the notion, popular in some circles, that the West can and should exert pressure on these countries to grant women equal rights. …. This approach either directly or indirectly dismisses the complexities and nuances of the target society as dictated by its culture, traditions, customs, political system, social structure, and overriding faith. (“Interview with Khaled Hosseini”: n.p.)

Works cited: Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. London: Everyman’s Library, 1995. Afshar, Haleh(Ed.). Women and Third World Politics. London: Routledge, 1996. Ask, Karin. “Tradition and Change: Afghan Women in an Era of War and Displacement.” Gender, Religion and Change in the Middle East: Two Hundred Years of History. Ed. Okkenhaug, Inger Marie and Ingvild Flankerud. Oxford & New York: Berg, 2005. pp. 191-205. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2006. Ellis Deborah. Women of Afghan War. West Port, CT: 2000. Emadi, Hafizullah. Repression, Resistence, and Women in Afghanistan. London: GreenwoodPublishing Group, 2002. Foucault, Michel. History of Sexuality: The Use of Pleasure. London: Penguin, 1992. Gritzner, Jeffrey A. Afghanistan. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2007.

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Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. London: Bloomsbury, 2008. —. A Thousand Splendid Suns. London: Bloomsbury, 2008. “Interview with Khaled Hosseini”. accessed: 20/05/2011. Kandiyoti, Deniz. Women, Islam and State. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991. Khalilzad, Zimay and Daniel Byman. “Afghanistan: The Consolidation of a Rougue State.” The Washington Quarterly. 23:1, Winter 2000. pp. 65-78. Kolhatkar, Sonali and James Ingalls. Bleeding Afghanistan. New York: 2006. Mehta, Sunita, ed. Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Olesen, Asta. Islam and Politics in Afghanistan. London: Routledge, 2006. Shakib, Siba. Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes To Weep. London: Century, 2002. —. Samira and Samir. London: Arrow Books, 2005. Sthur, Rebecca. Reading Khaled Hosseini. California: Greenwood Press, 2009. Vogt, Heidi. Afghan minister: Old Customs Impede Women’s Rights. Kabul: Associated Press, 14 January 2009. Wahab, Shaista. A Brief History of Afghanistan. New York. Facts on Files, 2007. Print. Zulfacar, Maliha. “The Pendulum of Gender Politics in Afghanistan.” In Central Asian Survey, 25:1. pp. 27-59.


The post-colonial discourse today, thanks to the resurgent ‘Third-World’ texts (both literary and cinematic) for their attempt to retrieve the voice of the Third-World subject, has been able to pose a spirited resistance to every form of social, political, economic, cultural, linguistic and intellectual hegemony of the dominant nineteenth-century colonial powers and representatives of sovereignty. The idea of the ‘post-colonial’ has, as a consequence, been conspicuously shaped by the once-sorely-felt-and-lived colonial experiences of the people, who constitute a remarkably significant portion of the world’s population today, and who now also have a consciousness sufficiently enlightened to respond in a distinguishable post-colonial manner to the stigma of a fierce era of colonization. Such an unrelenting colonial history, therefore, has perceivably remained a witness to several socio-political, socio-economic and socio-cultural forms of marginalization, exclusion and subjugation of the subservient subject who, it seems in spite of all resistance, still awaits a space of her/his own. The notion and the reality of an imperialist ascendancy eventually caused and contributed to the evolution of a telling realization of the postcolonial self. The shuddering moments of the historically and conventionally

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pronounced colonial encounter, which constituted the rather obvious essence of the conscious self, gradually began to give way to a convincing process of subversion of the powerfully assertive colonial consciousness, thereby giving birth to a strongly responsive and cognizant post-colonial subjectivity. A considerable body of indigenous literary texts, cinematic representations and related discursive practices calls for a need to re-think and re-visit the conventionally structured idea of the normative and the canonical, to create a room for self-assertion, and eventually to formulate a distinguishable identity, for the not-so-significantly-acknowledged consciousness of the subjugated self. Hence, the entire corpus of writing and artistic representation that can be conceivably deemed as ‘post-colonial’ has, with a satisfactory sense of sufficiency and conviction, been able to destabilize the authoritative ideology of the ‘centre’ causing it to ‘fall apart’, thereby creating a new and subversive world order. Marginality came to be reconstructed and read as an experience central to human life and its portrayal in multifarious ways. The grand narrative took a back seat and the emergence of the metanarrative led to a perspicacious understanding of the truth of plurality of human experience. Hence, history needed to be re-structured in accordance with the terms of the evolving new language. The thematics of the New Woman evolved in the West as a symbol marking the culmination of a century rather than as an actuality. The concept went a long way in formulating a systematized feminist politics that manifested itself in the most elaborate modes through the efforts of the suffragists. The New Woman turned out to be their precursor, being enlightened with higher education and demanding equality in private spheres. Women’s creativity has since then encountered several onslaughts from the wielders of conventional and conformist standards of thought and practice, particularly for the reason that it gave precedence to concealed and personal experience over language, something that was normally deployed only as a supplementing device. Films have played a key role in this act of revival of the ‘neo-colonial’ ideologies, if we may name the new post-colonial subject thus, in a manner perhaps never before conceived. Indian cinema has travelled a long way and

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has now emerged through numerous evolutionary forces into a concrete medium of expression to confront the aftermath of the colonial experience. The medium, thus, has become one of the most persuasive and impactful forms of art that is constantly developing and the dynamism of which has made it the most convincing medium to portray and articulate the voice of the newly burgeoning post-colonial New Woman. More and more Indian art films are being produced, not only with considerable success from the point of view of the kind of critical acclaim they receive, but also, more significantly, with a lot of intellectual and artistic material for us to take up the question of the post-colonial subject, a characteristic that commercialized popular cinema seldom offered. Such ‘art’ filmography, also referred to as ‘parallel’ or ‘alternative’ or ‘independent’ cinema, does not rely on a conventional narrative structure or a linear process of development of the plot; on the contrary, it uses a language more realistically close to our experience of life, on the one hand, and is more experimental, creative and impressionistic through aesthetic, imagist and metaphoric use of symbols and suggestions, on the other. The sociocultural context imparts the recognizable as well as much-desired element of ‘Indianness’ to the architecture of such cinema, giving us the opportunity to be absorbed, to reflect on and to explore the multifarious implications and modes of signification, essential to the experience and appreciation of a work of art. In this paper, I shall venture into two of the most honored films of Aparna Sen, an actor, writer and director par excellence and a connoisseur of the art of filmography, named Paromitar Akdin and 15 Park Avenue, in an attempt to explore the quintessential post-colonial New-Woman voice that speaks up in the face of the once-hailed-to-be-privileged colonizer or patriarch, and how, when it does, the centre ‘falls apart,’ thereby not only creating but also legitimizing the new and subversive world order. In an attempt to achieve this, a reconsideration of the paradigms of literary representation, pedagogy and filmography becomes essential in order to impart a post-colonial space to the ‘marginal’ (a conventionally supposed epithet) subject.

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Sen’s highly acclaimed work, Paromitar Akdin (‘House of Memories’, 2000), offers a remarkable repository from which the voice of the New Woman may be retrieved through the character of Sanaka as well as Paromita herself. The film is tied within the temporal framework of a single day that Paromita spends in her once in-laws’ house, on the occasion of the ‘shraddha’ ceremony of her mother-in-law, Sanaka.The event is held in the courtyard of the house and the primary focus of the film constitutes Paromita’s day in the midst of the gathering in the house and the memories she bears along with her, when she was the daughter-in-law of the family. She was married to Sanaka’s younger son, Biru, but the marriage later turned out to be a failure with Paromita divorcing him and getting remarried to Rajiv, a documentary filmmaker. All these eventualities serve to strengthen the relationship between Sanaka and Paromita. The former’s marriage also, as she later confesses to Paromita, has been a loveless one, made tolerable perhaps by the fact that her husband remains away most of the time. Later, in the narrative flashback, when news of his death comes, she is not moved to mourn, and when relatives come to condole, she remains in another part of the house, watching television. She sends Paromita to them with the excuse that she is sleeping. Added to this, she has to bear with another serious predicament – the burden of having to deal with her twenty-five-year-old intellectually handicapped daughter, Khuku, all by herself. As it turns out, her husband’s death opens a new period of joy in her life, much of which she shares intimately with Paromita. And later when Bablu, the physically disabled son of Paromita and Biru, too passes away, the mood of course changes, but the intensity of the relationship remains. Sanaka, at this time, tries her best to console the emotionally drained Paromita. Notwithstanding all that, she leaves the house and gets married to Rajiv. It is remarkably dramatic, though very touchingly credible, that when, in the later part of the film, Sanaka falls ill, Paromita is called back to help look after her, something that Biru’s new wife and an aggressive and maladroit nurse could not do. We find Paromita taking care of Sanaka in every manner possible, and also the fact that the latter’s affection for her previous daughter-in-law has not

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dwindled, even by a single inch, nor has the former’s respect and love for her previous mother-in-law decreased even by a bit. Not long after this, Sanaka dies and Paromita, having served her purpose, takes her leave. Here, Sen portrays two leading women characters, one eponymous, Paromita, and the other, her mother-in-law, Sanaka, with such vigour, vehemence and verve, that they emerge as persuasive delineations of the post-colonial New-Woman’s voice with which we find them silencing and subjugating their male counterparts, who, with all certitude, play a virtual foil to the protagonists. They are presented as being cast into the complex rubric of the conventionally accepted stereotypical social codes of behaviour, thereby taking on their respective marginalized roles that women are expected to take on and faithfully carry out. But, Paromita and Sanaka, in spite of having their existence within a patriarchal scheme of things, do go beyond their ‘gendered’ types and break their position of social relegation, thereby taking on a ‘transiconic’ role for themselves. They can also be read to convey the voice of the filmmaker, a woman herself, who makes a sincere effort to approbate a discernible space for the post-colonial female subject, who now constitutes the ‘centre’, and not the ‘periphery’. It is this depiction of female experience, in course of which woman becomes the humane agent of the varied events that take place in a family, torn between irascible and exasperated male members that makes the film worthy of an absorbing post-colonial reading. Sen’s other film, 15 Park Avenue (2005), is a significantly zealous and passionate work. It depicts an extraordinary tale of love, pivoting on a mentally challenged girl and her domineering elder sister, on the one hand, and on the other, offers a perspicacious and dialectical pretext for a sympathetic consideration of people with disabilities. The narrative in 15 Park Avenue receives its buoyancy from the attempted suicide of the schizophrenic Meethi, and then progresses with a conspicuous effortlessness, being supported to quite an extent by the introduction of Kunal, Meethi’s psychiatrist, who appears in the story not as a didactic figure offering his expert guidance, but rather as somebody who is found in spells of conversation with Meethi’s intellectual elder sister, Anu, an academic physicist having peer respect and professional regard in her field.

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Later on, in the film, we find Kunal who offers some basic, yet important, information on Meethi’s psychological intricacies without taking recourse either to jargon or other terminological complexities, and who develops a simple friendship with Anu, in course of which he often has meaningful discussions with her over dinner, and later joins her during a holiday he had previously recommended her to take. At this juncture, the episodes concerning Meethi and her characterization are held in check, while Anu is being focused upon and her character developed. The holiday in Bhutan, we find (as does Anu), turning out to be almost too dramatic to be true, yet nonetheless astonishingly real. There happens to be a chance encounter with one Jaydip Ray, whom one of the flashback sequences reveals to have been Meethi’s one-time fiancé. He is shown to have been a decent man, who loved Meethi sincerely enough to have wanted to marry her, in spite of the warnings from her father and sister about the difficulties he would face if at all he wished to tie the marital knot. After this, Meethi gets brutally raped in a hotel in Dhanbad by some political goons, an incident that makes Jaydip feel uncertain about the question of continuing his relationship with her, since he does not feel confident enough to go through all this. He eventually returns her ring to her with an explanatory letter. Years later, as a result of the fortuitous meeting in Bhutan, he learns that she still remembers him by way of believing that she is married to him, even though she does not recognize him when he comes to visit her, and also that he is the father of her ‘five children’. He accepts moral responsibility and promises her to help her find ‘her house’ at 15 Park Avenue, Kolkata, where she earnestly believes she lives with ‘Mr. Jaydip Ray’ and ‘their children’. What we find at the end is that, Jaydip takes Meethi to look for ‘her house’, followed by Anu and Kunal in another car. They come to Ballygunge Park Road which, Meethi declares, has its name changed to ‘Park Avenue’, as she, again in her own mysteriously ‘real’ ways, remembers ‘Saddam Hussein declaring the change in name on television’. Their problem, now, is in finding number 15. We find Meethi discovering ‘her house’ numbered 15, on the door of which is affixed a name plate that reads, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Jaydip Ray’.

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There, playing in front of the house, are ‘her five children’ and ‘their father, Jaydip’. We see her welcomed back into the midst of the family, and the camera turns to a perturbed Jaydip, Anu and Kunal, unsettled by the growing crowd of bemused and barely helpful observers. When all leave, the camera remains positioned on ‘house number 15’, until the street along with the footpath is again desolate. Here, in this film too, we find both the female voices irresistible, compelling, decisive and, most significantly, ‘new’. They do serve to decolonize their social male counterparts in their own different ways, thereby offering us a reassuring image of the New Woman. They speak and act in a manner, greatly unlike the so-called, and unfortunately so-believed, ‘third-world’ women. The question that now arises is, how do we justify the denigration of such women as being conventionally ‘ignorant, poor, uneducated, traditionbound, domesticated, family-oriented, victimised’, marginalized, subjugated and politically immature, in stark contrast to the so-called avant-garde notions about the Western woman? Thus, the ‘new’ Indian woman confronts her state of double colonization by voicing her consciousness and experience, typically her own, which constitutes her act of response to the ‘fictionalised – and yet all too familiar – account of the paternalistic and self-congratulatory tokenism’ of ‘“Special Third World Women’s” readings, workshops, meetings and seminars’ (Gandhi 85). Hence, Indian cinema scholarship offers a magnificent storehouse of works of art for carrying out promising studies in post-colonial feminist criticism, with a whole vista of possibilities of interpretation befitting an enriched creative treasure that still awaits a lot of insightful exploration and a fair retrieval.

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Works cited: Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths & Helen Tiffin. 2003. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Postcolonial Literatures. London and New York: Routledge. Gandhi, Leela. 2002. Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Introduction. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Hood, John W. 2009. The Essential Mystery: Major Filmmakers of Indian Art Cinema. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan Private Ltd. Nagarajan, M. S. 2010. English Literary Criticism and Theory: An Introductory History. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan. Panja, Shormishtha, ed.. 2002. Critical Theory: Textual Application. Delhi: Worldview Publications.

List of Contributors

Alan Johnson is Professor of English at Idaho State University, United States. His is the author of Out of Bounds: Anglo-Indian literature and the Geography of Displacement (Univ. of Hawai’i, 2011), and the co-editor of Postcolonial Literature Today (2015) His current project is an interdisciplinary study of literary and popular depictions of the jungle in Indian literature with reference to postcolonial critique and ecocriticism. His other projects include Hindi (Bollywood) film, and religion and literature in India. Basil Darlong Diengdoh is Assistant Professor, Department of English, Dibrugarh University, Dibrugarh, Assam. Bill Ashcroft is ARC Fellow in the University of New South Wales. A renowned critic and founding theorist of post-colonial studies, he is famed as the author and co-author of several books and articles on post-colonial theory, includingThe Empire Writes Back (1989),ThePost-Colonial Studies Reader (1995),Post-colonial Studies: The Key Concepts (2000), Post-Colonial Transformation (2001),On Post-Colonial Futures (2001), and some of the first texts to locate postcolonial studies. Chinnadevi Singadi is Assistant Professor at the Department of Indian and World Literatures, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. She teaches and guides research in Postcolonial Literatures and Postmodern Fiction. Ishq ka Asar is her first collection of ghazals and songs in Hindi.

278  List of Contributors

Hariom Singh is Assistant Professor of English at Dr B.R. Ambedakar University (Amethi Campus), Lucknow. His areas of specialization are gender studies, Indian fiction in English, and literary theory. Jibu Matthew George is Assistant Professor of English at the Department of Indian and World Literatures, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. His areas of interest include James Joyce Studies, Modernist Fiction, Holocaust Studies, Twentieth-Century American Fiction, TwentiethCentury European Fiction in Translation, Twentieth-Century Literary Theory, Continental Philosophy, Philosophy of Art, Religion and Mythology, Narratology, Life Span Psychology, Thanatology, History and Historiography. He has widely researched and published in these areas. Ketu H. Katrak born in Bombay, India, is Professor of Drama at the University ofCalifornia, Irvine (UCI), and USA. She was founding Chair of the Department of AsianAmerican Studies (1996-2004) at UCI, and prior to that has taught at the Universityof Massachusetts, Amherst and Yale University. She has published in the fieldsof Drama and Performance, African Drama and Ancient Sanskrit Drama (fromIndia), Postcolonial Literature and Theory, Women Writers and Feminist Theory.She is the author of Wole Soyinka and Modern Tragedy: A Study of Dramatic Theory and Practice (1986),Politics of the Female Body: Postcolonial WomenWriters of the Third World(2006), and Contemporary Choreography in Indian Dance: Towards aNew Language of Dance in India and the Diaspora(2011) among over hundred other articles/essays and co-edited books published injournals such as Modern Fiction Studies, Journal of Asian Studies among others.She is the recipient of a Fulbright Research Award to India(2005-06),a Bunting Institute Fellowship (Harvard/Radcliffe, 1988-89),amongother awards. M.S. Pandey is Professor of English at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. He specializes in the areas of Contemporary Literature, Diaspora Literature & ELT. His better known works include “The Hymns of National Strife: The Enigma of Nation in the Diasporic Writings of Satendra Nandan” and “Describing Diaspora, Discussing Literature.”

List of Contributors  279

Meena Alexander is Professor of English at the City University of New York. Born in Allahabad and raised in Sudan, her works embody the dislocation and the angst of shifting roots. She is the author of six volumes of poetry including Illiterate Heart, winner of the PEN Open Book Award. Her other acclaimed works include Nampally Road (a novel) and her autobiography, Fault Lines. (She passed away on 21 November 2018 in New York, while this book was under preparation.) Mousumi Guha Banerjee Associate Professor of English at The English and Foreign Languages University, Shillong Campus, Meghalaya, India. Pravin K. Patel is Assistant Professor of English at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India. He received his D.Phil. in English from The EFL University, Hyderabad, and has published over a dozen of research articles in the area of deconstruction, and contemporary fiction. His areas of interest are Medical Humanities, Contemporary British Fiction, and Derrida Studies. Rashmi Dube Bhatnagar is Professor of English at Shiv Nadar University, Uttar Pradesh. She is the author of the book, Female Infanticide in India: A Feminist Cultural History (State Univ. of New York, 2005). Her primary area of expertise lies in the emergence of the field of world literature in the late 18th century as a set of philological practices around Hindi, Urdu and Brajbhāsa language literatures; and in this area her better known article is ‘Premsagar(1810) and Orientalist Narratives of the “Invention” of Modern Hindi’ (boundary 2, 2012). Rashmi Rakheja is Assistant Professor at the Department of English, Govt. Hamidia Arts and Commerce College, Bhopal, India Shreesha Udupa is Assistant Professor at Nalanda University, Nalanda, Bihar. His research area is Mnemocultures. He received his Ph.D. from The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. Shyam Babu teaches English at The English and Foreign Languages University, Lucknow, UP. His doctoral research studies Brechtian theory in modern Indian drama, and his area of research includes performance studies, gender studies, dalit writings, and literary theory among others.

280  List of Contributors

Sunil Kumar is Assistant Professor of English at Central Unviersity of South Bihar, Gaya. His area of specialisation includes postmodernism and post-1980s fiction. He received his M.Phil. and Ph.D. from The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. Susie Tharu is currently Eminent Professor, Department of Cultural Studies at the English and Foreign Languages University. She is also a founder member of Stree Shakti Sanghatana and Anveshi, Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Hyderabad and a member of the erstwhile Subaltern Studies Collective. Her teaching and research interests are in feminism and other issues of minority, social medicine and the literary and visual arts. She has given talks at and taught in universities across India and other parts of the world, and published six books including, in the early 1990s, the well-known two-volume anthology, Women Writing in India.Her most recent publications are Towards a Critical Medical Practice: Dilemmas of Medical Culture Today (with Anand Zacaraiah and R Srivatsan) 2009, and No Alphabet in Sight, 2011, a dossier of new dalit writing from Kerala and Tamil Nadu (co-author),Steel Nibs are Sprouting: New Dalit Writing from South India Dossier 2 Telugu and Kannada (co-author)2013, and The Exercise of Freedom: An Introduction to Dalit Writing (co-author) 2013 T Nageswara Rao is Professor of English in the Department of Indian and World Literatures. His Inviolable Air: Canadian Poetic Modernism in Perspective and a few articles available in the University of Toronto Quarterly on line. His research interests include Literary Theory, Modern and Contemporary British Literature, Postcolonial, Dalit, and Adivasi Literatures. Tabish Khair is Associate Professor of English at University of Aarhus, Denmark. His books, Babu Fictions, The Bus Stopped and The Thing about Thugs form some of his most acclaimed work. His latest novel is the critically acclaimed How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position. Vivek Singh is Assistant Professor of English at the Department of English, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, UP. He expertises in disability studies and cultural studies.


A Aesthetics: 21, 79, 127, 128, 130, 141, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 195 Althusser, Louis: 173, 178, 259 ambivalence: 34, 75 Anderson, Benedict: 16, 37, 70, 78, 83, 129, 167, 219, 220 apartheid: 21, 55, 154, 155, 156, 157, 160, 164, 167 Appadurai, Arjun: 15, 16, 17, 18, 31, 32 Ashcroft, Bill: 12, 19, 29-48, 104, 129, 131, 133-135, 147 B Bhabha, Homi K.: 12, 17, 31, 75, 77, 173, 179, 787, 213, 219, 220 Bloom, Harold: 68 Bollywood: 35, 36, 93, 239

border: 12, 15, 44, 57, 59, 111, 114, 115, 117, 118, 119, 153, 234 Brecht, Bertolt: 21, 22, 174, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 188, 194 Butler, Judith: 173 C capitalism: 20, 40, 141, 147 centre/periphery: 16, 32, 35, 39, 41, 46 classic/classical: 12, 13, 20, 34, 40, 41, 67, 69, 72, 73, 75, 77, 79, 104, 134, 155, 174 cosmopolitan/cosmopolitanism: 11-23, 45, 66, 88,92, 93, 96, 105, 111, 128, 135 D Dalit: 12, 55, 101, 102, 108, 132, 133, 135, 144, 146,

282 Index

decolonization: 14, 101, 134, 164 Deleuze, Gilles: 18, 45, 115, 173, 176, 179, Derrida, Jacques: 100, 111, 119, 175, 176, 178 179, 215

G Gandhi, M.K. (Mahatma): 88, 89, 92, 105, 133, 134, 274 gender: 11, 22, 50, 54, 101, 102, 103, 104, 132, 153, 154, 164, 174, 193,

diaspora: 12, 16, 17, 37, 38, 42, 46,

196, 206, 255, 257, 260, 265, 272

53, 57, 64, 74, 88, 203, 204, 206, 208,


211-213, 229

11-22, 29-46, 51, 67, 69, 74, 79, 81,

E epic: 14, 20, 22, 66, 67, 72, 155, 158 epic theatre: 180, 181 ethics: 19, 21, 119, 127, 128, 136, 141, 145 ethnicity: 11, 14, 46, 56, 101, 211, 212, 239

95, 100, 103, 105, 128, 129, 130, 135, 137, 143, 229, 237, global cultural flow: 16 Greek tragedy: 21, 67, 79, 154, 156, 165 H history/historiography: 22, 35, 38, 41, 46, 52, 54, 62, 78, 82, 91, 97, 115,


131-132, 139, 158, 167, 192, 213,

Facebook: 236-244

hospitality: 19, 119, 253

Fanon, Frantz: 82, 83, 96, 135, 136, 137, 140, 147

2116, 219, 221-226, 265


Foucault, Michel: 21, 36, 110, 118,

identity: 16, 36, 49-64, 75, 77, 100,

131, 161, 162, 176, 178, 259

174, 176-179, 213, 229, 245

freedom: 18, 38, 41, 50, 51, 55, 118,

imagined communities: 167, 220

137, 147, 194, 202, 220, 245, 248,

imagined geographies: 167

252, 258, 265

imagined world: 16

future (postcolonial/democracy): 19,

immigrant: 16, 20, 22, 42, 52, 53, 56-

29, 133, 134

61, 203, 208, 229-234

Index  283

imperial/imperialism: 11, 18, 29, 32, 40, 55, 68, 99, 119, 127, 248, 268 K

N nation/nation-state/national/ nationalism: 14, 31, 40, 41, 75, 104, 132, 134, 167, 211, 212, 222, 250

Kant, Immanuel: 12, 13, 111, 119,

New woman: 23, 269, 270, 271, 272,



knowledge: 11, 37, 43, 77, 97, 106, 162, 165, 178, 209, 221, 225-228, 258, 269

P Parekh, Bhikhu: 52, 54


Po s t - c o l o n i a l / p o s t c o l o n i a l /

language: 17, 20, 31-34, 49, 73, 88,

46, 51, 67, 75, 92, 95, 104, 127-138,

95-107, 140, 177, 199, 212, 225, 269,

147, 167, 219, 220, 237-239

M majority/minority: 12,54, 55, 56, 63, 64, 156

postcolonialism / postcoloniality: 29-

power: 16, 18, 32, 36, 55, 97, 103, 118, 178, 179, 246 R

Marx, Karl: 133, 174

rasa: 144-146,

metanarrative: 11, 97, 127, 167, 269

religion: 56, 63, 91, 193, 206, 223,

metropolitan/metropolis: 411, 42, 43,

245, 250, 259

88, 90, 92, 93 modern/modernism/modernity: 12,


14, 15, 18, 19, 29, 31-46, 52, 56, 70,

Said, Edward W.: 18, 52, 58, 69, 74,

71, 90, 102, 135, 174, 176, 180, 203,

77, 98, 127, 130, 167, 220

215, 227, 248, 254

Shakespeare, William: 75, 175

Mother India: 36

South Africa: 21, 153-169

multiculturalism:54-57, 64, 229

Spivak, G.C.: 21, 79

284 Index

subaltern: 13, 21, 127, 198 Swaraj (home-rule): 133, 134, 145 T terror/terrorism: 18, 19, 61, 63, 129, 136, 141, 143, 147, 181, 149, 251, 259 Thiong’o, Ngugi wa: 73, 95, 96, 99, 134 Third World: 12, 17, 18, 31, 53, 131, 174, 268, 274, 268

U untouchable: 132, 196 V violence: 19, 54, 56, 59, 62, 96, 137, 141-143, 192, 245, 259 W war on terror: 18, 19 World literature: 29, 38,39-41, 46, 131,

translational: 17

World Trade Centre: 14

transnational/transnationalsim: 1-17, 22, 38, 44, 53, 96, 128, 129, 130, 135, 211, 215, 229

Z Zizek, Slavoj: 97, 105, 135, 137, 147