Women Writing Violence: The Novel and Radical Feminist Imaginaries
Publication Year: 2013
Women Writing Violence engages with select contemporary novels in which women characters resist violence and redefine notions of community by imagining bonds with the exiled and the disempowered.
The author interweaves the literary landscapes of African-American writer Toni Morrison with the oeuvre of South Asian writers Mridula Garg, Tahmina Durrani, Amrita Pritam, Bapsi Sidhwa, and Mahasweta Devi. This results in the opening of a new gateway into the thinking about violence and survival through a feminist, transnational lens.
Subramanian places women's literary imaginary at the margins of both the nation-state and the patriarchal community. She creates a specifically female language and emphasizes the ingenious ways in which women characters in novels restore dignity and agency to their kin and beloved. The book focuses on voice and narrative ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Specters of Public Massacre: Violence and the Collective in Toni Morrison's Paradise
- Chapter 2: Imagining Community in Edwidge Danticat's The Farming of Bones
- Chapter 3: Partition and the Woman's Body in Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India
- Chapter 4: Beyond Cloisters of Domesticity: Tahmina Durrani's Kufr, Mridula Garg's Kathgulab, and Mahasweta Devi's Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa
- Chapter 5: The Cracking of India in Amrita Pritam's Pinjar and Mohandas Nemishrai's Aaj Bazaar Band Hai
Copyright © Shreerekha Subramanian, 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
First published in 2013 by
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Published by Vivek Mehra for SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd, Phototypeset in 10.5/12.5 pt Adobe Garamond Pro by Diligent Typesetter, Delhi and printed at De-Unique, New Delhi.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Women writing violence: the novel and radical feminist imaginaries/Shreerekha Subramanian.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Fiction—Women authors—History and criticism. 2. Violence in literature. 3. Women in literature. 4. Feminism and literature. 5. Fiction—20th century—History and criticism. I. Title.
PN3401.S83 809.3'0082—dc23 2012 2012040735
ISBN: 978-81-321-0908-2 (HB)
The SAGE Team: Neelakshi Chakraborty, Dhurjjati Sarma and Nand Kumar Jha
To the late Smt. Karunavathi Amma, my maternal grandmother, and all the women who survive, remember, and bear witness.
This book began as a meditation on loss. In the shadow of large-scale events of violence and carnage, I was interested in the agency wrested from those who lost their lives and the agency of those who remained to bear witness. In the tradition of the women's novels of the late twentieth century—feminist novels of the global south in particular—I was interested in how the literary imaginary accorded agency, resisted and coalesced into community that somehow escaped the confines of patriarchal surveillance. Much of my work was done in the isolation of libraries. This project was made possible by communities I imagined through solidarity experienced in solitude. It stems from textual distance; homage paid to books and their authors, and to the knowledge they shared with me.
For initiating serious reflection on the relationship between violence and the written text, many thanks to all my teachers in the Program in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University. For understanding the immateriality of my project and for invaluable insights on how to frame my arguments, I thank Professor Abena Busia. The professors who shepherded me through my project at Rutgers University—Cesar Braga-Pinto, Ben Sifuentes-Jauregui, Sonali Perera, Alessandro Vettori, Ousseina Alidou, Janet Walker, and Renee Larrier. I also thank all my peers at Rutgers University, especially, Julie Rajan and Ateyee Phukan, for the innumerable ways in which they have contributed to and enhanced my critical thinking.
My literary journey began in an imaginary dialog between A. K. Ramanujan and Kamala Das, and it was the reading of the work of Edward Said that rescued me from the formalism of my early training in English literature. The prolific American who embodies the elegance of rage, James Baldwin, infected me early. Safiye Henderson-Holmes, poet, teacher, and mentor, taught me about fearlessness and beauty before she left this planet to find her own. The Creative Writing faculty, especially [Page x]Michael Burkard, Arthur Flowers, who were an integral part of my studies at Syracuse University, compelled me to take seriously the practice of critical readings of the word. Hats off to Sugatha Kumari, the feminist activist, who allowed me free access to Abhayashram, a home for the indigent and mentally ill, for one summer in the 1990s which gave me glimpses into alternative grassroots community in the making.
All things begin and end for me with Toni Morrison. I first delved into her work atop a ship on the Bering Sea, when employed as a fishing processor. After cleaning salmon for eighteen hours a day at the age of nineteen, reading her work was the greatest of all rewards. The ship came to a halt but I never stopped reading Morrison. To her I owe my feminist awakening.
I owe tremendous thanks to my home institution, University of Houston-Clear Lake, for vital support offered in the completion of this project over the years. I was the first recipient of Marilyn Mieszkuc Professorship in Women's Studies, 2008. I was also honored to receive three annual Faculty Research Support Funds as well as many Faculty Development Support Funds that enabled me to attend conferences and learn from current scholars in the field. I wish to thank our Office of Sponsored Programs at UHCL for their support in key stages of this book's completion. Without the diligent and meticulous work of my research assistants over the years—Andrew Robinson, Bridget Fernandes, and Meryl Bazaman—this work would have taken much longer to reach fruition. I wish to note the profound joy of being at a university whose students inspire in organic ways my own research—in their presence, sincerity, and commitment toward their academic pursuits. I wish to acknowledge both my students in the free world and my students in prison who often display such rigor and judiciousness that they articulate the purpose of humanities in the liberal arts institution. In that spirit, I wish to thank all my students at Ramsey Unit for keeping me alert to the urgency of the literary project.
Thanks to the anonymous reviewer at SAGE who gave me generous feedback and prompted me to rekindle my relationship with this project that has now spanned over a decade. Thanks also to the editorial team at SAGE who did the hard work in bringing forth the completed text, especially Sugata Ghosh, Rekha Natarajan, Gayeti Singh, and Neelakshi Chakraborty.
An abbreviated version of Chapter 1, “Specters of Public Massacre: Violence and the Collective in Toni Morrison's Paradise,” appeared in [Page xi]2006 in the anthology, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison: Comparative Critical and Theoretical Essays, edited by Lovalerie King and Lynn Orilla Scott (New York: Palgrave MacMillan). An earlier version of Chapter 2, “Blood, Memory, and Nation: Massacre and Mourning in Edwidge Danticat's The Farming of Bones,” appeared in 2005 in the anthology edited by Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond, The Masters and the Slaves: Plantation Relations and Mestizaje in American Imaginaries (New York: Palgrave MacMillan). I am indebted to both the editors for their honest critiques and generous editorial labors which led to sharper interrogations on my part, and fueled this book in many ways.
I need to mention the intellectual progress I have made by attending and presenting the project in its many stages at numerous conferences, most key gatherings that have charged my work being “Celebrating the African American Novel” conference at Pennsylvania State University, annual conferences of American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), and National Women's Studies Association (NWSA). I thank my feminist sisters beyond the immediate vicinity of my world at UHCL, Lovalerie King, Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Alka Kurian, Vidya Kalaramadam, Shobha Rajgopal, Pramila Venkateswaran, and Basuli Deb, and hope that it remains ever growing and always in solidarity. For the sisters who sustain me at home in UHCL—Christine Kovic, Maria Curtis, Gaye Cummins, Heather Kanenberg, Deepa Reddy, Jane Chin Davidson, Elizabeth Klett, Neneh Kowai-Bell, Kim Case, and last but not the least, feminist allies, Mike McMullen and Arch Erich. Thanks also for the encouragement provided by Bruce Palmer, Deborah Griffin, Craig White, John Gorman, and Samuel Gladden. A very heartfelt thanks to Neumann Library at UHCL, in particular Karen Wielhorski, William Boatman, Susan Steele, and Neeta Jambhekar. A New York – style “how yadoin” to a fellow transplant, Lori Paolilla, who has more than the requisite esprit de corps. Special thanks to Christine Kovic and Francisco Arguelles for the intellectual and spiritual nurture they offer so easily as daily habit.
My deepest thanks will always be to my maternal grandmother, Srimati Karunavathy Amma, who taught me defiance and compassion, a feminism spawned long before intellectual consciousness. Thanks to my long-standing friendship that in my hyperbole often starts before our birth, Anupuma Tuli. You are my eternal sister. Linda Marie Perla—your radiance is ever-present and elusive in these pages; your loss is too fresh and deep and I miss you. Thanks to my aunt, Mrs. Saraswathy [Page xii]Prabhakaran, for her innumerable gifts, most of all, for gathering us into her fold. Thanks too, Mr. Bhaskara and Mrs. Prasanna Kumar, my Kochachan and Kunjamma, for solidity and good humor always. To Shyam and Gwen, Unni Chettan and Nisha Chechi, Paru, Asha, Anand, Ramesh, Sanjay and Bindu, my sincere gratitude and love for all your support. My mother and father, Santha and Gopi Pillai, have always nourished and sustained my life's work. The structure of my dreams comes out of their infinite love. The magnificence of their love humbles me each day. So does my in-laws Mr. and Mrs. Shankar's, whose patience, sagacity, largesse, and vision live in every page of this book. They have also blessed me with a family that knows the language of borderless love, and their home is a place I wish I could inhabit much more corporeally rather than across this oceanic distance. I wish to pay homage to the members of Santhi—Thatha Anna, Manni, Lakshmi Periamma, Ram Mama, Radha Mami, Prasad Mama, and Usha Mami, and most importantly, the stars, Danya and Remya. To my partner and beloved in all things, Santosh, and my two sweets who light up my days and nights, who are the first sound and last word—Sarvesh and Sumana.
Introduction: Questions of Community in the Contemporary Literary Context[Page xiii]
“Community” is a fraught and contested term, a polysemic signifier that works in diverse ways depending on the context of its utterance or enunciation. In a globalizing world, community crosses oceans and territorial boundaries with an obstinate resolve, with a sly impunity that threatens stable hegemonies like nation and state. In colloquial Anglo-American usage, the word “communal” might invoke a sense of sharing rooted in the idea of communing or communion. A rather different set of sentiments may be evoked in India by the same word, given the long shadow cast by a “secular” nationalism anxiously preoccupied with politicizing and historicizing “nation” as a superior and impartial logic of societal organization in comparison to the always-partisan “community.” What I do in this book is to bring these disparate understandings into conversation, through an engagement with diverse relationships to community in feminist novels that imagine altogether new visions of community without jettisoning the problematic nature of existence within them.
In both the Western and non-Western spaces, this project addresses the inherent patriarchal order of the nation-state which points to an attendant violence in the project of nation making. In many ways, the project seeks to unhinge community from its historical materialist roots in the nation and national capital. Instead, this project addresses alternative imagined communities comprising people at the margins of violent hegemonic orders. Any community that exists within and on the level of the larger patriarchal order pays its dues and can only speak the singular language available to all who coexist within the world order, [Page xiv]the language of power and if such compliance does not surface, penalties are sure to follow.
Instead, what I unpack is the emergence of an alternative community, undecipherable under normative codes, that is only possible within the novel. This project aims to pursue the possibilities of liminal conjectures: Is community without violence at its origin possible? Is an anti-heteronormative, anti-colonial, and anti-imperial community that follows its own laws of nonviolence ontologically possible? It is only in the literary imaginary that such a focus is possible, an imaginary that is at once idea and practice. What I seek is not only the liminal and heterodox, but a community that is inspired from the women who have suffered its greatest losses, from the people who have paid with their lives, in fact, an imagined community that cuts across the worlds of the living and the dead. While the medium of film can suggest such complexity and such a zone, it is, I believe, only in the novel as a genre where the texture of liminality can be fully explored. Ultimately, while the project examines the language of violence with which the praxis of community is intimately related, it is also hopeful in terms of bringing forth the voices of the dispossessed as an act of resistance, as a way of forming community that lies outside the more commonly understood parlance of community. Where I begin, with an ephemeral character in Toni Morrison's narrative, it is not only to search out the ramifications of her ghostly beginnings, but also a textual community of women as they emerge in the interstices of this project when novels from the Americas and South Asia begin to speak to one another.
“What the hell happened to Maggie?”1 Toni Morrison writes, as she concludes her only short story, “Recitatif.” The entire story follows the lives of two girls who meet in an orphanage as eight-year olds and then meet again after seven or eight years. The story progresses through their conversations, tensions, and silences. As the title suggests, the story, in its insistent repetition, frees itself from a strict form of narration in that it refuses to yield to popular forms of identity-marking descriptions; it lets us know that the characters Roberta and Twyla are of different races, suggesting black and white in the American context, although we are never told who is who. The story has come to stand as Morrison's shorthand for the meaning of race and race relations, that is, race as a phenotypically sculpted hollow vessel that stymies narratives, rather than propels them forward with plot and momentum.[Page xv]
In her text, Playing in the Dark, Morrison delves into the ironies of this narrative: “The only short story I have ever written, ‘Recitatif,’ was an experiment in the removal of all racial codes from a narrative about two characters of different races for whom racial identity is crucial.”2 Authorized by Morrison herself, the few studies dedicated in full or in part to this story have immersed themselves in introspections based on critical race, feminist, reader-response, and psychoanalytical theories,3 and have been quite valuable. Maggie, “old and sandy-colored,” with “her legs like parentheses,”4 is a figure given to extremes. While some read in her a lack, an ambiguity of racialized identity, others might see plenitude, an excess symbolizing the longing and despair felt toward the mothers within this story. What needs to be addressed in a study of this story, apart from the significations performed by the category of race, are questions of community.
Twyla and Roberta, in their friendship that enjoins and scatters their stories, wrestle with communication and, in effect, community. Their friendship shapes, binds, and finally brings them a peace that arrives at the heels of memory laid to rest, and this memory has to do with the figure of Maggie. The story is partial atonement for failure of community, its rejection of her humanity in the cruelty of childhood. Twyla and Roberta battle at various points to communicate, even commune. But the event of their communing is at odds, finally dissolving what was merely divisive at the outset. In their childhood, their friendship comprises an excess of the racial differences that defines them up to a point. Once they separate, the difference is reflected as an active presence in each conversation between Twyla and Roberta, until finally Maggie, who is a common memory of their past, becomes the symbolic ruse for their difference. Neither can settle on her racial category and each is tormented by this gap in their communal knowledge.
Abena P. A. Busia, in an analysis of Morrison's shorter works, works out the deliberate craft of racial coding in this story. Busia connects Morrison's “radical act” of refusing to classify her characters by race to Paradise and extrapolates its function, “… by resisting the common assumptions designated by skin color and by withdrawing all obvious and loaded racialized physical descriptions, she liberates herself to explore what other racial, class and cultural codes are available for character representation.”5 These other codes are the subtext of torment that seizes and transforms the girls’ earlier ruminations. Roberta and Twyla evolve from “who is she,” an ontological location of the self, to “what happened [Page xvi]to her,” a collective determination of her actual condition, something that could only be arrived at through the existence of community between the two in their present and their past, woven into a figure that points to an aporia in their childhood, Maggie.
Morrison's “Recitatif” leads to my own project wherein I wish to both locate community within the literary context, particularly the novel, and also meditate on the hermeneutic quickness with which it disappears as a trope. It is the community that slips out of vision, community so fragile and ephemeral that it hardly presents itself as a trope. Such a study rests on the mystery inherent in the story, the perennial “who-dunnit” of nineteenth century detective fiction replaced with “what happened to Maggie,” as in what happened to the figures who might commune or those who might be refused community, and who recede from the pale of the narrative. What is such a community? What are its characteristics? What stuff is it made of? What importance is it to the contemporary novel?
My questions about community can be best explained through a medieval Kannada poem translated into English by A. K. Ramanujan, linguist, folklorist, scholar of Dravidian languages, and poet. Ramanujan brings us medieval vacanas sung on the streets of ancient kingdom of Mysore by men and women who emerged out of Virasaivism, a devotional movement centered on the God, Siva. This radical stream of Bhakti poems critique the conservative notions of religious and clerical hierarchies. The poets, known to streak naked in their fervor and disregard for the normative, found their iconic poet figure in the man known to us as Basavanna, and it is one of his vacanas called “The Temple and the Body” that is emblematic of this entire movement.[Page xvii]
Will make temples for Siva.
What shall I,
A poor man,
My legs are pillars,
The body the shrine,
The head a cupola
Listen, O lord of the meeting rivers,
Things standing shall fall,
But the moving ever shall stay.6
In the given passage, Ramanujan's interpretation of the vacana sheds light on the connections I will make with my own project. In the poem, the devotee raises all the binaries of the Virasaivite movement such as rich/poor, temple/body, make/do, and in offering his body to the lord—unlike the rich who can only make temples—he simultaneously not only writes out of the hierarchical apparatus of Hindu casteism, but also writes himself a new hierarchy wherein he is the eternal and staunchest devotee of Siva. Basavanna, in addressing Siva, his favorite god, Kudalasangamadeva, raises the final binary between that of things standing against things moving. Man-made artifacts that stand, like the temple, are bound to fall while the devotee, ever moving and immortal, withstands the test of time. Things standing, sthavara, statist, stagnant, signify the standard of community that I question in this project. Things moving, jangama, are the communities in constant movement, redefining themselves; hard to detect and, hardly discernible, they form alternate ontologies of resistance and revision as the imagined communities read in these novels. Basavanna's poetics, alongside Gayatri Spivak's reading of doubled otherness in postcolonial literatures, Lata Mani's historiographical gleaning of female agency in eyewitness accounts of Sati in nineteenth-century British India, and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan's analysis of the state's complicity in elaborating law to female citizens at its margins inform the framework of reading community in the novels interpreted in this book.
Conclusion: Notes from the Trenches of Patriarchy[Page 187]
Multiple forms of violence persist in South Asia, each event marking a watershed moment in furthering intransigence and intranational discord—the carnage at Godhra, the three day siege of Mumbai, governor and journalist assassinations in Pakistan, to name a few. The root of these mass industrialized spectacular events of violence remains patriarchal vis-à-vis Deniz Kandiyoti's catalogue of the unity across South Asian spaces as one form of classic patriarchy.1 Writing in the differing national (desh) and diasporic (videsh) spaces, a widening community of women novelists resist the law of the father by escaping from its symbolic order. To quote Cixous,2 they steal language; however, they do so not only to produce écriture feminine but to unwrite patriarchal inscriptions on the woman's body. This final chapter engages in a form of deterritorialization inspired by Edouard Glissant's future of community where poetics is a form of desire and relations is novelistic expression. Further, I draw from Deleuze's rhizomatic multiplicity of the “book,” a place of discursive liberation, healing, and bridge-building apart from Hegelianism, hierarchy, and manicheanism. Thus, this chapter moves beyond the tired representations of “borders” as landscapes teeming with armed soldiers to a reframing, through women's writing, of the nations as metonyms where India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh can be reimagined through modalities of past antiquity, present struggle, and future dream. Such agglutination, then, is the novelistic step away from the politics of partition, national identities formed of trauma and thus, a step forward into the poetics of reconciliation.[Page 188]I
It is important to establish the salient fact that resonates through all the novels seen thus far—the woman is always already reduced to the subaltern citizen–subject for whom the state, at best, offers ambiguous rights. On one hand, it is the agent promising protection, rights, and some privileges as seen most evocatively in the Justice of the Peace agent who arrives amidst the suffering Haitian people in Danticat's The Farming of Bones to collect stories of witness in order to compensate them once their suffering has been weighed by the state.3 Neither do all the waiting people ever tell their stories, nor do they receive the said compensation. Earlier, it is the hand of the state that slays its laboring people through the orders of Trujillo in Dominican Republic. In Devi's Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa4, the state coldly asks a mother if she knows “Vrati Chatterjee” and if so, can she come to the morgue to identify his body. Later the son, killed by excesses of the state, is given a nameless cremation.
In Taisha Abraham's probing analysis of the rape of Sathin Bhanwari's case, Abraham notes, “Patriarchy both creates contradictions and represses them.”5 Sathin Bhanwari, a grass-roots women's rights organizer in Rajasthan, is raped by irate men in town who equate police intervention against a child marriage with Sathin's grass-roots mobilization. In retaliation, they rape her but when she approaches state officials such as police officers and later, district officers, she is repeatedly misled, mistreated, and maligned. Abraham points, “… violence has been validated by a linguistic misogyny which creates a rupture between the word and its meaning for the corporeal act of violence itself to slip through.”6 Margaret Abraham refers to the South Asian woman's condition in United States as atomized and isolated in terms of being unable to find support from those who bear witness to her abuse as she seeks routes to state-sponsored support.7 It is in these violent slippages that the feminist imaginary performs the productive labor of anti-imperial contestations and forging community because as Charlotte Bunch observes, “male dominance and female subjugation are often defended in the name of venerable tradition.”8 For the woman then, the word already is differentially a rupture and a wound. In the interstices of the world and its order, the feminist imaginary finds succor.[Page 189]
To move from the world to the word, let us attend to Glissant's meditations on the violence encoded in the episteme of the myth and the epic. In the discourse of the myth and the epic, there are no relations to the other. Violence becomes the hidden means with which to challenge the very ontological possibility of the other. And here, it is useful to attend to how Glissant explicates the heart of his vision, the poetics of relations, which he does through an elaboration of his moniker, “Chaos-monde” which is not a simple term of contrast to the order of the world. He writes:
The ambition of poetics, rather, is to safeguard the energy of this order. The aesthetics of chaos-monde is the impassioned illustration and refutation of these. Chaos is not devoid of norms, but these neither constitute a goal nor govern a method there.
Chaos-monde is neither fusion nor confusion: it acknowledges neither the uniform blend—a ravenous integration—nor muddled nothingness. Chaos is not “chaotic.”
But its hidden order does not presuppose hierarchies or pre-cellencies neither of chosen languages nor of prince-nations. The chaos-monde is not a mechanism; it has no keys … totality's imagination is inexhaustible and always, in every form, wholly legitimate that is, free of all legitimacy.9
Glissant updates Bataille's figuration of community as the headless body politic. Glissant's poetics offers the antidote to the sort of western linear stratifications that make it impossible to speak of Morrison and Danticat next to Mridula Garg and Amrita Pritam. Each novelist, especially the female novelist who is caught in some prismatic subservience to the dominant order, needs justification in order to belong, a license for community. The Law of the Father needs to name and give legitimacy for such belonging. Glissant's chaos-monde moves away from legitimizing hierarchies and normalizing chokeholds, cultural sanctions, national circumscriptions. Thus, such belonging becomes “wholly legitimate—that is, free of all legitimacy” because it is only upon becoming free of the various categories that are null identifiers such as nation, race, ethnic, and geographic identity—masculinist notions of knowing that the engendered space of the novel is truly born. Glissant's poetics is a form of desire and relations are novelistic expression. Imagining through this lens allows for an optic which can translate from Glissant's capacity to endure to the modes of survival and resistance that are key functions in the engendered women's novels.[Page 190]
In thinking through the relations between Europe and its Other, Glissant unpacks the impassability of Kant's schema and Todorov's successes. Kant speaks of unity in time and cannot conceive of the plurality Glissant recovers in his poetics, a claim that bridges over to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's conceptions of the rhizomatic instead of the arboreal in their text, Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.10 Through the gendering of Glissant's chaos-monde and Deleuze and Guattari's rhizome, I come to the political mapping of world where Morrison and Danticat speak to Garg and Pritam without the need for introductions, justifications, or prevarications. It is not the simple gathering of subalterns or a meeting of the margins. It is a new alignment without the orthodox recourse to the genealogy of continental theory and philosophy.
Deleuze and Guattari posit the book as a flight, deterritorialization, destratification, an assemblage, acceleration, a rupture. The book scatters the linear unity of the word. It is not the root, trunk, branches unitary but rather a plurality, multiplicity, a branching outward and downward in all directions. The flowering tree at the root of a universal mythos is reconceived as the rhizome in the middle of everything, replacing the linear and ontological “to be” with “and” in the center of things. In the historical schema where psychoanalysis centers around Freud, the unconscious remains rhizomatic, uncentered, and perhaps even, unrestrained. Thus, Deleuze and Guattari engage in a remapping where India is no longer the other but North America becomes the new East which leads to the image of the plateau which is always in the middle. It leads them to position nomadology as the opposite of history. These modalities open up the way that I approach a project that encompasses a conversation between novels across global divisions, nationalistic walls, demilitarized zones, decades of fratricide, détente, and deaths as if it is the conversation between a coterie of women talking at the common kitchen, laundry, or well, earlier spots of cross-cultural communication that happens across borders but under the radar of patriarchal surveillance. Rhizomatic poetics of relations have always already existed; it is the modern engendered novel where they are conceptualized to a degree of literary authority and collective acumen. Thus, I argue for a rhizomatic poesis that forms the nepantla, a middle zone as Gloria Anzaldua inspires us to borrow from the Nahua,11 the middle of the middle where the women novelists bridge into conversation that is legitimate precisely because it lacks all legitimacy in the strictly historical, literary, or philosophical sense of the word.[Page 191]II
Instead of questions of nation, race, ethnicity, and other particular podiums that essentialize and further isolate women's intellectual and public spheres, I argue for a radical politicization of woman's word, i.e., the woman's novel as political and cross-cultural so that the political is always already a radical politics that bleeds across masculinist notions of self and other, nation and foreign. Ilina Sen points how the modern Indian women's movement offers useful arbitrage when one constellates the material reality of laboring women in the different public and private spheres of Indian body politic.12 Returning to literary studies, Nancy Armstrong's theory of the novel sheds critical light in a project that moves from the Novel to the multiple novels that strike back from peripheries of empire.
… domestic fiction unfolded the operations of human desire as if they were independent of political history. And this helped to create the illusion that desire was entirely subjective and therefore essentially different from the politically encodable forms of behavior to which desire gave rise.
In effect, I am arguing political events cannot be understood apart from women's history, from the history of women's literature, or from changing representations of the household. Nor can a history of the novel be historical if it fails to take into account the history of sexuality. For such a history remains, by definition, locked into categories replicating the semiotic behavior that empowered the middle class in the first place.13
Armstrong's points need to be carefully elaborated as we move across the multiple novels of the genre. Sexual history is not entirely subjective and not easily distanced from political history. For those who grapple with literature, the concomitant study of history is necessary. Following Foucault, she asks us to pay heed to the history of sexuality. And she asks for charge to be taken by the woman novelist; the middle-class woman's novelist is not writing exactly from a position of powerlessness but a locus of complicity replicating and cementing class power. The novel is thus in the doubled and doubling position of marking gendered subjectivity while also perpetuating class-based hegemony of the female pen. In this Marxist–Foucauldian feminist critique, it is key to point to how Armstrong seeks to unveil the ways in which liberal [Page 192]feminist traditions of writing are also ways of locking in modes of more radical resistance.
Raka Ray's research points to such misreading when she unpacks the contexts of understanding feminist struggles across the major metropolitan centers and arrives at the binary of Bombay–Calcutta wherein the former resonates with global feminist activists whereas the latter stays mired in a more Marxist-activism around issues of food, labor, and economics that do not center the “female subject” as such.14 In rescuing Calcutta as an authentic site of feminist activism, Ray locates the unconscious mechanisms in which struggles are often subjected to similar strategies of ossification as are the subjects themselves. The feminist humanist, conscious of such entombments, needs to articulate a viable politics of radical liberalism as found in the literary imaginary of an academic, author, and thinker like Toni Morrison.
Toni Morrison's words, as recapitulated by Salman Rushdie in his interview in 1992 after the publication of Jazz15, are apt, “America has, so to speak, an ideology of freedom and a mechanism of oppression.”16 When discussing the novel, especially the novel as generated by the author/intellectual who is deeply in tune with institutions of oppression, it is fundamental to assess ideologies alongside mechanisms, the text alongside its context, literature concomitant with history. For authors like Morrison and Garg, the complicity of the middle-class itself is the subject of history, the object of literature. Unlike the English novel where we attend to what ensures within the parlor, and we need scholars of the ilk of Edward Said to tell us of the history of the sugar that goes into the tea that the perpetual inhabitants of the parlor drink, the novelistic text generated by female novelists like Morrison or Garg, always already poised on the periphery, is interested in the fabric of marginalization, alienation, subjugation, and subjective ontology. Morrison's Paradise dwells in the vagaries of history which does not give shelter to a wandering caravan of African American farmers from stationed and established African American communities over the coastal plains and into the inlands of Oklahoma.17 Her narrative interrogates the construction of middle-class, the costs, sacrifices, and betrayals that are inherent to the process of community-building and begins where the middle-class often stops imagining. Her novel lingers on alterity, the community that emerges in the interstices of normative belonging, community that is not regulated, does not appear in any city or state ledgers, and is vulnerable to complete erasure. Such is the [Page 193]material of Morrison's novel and it disrupts the very novelistic complicity Armstrong critiques.III
The South Asian novels taken up here, be it Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India18 and Amrita Pritam's Pinjar19 that hover at the interstices of nation and community, or Mahasweta Devi's Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa or Mridula Garg's Kathgulab20 that construct middle-classedness as a pathology or a cloister that needs to stage its own demise and exit—the novels stage middle-class as the difficult zone, class boundaries as categories that are fraught with anxieties generated alongside other hierarchies produced from a multiplicity of indigenous patriarchies. The novel's impetus is to resist the statist logic at its center.
It is useful to attend to activist logic that arises out of the NGO sector in Bangladesh, and counters statist patriarchal systems while enfranchising women and the poor. Shireen Huq articulates the aims and ambitions of Naripokhho, an organization that was deemed “Bhalo lagey kintu bhoyo lagey “(attractive but dangerous) and Naila Kabeer's own reflections on the work of Nijera Kori, an organization that does not seek to provide services but rather strategizes how to arm the poor with the discourse of rights, both bring material evidence to the table about how statist logic is resisted even through normative means to shift gender politics of the everyday.21 Elora Halim Chowdhury, in her assiduous work on women organizing against acid burn violence amidst other forms of gendered oppression, also reflects on Bangladeshi media, especially a telefilm, “Ayna” wherein Chowdhury points to how the film script imagines a slight reconfiguring of traditional patriarchal arrangements due to capital bought in by laboring women in slum communities. According to Chowdhury, “while patriarchal divisions of labor are not entirely subverted, new kinds of kin arrangements and newer gendering patterns of urban space are forged.”22 Female agency, across the spectrum, allows for paradigm shift in traditional kinship arrangements and the forging of new sorts of communities.
Sally Merry's inferences around indigenization and vernacularization of feminist activist struggles is quite pertinent here, especially in light of the sort of friendships that align across nation, class, and region in Garg's novel.23 Thus, the novelistic project extends across the north–south [Page 194]border through refracted lens that attend to gender injustices as interpellated through the form of the modern novel. Chandra Talpade Mohanty's lifework lays inspiring groundwork for the cross-cultural conversations of this project.
Categories such as gender, race/class are profoundly and visibly unstable at such times of crisis. These categories must thus be analyzed in relation to contemporary reconstructions of womanhood and manhood in a global arena increasingly dominated by religious fundamentalist movements, the IMF, the World Bank, and the relentless economic and ideological colonization of much of the world by multinationals based in the United States, Japan, and Europe. In all these global economic and cultural/ideological processes, women occupy a crucial position.24
Gender violence and gendered resistance are the literary vestiges that I excavate through a study of novelistic projects from the global south. Mohanty, along with a host of feminist scholars such as Minnie Bruce Pratt, Andrea Smith, Patricia Hill Collins, and Kumkum Sangari, just to name a few, attend to the difficult circumstances of gendered presence in the interstices of the new global mappings of power, capital, nation, and information. Lois Weis's anthropological insights25 are very acute in pointing to the frictions within the American binary where the gender line cuts across race in critical ways. Weis finds honesty when analyzing the presence of violence in both black and white women, but structural analysis about the decay of neighborhoods is more prevalent in black women's networks rather than white women who speak about neighborhood decay in racial terms of white flight and brown and black invasion. Morrison's choice in configuring community across the historical praxis of discursive honesty and temerity amidst women of color then finds valence in material reality.
The modern novel is part of the project of functioning as realigning the poetics of relations in rhizomatic ways that oppose traditional discourses and normative mappings, and also, as a way of resisting older extant narratives that dictate gender norms and discourses. As has been evident with the scholarly labors of Purnima Mankekar, Lata Mani, Rajeshwari Sunder Rajan, Christophe Jaffrelot, Arvind Rajgopal, and many others, the epic from Sanskritic antiquity, The Ramayana26, has had its effects on gender relations and keeping intact a heternormative patriarchal domestic ideal within contemporary Hindu India, especially in a present [Page 195]that has had to pay its price to the rise of Hindu fundamentalism and its proliferation on the global stage. Tamsin Bradley's work attends to the need for disciplines across the Social Sciences to pay attention to the place of religion in the Indian public sphere, especially the effects of the epic on private lives. In a book that anthologizes the scholarship around the issue of dowry, a practice that is premised on the secondary status of women, Bradley notes, “Although the Ramayana does not specifically talk about or prescribe dowry it does promote the dominance of men within heterosexual marriage and for many women represents the first link in the chain that leads to dowry and then to dowry-related violence and other forms of violence against women.”27 The authors herein find ways to resist the capitalistic underpinnings of violence against women while accounting for the chokehold it has, increasingly so under the entombing rhetoric of timeless tradition and religious habit.
Dowry practices, that have been enhanced, excessive and exorbitant in the globalized world of commodity fetishism, hyper-connectedness, technology, cross-national migrations, and other massive shifts to increase the accumulation of capital are now declared in popular idiom as rituals and markers of collective identity, a way to continue what is particularly “ours” and not “theirs,” a systemic exclusion of sorts that marks the oppressive regimes of control and domination as noted by Edouard Glissant. Interestingly enough, feminist scholarship is dynamic for its ability to truly become interdisciplinary and the work of a feminist literary scholar such as Nancy Armstrong is echoed later in the projects of political science/international relations scholars like Laura Sjoberg and Caron E. Gentry who insist on the inscription of international politics on women's lives: “… international politics is inscribed on women's lives, and women's lives are international politics.”28 This project of comparative literature then attends to the ontological realism of a gendered condition—women's lives are intellectually being staged as always already international, global, necessary, and in conversation.
Women's bodies can at once be the object of sexual desire while also being the site for an uncompromising, clinical approach to the production of male heirs. The inherent underlying contradictions of the expressions of sexual desire and of the calculated misogynism of son preference beg for such attention. Such a line of questioning might push the limits of hetero-normative underpinnings of the biological reproduction of sons and daughters so often taken for granted within policy and public [Page 196]discourses on son preference. Why is it, for instance, that despite it being scientifically proven that it is men's chromosomes which determine the sex of the child, it is women's bodies which continue to bear the burden of sex determination?29
Navtej Purewal's research into son-preference syndrome is a very urgent text that points to the growing tragic gap in numbers which is coming to haunt India and China, two nations that have systematically reduced the number of female babies so that the next few decades will witness the consequences of the absence of a generation of missing girls.30 In a Derridean sense, the woman's body signifies a site of absent presence, absent from the cultural episteme of value and legitimacy but present as the vessel of producers of male heirs. These heteronormative ideologies that continue to enact gender surveillance, form gendered social traditions and enact consequences in a materialist sense upon women's bodies through a spectrum of reproductive technologies—amniocentesis, abortions, surrogacy, adoptions, etc., yield a corpus of literatures that wrestle with the many incarnations of gender violence and injustices that occur across the global south. In a way then, this project chooses to relate the materiality of gender injustices performed on the woman's bodies31 to the corpus of literary texts that arise in the aftermath of this violence and attempt to recode the narratives of patriarchal violence and feminist resistance. In linking the corpus of the woman's body to the corpus of text generated through the literary imaginary, the project here attends to the anti-corporeal facet that is only possible within the genre of the novel, an illumination that causes Morrison's “sightings” or Danticat's visitors from across the river or the many different ghosts and specters that haunt the landscapes of Durrani, Garg, Pritam, and Devi.IV
Morrison has a canonic place in North American, world and institutionally—sanctioned literatures at this point; having been the recipient of the Nobel, elevated from a position of power at a powerhouse publishing company to the most prestigious universities of the global north, Morrison cannot be mistaken for a voice from the margins. I have had the eerie experience of speaking of her as one such voice in the [Page 197]early 1990s as I sat and interviewed the feminist memoirist and radical activist, Kamala Das. I argued with Das that the world stage has yet to acknowledge Morrison appropriately and would not a Nobel be the corrective toward legitimacy, so many of us sought for her through her novelistic enterprise, Das moored solidly in Kerala, India spoke of the distance between North American gender politics with those familiar to her at home. However pivotal Morrison's 1993 honor becomes, it does not subsume the radical critique of her ideological position; nor does it eviscerate her theories from being grounded in the material reality of an African American historiography wherein a person was not wholly a person because of her race; a people were not fully deserving of human rights because they were not deemed a worthy people and a history not deserving of honest accounting in the master archives of American chronicles. Thus, despite the distance that becomes explicit in the discursive domain of first world-third world feminists when gathering at world forums, Morrison's mappings offer urgent markers in thinking across the global south to arrive at new alliances and friendships, at new figurations of community. Most significantly, as her literary and theoretical landscapes allows for nepantla,32 a middle zone borrowed from Gloria Anzaldua, Morrison helps in creative figurations of subjecthood and subjectivations.
In Foucault's discursive order, resistance is denied to the body. The soul remains an instrument at best, sublimated within the body, and the two are simultaneously subjected to the authority of the state. The state disciplines and punishes the soul and the body, so the soul becomes an instrument and extension of the body. As Butler summarizes, resistance is also part of the narrative of power and thus, Foucault charts a constitutive loss or self-subversion. In Foucault, subjection is repeatedly produced and staged. However, Butler raises key questions:
Where does resistance to or in disciplinary subject formation take place? Does the reduction of the psychoanalytically rich notion of the psyche to that of the imprisoning soul eliminate the possibility of resistance to normalization and to subject formation, a resistance that emerges precisely from the incommensurability between psyche and subject?33
Butler's compares Foucault's confining sense of interiority with her own elaborations of the unconscious. Butler maps an interiority of the [Page 198]body that exists apart from the narrative of power and its vagaries. Butler is interested in the possibilities, methods, and manifestations of such resistance as emerging from the unconscious of the soul. Morrison puts forth the historical shape to Butler's question on possibilities; in her conversations with Rushdie on her novel, Jazz, that I quote earlier, she speaks about sexual, predatory, and fatal violence as being the “menu” for black women, and she says, “Black women took it upon themselves, and therefore not be easy, easy prey.” Morrison insists on black women's psychic need for resistance to normative notions of victimhood and self-fortifications in order to survive against hegemonies of historical violence and trauma that have thus arranged “the archaeology of the history of black people in the U.S.” While the strict Foucauldian might find the landscape of resistance too impossible, Butler's question is answered evocatively in Morrison's summations about the ability, need, desire, and language of North American black women who refuse to be easy prey though power writes otherwise on their bodies.
Isabel Hoving, a scholar who attends to the works of Caribbean migrant women writers, speaks of the dialectic of violence and liberation as parts of the two epistemic poles and notes, “Caribbean women's writing is irreducibly different.”34 While writing against prescriptive notions of the postcolonial and how it remains impoverished when speaking to the struggles of the Caribbean women writers, Hoving notes the centrality of staging writing that occurs in the perennial contact zone, that is, the Caribbean. What she learns is against the tradition of European enlightenment and its insistence of genealogies of time in contrast to the feminization of space, for the writers of her milieu, Hoving notes that “space and time cannot be separated.” Hoving's particular notions of a Caribbean feminist/womanist practice informs the imagination across borders that fuels my book.
Morrison's oeuvre, her suggestive motifs more and more appear as the bridge upon which I see a gathering of kindred scholars and writers of the global south, women who resist beyond the surveillance of the state, and step outside traditional regulations of women's bodies that are the mainstay of patriarchal vigilance and subjugations. Hoving's “place, voice, silence”—the tripartite ode to alterity and resistance is present in the arc that connects the African American and Caribbean women's “difference” to South Asian writers who seek to break out of spells of classic patriarchies that have been cemented in their own particular spheres of intimacy. This project then engages in cross-cultural comparisons that [Page 199]are deeply knowing of the complicity between fields of comparative literature and fields of empire (Said).35
Natalie Melas’ project on comparative literature and postcoloniality offers sound basis on which to find historical alternatives to this disciplinary project of empire that has been in vogue for the last century. Her points about the incommensurability between comparison and equivalence does reckon with the five hundred year of colonial structures and apparatus that brings the world into an empirical totality. In charting the historical forces that cohere around a discipline as it comes to its contemporary form in the twentieth century, a product of East Coast elitism and privilege, Melas observes, “Comparison is indistinguishable from imperial progress.”36 Thus, for this project's basis, aware of the discipline's complicity with hegemonies of empire and excesses of power, it is critical to resituate the project's logical momentum around a signifier of established alterity—a literary genealogy inspired by the novelist of lacunae, Toni Morrison, rather than the repositories of continental theories.
Morrison's point about the paradox at the heart of the American narrative—ideology of freedom with a mechanism of imprisonment is noted centrally in the work of feminist activist and scholar of Native American ancestry, Andrea Smith, who notes in her text, Conquest, “The ‘freedom guaranteed to some individuals in society has always been premised upon the radical unfreedom of others. Very specifically, the U.S. could not exist without the genocide of indigenous peoples. Otherwise visitors to this continent would be living under indigenous forms of governance rather than the U.S. empire.”37 Sexual violence forms the structures of imperial control that engineer the multiple nations into nation-state apparatus, and Smith's scathing critique brings us back to the feminist indictment of nation-state. The nation as the first half of this appellate is rife with possibilities of autonomy, indigeneity, identity, and gendered presence whereas the nation conjoined with state connotes cemented structures of hierarchy, bureaucracy, authority, and power sutured under the ideologies of patriarchy and paternalism. For the woman then, stepping out of confinement forecasts a migration to borderlands—home, family, community, nation, and state. For the woman who is further, an author, a novelist then, the text is the radical landscape wherein alternative communities that refuse to comply by the ideologies of the Law of the Father exist. It is in these novel elisions that the imagined community with the dead allows for the porous diaphanous borderland apart from [Page 200]the opacity of patriarchal injunctions, nationalist entombments, and masculinist imperialisms.
For the engendered voice, the nation is a space of confinement, inscription, law. Partha Chatterjee's recovery of how the binary of home and world are scripted upon the woman's body finds echoes in the feminist scholarship of Meyda Yeğenoğlu who notes how the presumptions of the state in Algeria (Islamists and imperialists) and Turkey (nationalists and Islamists) translate into law with consequence on the woman's body. Unpacking Chatterjee, Yeğenoğlu writes, “. when home, and by extension woman, are regarded as the principal site for expressing the nation's culture, controversies about woman's dress, manners, food, education, her role at home and outside become intensified. The outcome of this controversy was the emergence of a new definition of woman which was not only contrasted with modern Western society, but also distinguished from the indigenous patriarchal tradition.”38 The contestations only further isolate, marginalize, and erase the figure of the woman, asserts Yeğenoğlu, thus leaving the woman's figure as the elliptical question between embattled political forces in Turkey and Algeria.
Amina Jamal's sociological analysis offered from Pakistan reflects on feminisms of the global south as she too builds on Chatterjee's figurations around the woman's body in the home and the world. Through the case study and legal orations around the controversial Samia case of mid-1990s, Jamal argues that the “domestication of the ‘pure Muslim girl’ enabled the pathologizing of women's autonomy as deviance.”39 In thinking through modern contestations around national identity in Pakistan, patriarchal and religious self-identifications have been worked out as cultural prescriptions upon the woman's body. Along with Amina Jamal, Shahnaz Khan's projects make it evident from a whole host of cases starting in the early-80s that the impact of the Zina laws as orchestrated in the aftermath of Zia's Hudood ordinance was resisted in formidable ways by Women's Action Forum, a feminist activist group that resists the punitive surveillance of the Pakistani state.40 In some ways, Morrison's generalized sentiment of the social injustice that stitches together the fabric of the American state is the continuous thread bringing together the multiplicity of Smith, Yeğenoğlu, and Jamal. The trajectory of the gendered subaltern figure is that liberation is comprised of narratives of surveillance, inscriptions, punishment, and imprisonment.[Page 201]V
Morrison concludes her novel, Paradise, with the spectral figures of women laboring from below. Paradise is the work of women bettering the structural iniquities of violence across the many borders—nation, ethnicity, race, gender, and sexuality. Maythee Rojas pulls together the many strands of feminist endeavors and provides urgent inspiration in this comparative worlding that occurs at the heart of this book. Countering the problematic of comparisons as inherently imperial as noted by Natalie Melas, my comparisons are an effort to resist the normative borders and seek a coalition across what Caren Kaplan and Inderpal Grewal point is a “homogenized figure of racialized and sexualized difference.”41 Rojas urges love as the arch-necessity compelling feminist worlding. The love that we direct in our intimate lives needs to take on larger incarnations and energetic dimensions in the labors of community-building and paradise-making as signified by Morrison in her fictive landscapes. Rojas writes, “Loving, empathetic traveling becomes especially salient when we consider the acceleration with which U.S. women of color and women in third world nations become subject to the same systems of economic and gender exploitation as countries grow more globally intertwined.”42 Rojas’ suggestion of cross-cultural cross-national love is premised on sidelining normative boundaries and masculinist paradigms in order to bridge across borders, to speak to one other despite the prevalence of barbed wires, demilitarized zones, warfare, and other violent impasses that make such conversations impossible.
In research coming from opposing sites, South Asian conflict zones, Anuradha Chenoy notes, “… the situation of most women as combatants has been one of subservience to men. Some women do achieve positions of leadership in situations of conflict, but since laws and social practices do not change … women as a whole do not improve their position or receive new rights.”43 Chenoy's research also points us to the problematic of valorizing women with guns as heroic harbingers of change. Armed women in conflict zones only further perpetrate patriarchal systems of domination except in the special circumstances where women step into male territories and learn severe compliance of the patriarchal state. It is in fact, at the other end of the conflict zone, where women step out in the public sphere as peace makers that they do bring change, not only against the violence they decry but patriarchal regimes of order.[Page 202]
In fact, feminist processes need to reckon with not only institutional and ideological apparatuses but also, psychic ones. Within South Asian trajectories, there exists the passive gendered positionality that women are the forbearers of new generations and old traditions, and thus, they are celebrated for their endurance, in particular, endurance to pain and suffering. Lauren Leve's anthropological field work in women's support of the Maoist insurrection in Nepal states the binary of sukha (happiness) and dukha (sorrow) wherein social structures rely on psychic underpinnings that “it is through certain types of suffering that the adult feminine subjectivity is produced.”44 Countering the feminine materiality of suffering, what I propose instead is that the female subject comes into full subjectivity through an embrace of sukha. Learning to inhabit spheres of happiness in itself is an act of radical feminist self-assertion; loving across borders and communing with feminine subjectivity is a negation of female subjection. Within the body of the novel then, the female comes into subjectivity through new transnational belongings.VI
The sheer quantity of Mahasweta's production, her preoccupation with the gendered subaltern subject, and the range of her experimental prose—moving from the tribal to the Sanskritic register by way of easy obscenity and political analysis—will not permit her to be an isolated voice.45
This book thinks through the various definitions and conceptualizations of community that are in literary circuit. In borrowing from Bataille to Giorgio Agamben, Lata Mani, and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, it extrapolates the tensions between normative notions of community and heterodox positions on community-formation. Ramanujan's medieval Kannada poem, a devotional poem that hinges on the radical and comes out of the poet's umbrage at normative manners of reaching God, provides the ballast for this project. In the binary between “things standing” (sthavara) and “moving ever” (jangama), my project rests. Interested in the South Asian literatures that are at the heart of this project, I attempt new connectivities for reading and theorizing South Asian contemporary women's literature.
While the normative notions of community arise out of a sense of rootedness, stability, and fixed identity, the heterodox notions point to [Page 203]a mobility, invisibility, and dynamism leading to alternative forms of community which arise as a resistance to hegemonic structures such as statism, masculinity, religious and/or racial supremacy. In a brilliant articulation of the differences between community and coalition, Nick Mansfield neatly summarizes the critique of community that speaks to my own larger project of disembodied or alternate communities.
It includes and excludes, and always on terms that are imagined preset, pre-determined by an identity also already determined or incipient, yet always legitimate, receiving the credit, the credibility it deserves…. Normalizing judgment is the genre of signifying practice which most clearly defines community. Community is not unrelated to family, one of its isotopes … The impetus of community is to naturalise. It cites an identity, imagined to be pre-given, and then renders it incontestable by making it the lodestone of a local policy, one that can be used to make you an offender.46
Such are the heterodox notions that account in my work for Bataille's headless torso, Mani's emphasis on female subjectivity, Sunder Rajan's charges of the state, Agamben's states of exception, Glissant's poetics, and Deleuze and Guattari's rhizomatic cross-pollinations collectively point to the contestations I find in the novels included in this study. What I propose is that the static and normative community is always already in a state of disintegration so that the community that possibly contains the elements of communion—openness, inclusion, non-violence, friendship regardless of status is the alternative form found within particular contemporary novels written by women wherein such communities are present. Margaret Chatterjee's poem, “From the Abyss” which appears in an anthology of contemporary Indian women poets, In Their Own Voice (1993), speaks to the melancholic force of collective loss:
We who have known destruction
And who were destroyed
When people talk of a bomb
Like children of a new toything,
Remember us, you who never knew our names or saw our faces.
When rich men make poverty a virtue
Tell them we died of hunger.
When people talk of toleration[Page 204]
Tell them our synagogues were smashed,
Our temples and churches desecrated.
When they talk of democracy
Tell them that some of us died in Spain
Because we cared too much.
You world-makers, lovers of towers and mountains,
Who fashion the time of day with visions,
Who are not put off with fine phrases-
We also loved the world and died in exile.
We have no voice left but yours … 47
Chatterjee's poem speaks from the dead as do the communities that emerge within this project. Chatterjee signifies a global solidarity that dives back in history to the holocaust and the Spanish Civil War and ties Bengal to Buchenwald in a kinship of the dead who seek justice across the globe. Her “large company” certainly involves the collective labor addressed in these pages. In opening with “we … who were destroyed/Speak,” Chatterjee invokes the power of the absent. However when she includes the refrain, “We have no voice left but yours,” her poem ends on a plea to the powerful which is in stark contrast to the way the imagined communities herein negotiate with the powerful.
While Chatterjee's dead speak, they still seem to leave the actual speaking to others with whom they must plead and demand sympathy. In locating these alternate communities of the dead, this project reads them as polyphonous, diachronic, and anarchic. They populate their own unique world which crosses over and discourses with the living, and forms a dynamic bond of dialogue, and yet, they are content in their aloof labor without addressing the powerful: an example of this unique world can be seen in the itinerant community that congregates in the convent and recedes further “inside” instead of traveling “outside” in Haven.
In the caution Spivak gives us during her meditation on Mahasweta Devi, that Devi is never an isolated voice, I gather together the force of this project. All the novelistic voices gathered together in this project, albeit alone in the hermetic exercise of novel making, are a collective. The worlds of the women portrayed within present a pluralistic struggle waged by multiple and starkly different characters. While I do believe and see the labor of resistance being carried out in other literary genres, especially poetry as exampled by Margaret Chatterjee, it is the sheer expanse of the literary stage that makes the novel unique in the room it [Page 205]allows such work to inhabit. In the novel's unhinging of the epic form and accessing the polyglossic linguistic forms of the various people it references, its use of parody, chronotope, linguistic free play, it is a form that allows for the dimensions of radicalism that allows for the spatialization of this imagined community at the heart of this project. The various novels of this study stem from contexts of marginalization where the women writers negotiate their narrative out of the historical and literary amnesia about their particular conditions.
This project posits that the language of liberation is beyond decipherability. In the scream that disrupts and ends Sujata's day and Devi's novel, or Santha's eyes that haunt the latter pages of Cracking India, liberation does not arrive packaged in the clarity of novelistic prose. Its illumination exceeds the limits of the novel. The book, in essence, constructs a south–south bridge between contexts of marginalization in the Americas and South Asia. Instead of privileging European theorists and literature, I sought to read the South Asian works alongside western texts that do not prescribe or sit easily in their respective locations, i.e., western texts that are non-western. While Morrison and Danticat arise from North America and the Caribbean, their politics, literary lineage, and historical context places them in the literary “south.” By reaching toward the South Asian works via Morrison's novelistic conduit, I begin a south–south dialectic that deprivileges the west, is non-hierarchical, and recharges the simple and anxious binary of western vs. third-world feminists.
Spivak's “gendered subaltern subject” roams the pages of these novels, seeking community so that she will ontologically finally gain her own selfhood. For the women characters of each of these novels, the overseeing hegemonic apparatus, whether it is the state, a smaller body such as a town, or the immediate patriarch within the domestic realm, they are wary of any community which asks questions to admit them, and then, casts the pall of control, surveillance, and punishment. In all these novels, the characters resist the institutional machinery by finding an alternative community, which I call an imagined community with the dead.
Since my definition of community demands a variability, the imagined community with the dead shifts in appearance, meaning, and locus in each of these novels. This concept is less a direct aspect of the literary novel and more a place holder for a pluralistic form of resistance to hegemonic bodies such as the state, culture, history, patriarchal tradition, [Page 206]etc., so that in many of the novels, it manifests itself as the ways in which the women characters reject the conscriptions imposed upon them by the conditions of modernity, secularism, and economic necessity and find more collective methods of mourning, exercising their right to exist and be enfranchised. Since twentieth century can be considered the century of massacres of scales unimaginable before the advent of the technical innovations that aided campaigns of horror, I was interested from the outset in the condition of those who are slaughtered and those who are left behind, mourning and surviving. Since the dead and the diasporic, those who are killed and those who flee to survive are apprehended into nationalistic narratives against their will, I was interested in the thematic of agency. In what way do those who are erased from formal records, those who matter so little that their lives are expendable to the national story, matter? In what ways do these souls exert power and wherein do we locate their agency? I determine that it is in women's novel, those writing from the margins about marginal contexts, that we located a spatialized “paradise down below” pointing to many imagined communities of the dead, fleeting, evanescent, and prolific.
Morrison's Paradise composes the paradigmatic heart of this book. The women who are shot in the first sentence of the novel rise again and travel back to the sites of their original wounds, and in effect, heal themselves back to life in death. Traveling with one another and gathered around the goddess Piedade, they are the most apparent imagined community with and of the dead. In Danticat's The Farming of Bones, Amabelle imagines community with the dead in order to live the rest of her material life. For the Haitian to survive the massacre instituted by the Dominican President at the time meant the necessary skill to commune with those who were removed in death and exile. Remembering also involved communing with the absent, and death does not signify the end of narrative. In mining Morrison as the theoretical apparatus for this project, new epistemologies have sprung up linking these disparate literary worlds and have augured the plenitude of power and melancholy not only in the American works, but the South Asian ones as well. It would be a misreading to accord Morrison an elevated status in comparison with the South Asian works because her novel, an understudied one, is the compass in discussing novels that speak of the margins. Thus, her novel does not displace the “disposable.” Instead this epistemological scheme lobbies for a discourse of communing with abandon, without surveillance or shadow, an actual communing of communities of the [Page 207]dead. Lata Mani, in charting female subjectivity in actual accounts of Sati in nineteenth century British India, sums it up best:
The issue, returning to Spivak's question, may not be whether the subaltern can speak so much as whether she can be heard to be speaking in a given set of materials and what, indeed, has been made of her voice by colonial and postcolonial historiography. Rephrasing Spivak thus enables us to remain vigilant about the positioning of woman in colonial discourse without conceding to colonial discourse what it did not, in fact, achieve—the erasure of women.48
Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India exposes the dichotomous trajectory in which I read “community” by beginning on the note of an idealized community of egalitarian bliss where men of different religious backgrounds gather in peace around a desirable young woman and then, disband into contentious sections broken up by the stagnant identifications along religious, linguistic, nationalistic, and ethnic lines as the new nation-states are born. Here, Santha finds an alternative community of women in motion, women who were severed from their homes and pasts and thrown into the historical turmoil of nation-making. At the same time, her absence from the text signifies a communion between Santha and all the dead, disappeared, and dispossessed of this period in time called the partition. Each text emboldens an altered imagined community. Yet what we see happen in all of them is that the women characters wrestle against the oppressive systems in place to find new ways to resist, wield agency, and speak to one another.
The Hindi novels discussed in the second half of the book give urgency to the discussion at hand because of the intimacy of the hegemonic assault. In the three novels, starting with Durrani's Kufr49, women characters find themselves in confrontations with the manifestation of the state and religious authority in their spouses or fathers. The aggressor is the immediate patriarch who polices the women's sexuality through repressive tactics of physical, psychic, and sexual abuse. Basically silence belies acceptance of patriarchal surveillance. Instead it veils alternate forms of resistance which requires a less obvious form of dialogue; the women commune with ghosts, the spirit of their own dead selves as in Kufr, or a coalition of women laboring at the grassroots level as in Kathgulab, or informal conversation that might appear to be seemingly incoherent as in Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa. The sum total impact of the [Page 208]novel yields a counter plot to statist notions of family and community; the women form their alternate circles of kinship which allows them to turn their grief outward into the imagined community with the dead.
An imagined community of the dead reveals multiple facets of the labor of resistance. In the novel, it provides new epistemic ways of suturing a sense of loss with agency, power, and female voice. One has to be wary of the instinct to label those who lose as “victims” with little recourse or access to exert their presence in the larger narratives that contextualize their losses. Instead the novel provides the space in which the most disparate female voices negotiate toward imaginative forms of resistance. The dead exert presence, speak, commune, and write themselves back into the very narratives that excised them. Future projects along these lines can address the numerous questions that arise at the end of such a study: What does it mean to have such a large corpus of souls negotiating power at the edges of states? What are the ways in which the novel contributes to the melancholy of not belonging? In what ways can we resituate the margins if it asserts itself in profound ways upon the literary imagination?
Notes to the Chapters[Page 209]Introduction
1. Toni Morrison, “Recitatif,” in Confirmation: An Anthology of African American Women, ed. Amiri Baraka and Amina Baraka (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1983), 261.
2. Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1992), XI.
3. See Elizabeth Abel, “Black Writing, White Reading: Race and the Politics of Feminist Interpretation,” Critical Inquiry 19 (1993): 470–498 on critical race and feminist theories, and Juda Bennett, “Toni Morrison and the Burden of the Passing Narrative,” African American Review 35, no. 2 (Summer, 2001): 205–217 on reader-response theory. For a particularly plangent psychoanalytical reading, see Kalpana Seshadri-Crooks, Desiring Whiteness: A Lacanian Analysis of Race (New York: Routledge, 2000).
4. Morrison, “Recitatif,” 245.
5. Abena P. A. Busia, “The Artistic Impulse of Toni Morrison's Shorter Works,” in The Cambridge Companion to Toni Morrison, ed. Justine Tally (London: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
6. A. K. Ramanujan, Speaking of Siva (New York: Penguin Books, 1973), Basavanna 820.
7. Georges Bataille, “I Throw Myself among the Dead,” in The Impossible, trans. Robert Hurley (San Francisco: City Lights, 1991), 147–164, read in Fred Botting and Scott Wilson, ed., The Bataille Reader (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 1997), 105.
8. Botting and Wilson, The Bataille Reader, 4.
9. Botting and Wilson, The Bataille Reader, 93.
10. Morrison, “Recitatif,” 252.
11. Toni Morrison, Paradise (New York: Knopf, 1998), 221. Morrison describes Connie Sosa's cellar as such a place where she lies in her alcohol-drenched melancholy and is also the site where she brings the woman in her circle into autonomy, a place literally beneath the radar of patriarchal surveillance. A recent novel, Daniel Black's A Sacred Place (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2007) in its title and the novel's narrative crux, points to such a site in the wilderness which is beyond the white gaze and if observed with the requisite vision and wisdom, allows one to see into the community of spirits who linger on. “A good clean darkness” then frames the geography beyond the Law of the Father in which radical communities converge.[Page 210]
12. Children's literature documents this alternative epistemology by telling the story of slaves who could fly or walk on water back to Africa. It is not easy to categorize this literature as fairy tale or folktale or legend because its manner of telling is in the vein of history. It literally seeks to present history in the form of story to children, the famous example being Virginia Hamilton's The People Could Fly.
13. Abena P. A. Busia, “Those Ibos! Jus’ Upped and Walked Away: The Story of the Slaves at Ibo Landing as Transcendental Ritual,” in Proceedings of Conference on Repurcussions of the Atlantic Slave Trade: The Interior of the Bight of Benin and the African Diaspora, eds Carolyn Brown and Paul Lovejoy (Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, forthcoming), 12.
14. David Bradley, The Chaneysville Incident (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), 428.
15. E. Patrick Johnson's Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South, An Oral History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008) fills in the important gap by recording the very lives left unrecorded and unmapped and becomes through Johnson's creative, performative, and brilliant narration, an important text to fill the gaps in histories of the present.
16. I borrow from Busia's title where she signifies a “transcendental ritual” in the stories of Ibos who fly or walk on water and end up being far trickier than their oppressors.
17. Maurice Blanchot, Friendship, trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1997), 291.
18. Jean-Luc Nancy, The Inoperative Community, ed. Peter Connor, trans. Peter Connor, Lisa Garbus, Michael Holland, and Simona Sawhney (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 22.
19. Botting and Wilson, The Bataille Reader, 228.
20. Jean-Luc Nancy, The Birth to Presence, trans. Brian Holmes et al. (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1993), 339.
21. Jean-Luc Nancy, The Experience of Freedom, trans. Bridget McDonald (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1993), 95.
22. Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 85.
23. Morrison, Paradise, 3.
24. Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics 1925 to the 1990s: Strategies of Identity-Building, Implantation and Mobilisation (with special reference to Central India) (New Delhi, India: Penguin Books, 1993), 18.
25. M. M. Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel,” in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 337.
26. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, 356.
27. Chantal Mouffe, On the Political: Thinking in Action (New York: Routledge, 2005), 101.
28. Mary Dietz, “Context is All: Feminism and Theories of Citizenship,” in Dimensions of Radical Democracy: Pluralism, Citizenship, Community, ed. Chantal Mouffe (New York: Verso, 1992), 76.
29. Read Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003).[Page 211]
30. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999), 151–152.
31. Samir Amin, Eurocentrism, trans. Russell Moore (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1989), 111.
32. Lata Mani, Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1998), 162.
33. Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, The Scandal of the State: Women, Law, and Citizenship in Postcolonial India (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2003), 145.
34. Paul A. Anderson, “My Lord! What a morning: The ‘Sorrow Songs’ in Harlem Renaissance Thought,” in Symbolic Loss: The Ambiguity of Mourning and Memory at Century's End, ed. Peter Homans (Charlottesville, Virginia Area: University Press of Virginia, 2000), 98.
35. William Watkin, On Mourning: Theories of Loss in Modern Literature (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd., 2004), 191.
36. Shoshana Felman, “Camus’ The Plague, or a Monument to Witnessing,” in Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, eds. Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, M.D. (New York: Routledge, 1992), 117.
37. Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History (Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 18.
38. Edward W. Said, Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), 23.
39. Isabel Allende, “Writing as an Act of Hope,” in Paths of Resistance: The Art and Craft of the Political Novel, ed. William Zinsser (Boston: Houghton Mifflin C, 1989), 50.
1. Jean-Luc Nancy, The Inoperative Community (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 143. Nancy's thesis no. 40 in his essay, “Of Divine Places,” explains this distance: “We should therefore rather lead community toward this disappearance of the gods, which founds it and divides it from itself. Over divided community, selfsame with its expanse, like a sort of ground plan, the traces of the paths along which the gods withdrew mark out the partition of community. With these traces community inscribes the absence of its communion, which is the absence of the representation of a divine presence at the heart of community and as community itself. Communion is thus the representation of what the gods have never been, but instead what we imagine to ourselves when we know they are no longer present. In place of communion, in fact, there is the absence of the gods, and the exposure of each of us to the other: We are exposed to each other in the same way as we could, together, be exposed to the gods. It is the same mode of presence, without the presence of the gods.”
2. Morrison narrates the history of Haven, a thriving black town in Oklahoma, through the magical memory of Deek Morgan, one of the twins who remembers [Page 212]every detail of his collective ancestry as if they were personal incidents that occurred in his own life. “Having been refused by the world in 1890 on their journey to Oklahoma, Haven residents refused each other nothing, were vigilant to any need or shortage.” Toni Morrison, Paradise (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), 109.
3. Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 18.
4. Caruth reads Freud's Moses and Monotheism to adduce the condition of trauma. Once Freud points to Moses as the outsider, an Egyptian who leaves to preserve monotheism, the Jewish return to Canaan becomes a “departure” and the original act, the murder of Moses, a historical event that cannot be grasped. Caruth's remarks of Hebrews being the chosen people is relevant, not simply because Morrison's landscape is profoundly biblical, but also because both collectives find their paths on originary acts of violence. She writes, “The history of chosenness, as the history of survival, thus takes the form of an unending confrontation with the returning violence of the past” (69).
5. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland: A Lost Feminist Utopian Novel (New York: Pantheon, 1979).
6. Sojourner Truth, “Look at Me! Ain't I a Woman?” The Crisis, 01/1999, 106:1, 31.
7. Rokeya Shakawat Hossain, “Sultana's Dream,” in Sultana's Dream: A Feminist Utopia and Selections from The Secluded Ones, ed. and trans. Roushan Jahan (New York: The Feminist Press at CUNY, 1988).
8. Edwin Ardener, “Belief and the Problem of Women,” in Perceiving Women, ed. Shirley Ardener (New York: Halsted Press, 1978), 3.
9. Toni Morrison, Beloved (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987).
10. Toni Morrison, Jazz (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992).
11. Juliet Mitchell, “Femininity, Narrative and Psychoanalysis,” in Modern Criticism and Theory, eds. David Lodge and Nigel Wood (New York: Pearson Education, 2000), 392.
12. Morrison, Paradise, 307.
13. Chela Sandoval, Methodology of the Oppressed (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), writes, “Indeed, the location of the middle voice is similar to the place exacted of those ‘oppressed’ citizens who, as Fanon points out, reflexively act to self-consciously effect themselves in acting, always remaining inside the action—and outside the action as well—in the transitive, mobile, middle location of ‘doubled consciousness.’ The technology of the middle voice thus politicized represents a mechanism for survival, as well as for generating and performing a higher moral and political mode of oppositional and coalitional social movement” (156). Sandoval, in proposing a hermeneutic that sounds against the decolonization she finds inherent to all Western canonic thought, populates différance with such a capacious effect of reinvention and resistance that her lens really help to “see” Morrison's “sightings.”
14. I would like to weave in ideas of community beyond the content, layered in multiple ways throughout the text, and according to Peter Kearly who writes on the popular reception to this novel seen as difficult to read, he presents a notion of community concurrent with reader-response theories. His ideas become useful in complicating the levels of community that exist upon the immediacy of reading [Page 213]the first enigmatic line of this novel. Peter R. Kearly, “Toni Morrison's Paradise and the Politics of Community,” Journal of American and Comparative Cultures 23, no. 2, (Summer 2000): 9–16, writes, “The act of reading Paradise, therefore, is performing an alternative way of making community, where individuals derive a sense of belonging and identity, a sense of having a place in the world not just by following a predetermined order, but by accepting the diversity of living in the moment. Communities are created by individuals through their interactions with one another, based upon common history. A history of the community is the collective memory individuals bring to that community. Stored in this collective memory are experiences and perspectives of interpersonal relationships and social values that are transmitted from generation to generation through the language and objects of culture.”
15. Marc C. Conner, “From the Sublime to the Beautiful: The Aesthetic Progression of Toni Morrison,” in The Aesthetics of Toni Morrison: Speaking the Unspeakable, ed. Marc C. Conner (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2000), 73–74, writes on the novel, Paradise, “Though its depiction of a community that preys upon its own young, its own women, and those outside of its narrow confines seems in some respects to return to the war between self and society depicted in Morrison's earlier work—indeed, War was Morrison's working title for the book ('This Side of Paradise')—nevertheless the novel reveals a continuation of the direction announced with Beloved and continued in Jazz. In her depiction of a community that is isolated, fearful and hating of all that is outside of its narrow confines, Morrison reveals the devastation that hatred and isolation wreak upon their perpetrators. If Beloved examines the glories and excesses of mother-love, and Jazz the glories and excesses of human love, Paradise shows the glories and excesses of love of God.”
16. Andrea Dimino, “Toni Morrison and William Faulkner: Remapping Culture,” in Unflinching Gaze: Morrison and Faulkner Re-Envisioned, eds., Carol A. Kolmerten, Stephen M. Ross, and Judith Bryant Wittenberg (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1997), 40, writes, “Like literary and cultural critic Edward Said, whose work she admires, Morrison seeks to reveal cultural links between ‘canon building’ and ‘Empire building.'”
17. Racial erasure is an act of racism, and this translates into the act of barbarity that marks the great flaw of American civilization. Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1992), 45, writes, “Why is it seen as raw and savage? Because it is peopled by a nonwhite indigenous population? Perhaps. But certainly because there is ready to hand a bound and unfree, rebellious but serviceable, black population against which Dunbar and all white men are enabled to measure these privileging and privileged differences.
Eventually individualism fuses with the prototype of Americans as solitary, alienated, and malcontent. What, one wants to ask, are Americans alienated from? What are Americans always so insistently innocent of? Different from? As for absolute power, over whom is this power held, from whom withheld, to whom distributed?
Answers to these questions lie in the potent and ego-reinforcing presence of an Africanist population. This population is convenient in every way, not the least of which is self-definition. This new white male can now persuade himself that [Page 214]savagery is ‘out there'. The lashes ordered (500 applied five times is 2500) are not one's own savagery; repeated and dangerous breaks for freedom are ‘puzzling’ confirmations of black irrationality; the combination of Dean Swift's beatitudes and a life of regularized violence is civilized; and if the sensibilities are dulled enough, the rawness remains external.” These rubrics of violence, its secret mission of self-definition, and “out there” are inverted in ironic and self-critical ways in this novel.
18. Elizabeth Ann Beaulieu, The Toni Morrison Encyclopedia (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2003) provides a coherent and precise summary of the entire novel, summed by popular assessment as a difficult read. She identifies one of the “primary struggles in the novel results from the efforts of Ruby's youth to resist the repressive and isolationist policies of their parents’ generation” (261) and draws conclusions a little too neat from a novel too tangled to be dissected so precisely. Beaulieu's declaratives that Pallas is the white girl, that the three women running are shot edit into the Morrison narrative a certitude that simplifies the original text. Though such a summary is essential within the stage of reader-response theory, it undercuts the very project undertaken by Morrison in this definitive and phenomenal imaginative landscape that is purposefully unyielding, resistant, and slippery.
19. Missy Dehn Kubitschek, Toni Morrison: A Critical Companion (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998), 163.
20. Jeanette King, Women and the Word: Contemporary Women Novelists and the Bible (New York: St. Martin's Press, LLC, 2000), 158, provides the etymological chart of 8-Rock as a mining term that is a label for the coal found deep within the earth's womb, a color significantly interpreted as pure and necessary to be authentic within the genealogic and biblical map of Ruby. Echoes of the Pentateuch, the chosen people, and the prophet Zechariah who warns against the excess of disobedience and a scattering of his people are present within the rhetoric of 8-Rock.
21. Kristin Hunt mentions the haunting Indian figure marking this novel. She locates in Anna one of the few people who is able to sense what is lost, as is Deacon later who is tracing the path of the lost, and the great failure of Ruby lies in having lost touch with both native and African ways completely.
22. Kristin Hunt, “Paradise Lost: The Destructive Forces of Double Consciousness and Boundaries in Toni Morrison's Paradise,” in Reading Under the Sign of Nature: New Essays in Ecocriticism, eds. John Tallmadge and Henry Harrington (Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, 2000), 120.
23. Theodor W. Adorno, Prisms, trans. from German by Samuel and Sherry Weber (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1986), 99. The world of the novel materializes Huxley's worst fears about modernity, a reading that Adorno superimposes upon the American nation, a community of communities fashioned after the multiple “conditionings” formulated in Huxley's ordered new world, void of ennui and disenchantment. “Conditioning” is a key concept making its way across Morrison's landscape also, which can be said to take place in “past anterior”—imagining the historical past simultaneous to modernity in another way. However Adorno opposes the schematic present in the novel as empty and bereft of meaning since it contains a hollow cry against a future prognostication of absolute satiation; it does little to contend with the malefactors of today. While Huxley does away with the possibility of paradise, Adorno's adamant opposition to such a perspective yields [Page 215]room for the sort of paradise “down here” that Morrison hints by the end of her novel.
24. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 254–255.
25. Morrison, Paradise, 307.
26. In acknowledgment of the work done by South Asian Subaltern Studies Collective, Gayatri Spivak, and Latin Subaltern Studies Collective, and the anthology assembled by Ileana Rodriguez, I have culled meaning for the subaltern as a figure outside the state, severed from agency who operates in shadow economy and is not present in the historical archive or master narratives of any sort.
27. Katrine Dalsgard, “The One All-Black Town Worth the Pain: (African) American Exceptionalism, Historical Narration, and the Critique of Nationhood in Toni Morrison's Paradise,” African American Review 35, no. 2 (Summer 2001): 233–248, adduces the differences in Morrison's notions of history from the generation of scholars who believe in black nationalism provided it is filtered through the lens of feminism and other politics more coherent with inclusion of the oppressed, positions espoused by scholars like E. Frances White. Morrison, more deconstructive in her focus, and in tune with Foucauldian scholar like Catherine Belsey, she attests to the image of history never being outside itself, never able to articulate one truth, constantly refracted within itself. The novel, according to Dalsgard, rests in this unease with master narratives, like Barthes's “tissue of quotations” and moving from Anderson's insistence on needing to understand nationhood, Bhabha's theory of nationhood becomes central. Dalsgard writes, “Within her narrative framework, Morrison's deconstruction of exceptionalism as an (African) American national narrative may be further understood in relation to Homi Bhabha's preface to his anthology of scholarly articles on the cultural significations of the nation's foundation, Nation and Narration (1990). In this book Bhabha suggests that the concept of ‘the nation’ is haunted by an ambivalent tension between ‘the certainty with which historians speak of the “origins” of nation as a sign of the “modernity” of society,”’ on one hand, and the ‘transitional social reality’ inscribed by the nation's ‘cultural temporality,’ on the other.”
28. Morrison, Paradise, 18.
29. Kubitschek, Toni Morrison: A Critical Companion, 181. She also observes that it is this artificial and absolute binary established between good and evil that causes the pivotal action in the novel to occur, the violence against the women in the convent. She catalogues a number of examples of Rubians who follow this dichotomy to its insane consequence, of disallowing a part of their own selves much like the Black town in Fairly rejects the ancestors of Haven on their trek westward. She mentions Zechariah who rejects his own twin because he dances for the white man, Patricia who rejects her own daughter to gain favor in the eyes of her righteous neighbors, and Sweetie who rejects the runaway, Seneca who aids her like a pathfinder in a moment of darkness rather than see her for the savior she was, all because of this immutable line that divides those who are good from those who are putatively evil.
30. On this same theme of control and order faced by the outcaste from the powers-that-be, Jill C. Jones, “The Eye of a Needle: Morrison's Paradise, Faulkner's [Page 216]Absalom, Absalom! and American Jeremiad!, “Faulkner Journal 17, no. 2 (March 2002): 3–23, writes, “Paradise stands in a long tradition of American jeremiads, asking us to consider the nature and the language of exclusion, or as Morrison said in her Nobel lecture, the ‘lethal discourses of exclusion'. From the opening revelation that the New Fathers are on a mission to ‘target … detritus: throwaway people', to the interpretation of the words on the Oven, language and exclusion, history and myth, are intertwined. When phrases like ‘racial purity’ and ‘blood rules’ become part of our vocabulary, ethnic cleansing cannot be far behind. Language well-used, Morrison indicates in her Nobel speech, is the best of things. But words, stories, language carry the potential as well ‘to sanction ignorance and preserve privilege'. While Faulkner's novel seems to record the tragic end of a world, a culture, a system, Morrison's novel, like all American jeremiads, holds out the hope for redemption as well as the possibility of damnation.”
31. Morrison, Paradise, 87.
32. Morrison, Paradise, 205.
33. Morrison, Paradise, 222.
34. Morrison, Paradise, 304.
35. Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History, 18.
36. Beaulieu point this out in the passages on violence in her encyclopedia on Morrison.
37. Nancy J. Peterson, Against Amnesia: Contemporary Women Writers and the Crisis of Historical Memory (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), 91, emphasizes Morrison's personal interests in this era of black migration westward. A small aside in such an article talked about two caravans of black people being turned away by a black town. On this, she writes, “Provoked by this incident of black settlers refusing to help or even to welcome a prospective group of poor black migrants, Morrison crafts a novel that explores the repercussions of this troubling moment in African American history. The result is that Ruby, which might have been a paradise, a haven from white racism and lynching, which might have provided black people with unprecedented economic, political and cultural opportunities based not on the color of their skin, but on their own self-worth, turns out to be a failure.”
38. Morrison, Paradise, 16.
39. Morrison, Paradise, 155.
40. Kubitschek, Toni Morrison: A Critical Companion, 179, expresses this difference between the twins based on the shape of the story each imbibes, and the genders transcribed upon it. She writes, “Deacon's greater capacity for growth may result from his spiritual wellspring. His image of the sacred differs significantly from Steward's veneration of Zechariah and Rector Morgan. First, it comes directly from his own boyhood experience, rather than from stories of historical experience. Second, it focuses on women rather than men—the group of nineteen elegant women that he and Steward see during their tour of all-black towns in 1932.”
41. Jeanette King, Women and the Word: Contemporary Women Novelists and the Bible (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000), 169, also observes the feminine nature of the oven, its womb-like shape serving as a round center of nourishment, a symbol of community and identity at once. As the nature of Ruby becomes more material [Page 217]and individual, Soane wonders why her husband Deek cares more about his bank and profit, marking a shift from the utility of the once-operational oven which represents only a figurehead of power at this point.
42. Partha Chatterjee, “The Nation and Its Women,” in A Subaltern Studies Reader 1986–1995, ed. Ranajit Guha (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 244–246.
43. Morrison, Paradise, 85.
44. Peter Widdowson, “The American Dream Refashioned: History, Politics and Gender in Toni Morrison's Paradise, “Journal of American Studies 35, no. 2 (2001): 325.
45. Jeanette King, Women and the Word: Contemporary Women Novelists and the Bible, 158, returns to the early Jewish tribes and their similarities to the tribe in Ruby as configured under the aegis of the Law of the Father. She notes that there is no crime in Ruby, or transgression of a public nature, because this law has been internalized by the populace.
46. Rob Davidson, “Racial Stock and 8-Rocks: Communal Historiography in Toni Morrison's Paradise, “Twentieth Century Literature: A Scholarly and Critical Journal 47, no. 3 (Fall 2001): 355–373.
47. Morrison, Paradise, 306.
48. Justine Tally, Paradise Reconsidered: Toni Morrison's (Hi)stories and Truths (Hamburg: Lit Verlag, 1999), 48, writes, “Anna and Richard, both agents for the future of a Ruby connected to the world, ‘see’ or rather ‘sense’ a signal while making a last visit to the Convent. Holding five warm eggs, symbol of fertility and rebirth, Anna sees a door (to another realm of consciousness?), while Misner, who holds pepper pods of green, red and plum black (an integrated mix of colors and peoples), sees an open window, a sign of possibility or alternative knowledge.”
49. Morrison, Paradise, 16.
50. Roberta Rubenstein, Home Matters: Longing and Belonging, Nostalgia and Mourning in Women's Fiction (New York: Palgrave, 2001), 143, writes, “Linking home with nurturance, food is a recurring image and central symbol in the narrative. In addition to the obvious symbolism of the Oven itself, a significant number of events occur within the context of nourishment being prepared, served, shared, or received, as Morrison emphasizes the centrality of hunger and the gratification or denial of appetites both physical and spiritual. Virtually all of the women in the narrative, both those who live in the Convent and those who reside in the community of Ruby, are associated with literal food or symbolic nurturance or both.”
51. Roberta Rubenstein, Home Matters: Longing and Belonging, Nostalgia and Mourning in Women's Fiction (New York: Palgrave, 2001), 144, remarks about the “maternal ambience” of the Convent, emphasized by the number of children born there or present in the laughing voices of Merle and Perle, and underlined by the form of the novel which is divided into nine sections of literary gestation.
52. Nada Elia, Trances, Dances, and Vociferations: Agency and Resistance in Africana Women's Narratives (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2001), 115.
53. Tally, Toni Morrison's (Hi)stories and Truths, 42.
54. Patricia McKee, “Geographies of Paradise,” CR: The New Centennial Review 3, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 198, points out the importance of this space in Morrison's [Page 218]landscape. She writes, “The liberating potential of her ‘borderlessness', of both conceptual and practical kinds, lies within as well as outside of places. Morrison's spatializations of freedom reinforce revisions of modernity proposed by numerous theorists of African American cultures, who argue concepts and experiences of home cannot be separated from discourses of freedom.”
55. Morrison, Paradise, 41.
56. Morrison, Paradise, 64.
57. Kubitschek, Toni Morrison: A Critical Companion, 174. Other critics also wonder about the exact nature of Pallas's violation following the severe wound of seeing her mother and lover, Carlos, becoming lovers themselves. Some conclude that there is a horrifying episode of being gang-raped by a lake during her dangerous and lonely journey on the roads and then being rescued by a truck full of Indians who deposit her to Billie Delia's clinic.
58. Morrison, Paradise, 173.
59. McKay Jenkins, “Metaphors of Race and Psychological Damage in the 1940s American South: The Writings of Lillian Smith,” in Racing & (E)Racing Language: Living With the Color of Our Words, eds. Ellen J. Goldner and Safiya Henderson-Holmes (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2001), 112–113. McKay Jenkins quotes Morrison from Playing in the Dark: “If we follow through on the self-reflexive nature of these encounters with Africanism, it falls clear: images of blackness can be evil and protective, rebellious and forgiving, fearful and desirable—all of the self-contradictory features of the self. Whiteness, alone, is mute, meaningless, unfathomable, pointless, frozen, veiled, curtained, dreaded, senseless, implacable. Or so our writers seem to say” (1990, 59). Then, Jenkins adds his own analysis, “Morrison's comment, mirroring the thoughts of Lacan and Rose, makes clear the double-edged blade that cuts both races to the quick: not only do metaphors of virility and desire and danger demonize blacks, the other, they eviscerate the souls of whites, who are ironically denied access to the very life forces they have demonized blacks for embodying. For Smith, this system of inquiry found effective enunciation throughout her work, but it is to one particular field of vision, her treatment of women and children, that I will now turn. Her writing brims with descriptions of children who are spiritually damaged before they can even define what race is and with white women who have become utterly detached from their own physical and spiritual presences. They float through her work like disembodies ghosts, pale, shriveled, human voids. The southern offer of a detached, ambient, pervasive ‘glory’ in exchange for sexual and spiritual neglect, it becomes clear, Smith saw as a direct outgrowth of race. Just as embodiment and specifically sexuality become troped as black, estrangement and repression are inevitably written as white.”
60. Morrison, Paradise, 231.
61. Bell Hooks, “Women Who Write Too Much,” in Word: On Being a (Woman) Writer, ed. Jocelyn Burrell (New York: The Feminist Press at The City University of New York, 2004), 17. In The Dancing Mind, Toni Morrison suggests that the therapeutic ways in which writing can function are at odds with, or at least inferior to, a commitment to writing that is purely about the desire to engage language imaginatively. She contends: “I have always doubted and disliked the therapeutic claims made on behalf of writing and writers…. I know now, more than I ever did [Page 219](and I always on some level knew it), that I need that intimate, sustained surrender to the company of my own mind while it touches another…. “Morrison's description of the urge that leads to writing resonates with me. Still, I believe that one can have a complete imaginative engagement with writing as a craft and still experience it in a manner that is therapeutic; one urge does not diminish the other.
62. Richard L. Schur, “Locating Paradise in the Post-Civil Rights Era: Toni Morrison and Critical Race Theory,” in Contemporary Literature, 45(2), Summer 2004, 290–291.
63. Morrison, Paradise, 241.
64. Morrison, Paradise, 242.
65. Cheryl Lester, “Meditations on a Bird in the Hand: Ethics and Aesthetics in a Parable by Toni Morrison,” in The Aesthetics of Toni Morrison: Speaking the Unspeakable, ed. Marc C. Conner (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2000), 128, describes in an extremely moving piece framed as a call and response to Morrison's famous words in Stockholm. I quote from Lester's account Morrison's telling of the tale which is valuable to include in its entirety as does Lester. In the version I know the woman is the daughter of slaves, black, American, and lives alone in a small house outside of town. Her reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question. Among her people she is both the law and the transgression. The honor she is paid and the awe in which she is held reach beyond her neighborhood to places far away; to the city where the intelligence of rural prophets is the source of much amusement.
One day the woman is visited by some young people who seem to be bent on disproving her clairvoyance and showing her up for the fraud they believe she is. Their plan is simple: they enter her house and ask the one question the answer to which rides solely on her difference from them, a difference they regard as a profound disability: her blindness. They stand before her, and one of them says,
“Old woman, I hold in my hand a bird. Tell me whether it is living or dead.” She does not answer, and the question is repeated. “Is the bird I am holding living or dead?”
Still she does not answer. She is blind and cannot see her visitors, let alone what is in their hands. She does not know their color, gender or homeland. She only knows their motive.
The old woman's silence is so long, the young people have trouble holding their laughter.
Finally she speaks, and her voice is soft but stern. “I don't know,” she says, “I don't know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands.”
66. Linda J. Krumholz, “Reading and Insight in Toni Morrison's Paradise, “African American Review 36, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 33, writes, “The women gain insights through painting; readers can find insight in Morrison's novel. When reading a novel a reader, like Consolata, ‘steps in’ or ‘sees in’ to another and thus may discover new thoughts, new possibilities of knowledge or action, and new ways of understanding what is within oneself. Readers ‘raise the dead’ insofar as the dead [Page 220]characters on the page come alive within the reader. Misner preaches that ‘what is sown is not alive until it dies'; like the five women who live on after their deaths at the end of the novel, the characters must be reborn in the reader's life and imagination to effect the world.”
67. Morrison, Paradise, 262.
68. These are the same questions that inspire dread, outrage, and irritation in a good many readers from all circles, from Oprah's Reading Club to other public forums and inspired irate and conservative reviewers, like Geoffrey Bent, to rail against all the thematics of the novel as hyperbolic, heavy-handed, or ludicrous. Except for occasional glimpses of brilliance in her writing abilities, when recording a character's observations or Seneca's abandonment in the apartment as a child, Bent finds little that is salvageable in Morrison's novel. Geoffrey Bent, “Less than Divine: Toni Morrison's Paradise,” Southern Review 35, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 145–149, writes, “One of paradise's shortcomings as a concept is that it's too schematic, a place that's all of this and none of that. Morrison's new novel falls prey to this same exclusivity. Virtue and vice seem to have been rigorously sorted along the convenient divide of gender; all the women are good, all the men bad. Even if we employ the euphemisms of anthropology and say that Morrison is exploring the patriarchal in conflict with the matriarchal—certainly a rich subject, and one of great significance in the history of African Americans—the theme is still too broad and emotionally unengaging to propel an affecting novel.” Rife with errors and thick-skinned in its readings, Bent does not see the goodness in Misner, a male character, or the redemption of Deacon, another male character, or the negativity portrayed by female characters like Sweety, Arnette, etc. By missing the metaphors embedded deep in the novel that move beyond a simple critique of patriarchy but eschew ideas of elitism, nationhood, biblical apotheosis, exclusion of the other, transcendence, Bent centers his argument around not being moved by the novel. He finds it “not affecting” and says the cruelty of the men towards the women to be not believable. To a reader who might understand “horsewhipping the women” over having them shot, a gradation of violence devoid of any sense of context or perspective, it becomes implicit in the critique the color of the sentiments being expressed. I include the popular perspective to ground the text in the difficulty of forming community when even the imaginary proves to be impossible for readers steeped in hierarchies of the evident. By including the opposition, I mean to point to the direction of pragmatic exclusion faced by the blind criers of wisdom, as faced by Consolata within the story, the old blind woman in Morrison's own parable delivered in Stockholm, and finally, all of them standing as metonyms for the author herself as she composes a narrative that is, to the anxious, disingenuous.
69. David Bradley, The Chaneysville Incident: A Novel (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), 428.
70. Bradley, The Chaneysville Incident, 208.
71. Justine Tally, “Reality and Discourse in Toni Morrison's Trilogy: Testing the Limits,” in Literature and Ethnicity in the Cultural Borderlands, eds. Jesús Benito and Ana María Manzanas (New York: Rodopi, 2002), 40, attests that Connie's “seeing in” and revenants populating the last sections of the novel symbolize the African tradition present in this narrative. I veer from this perspective in that I see in the [Page 221]Morrison imaginary not only an amalgamation of African, Caribbean, and Latin tradition of familiarity with the supernatural, but also in her play with magical realism a possibility of events not imagined or ritualized before, a condition that results when the subaltern, or suffering dead, instead of ceasing to be begins to exist in the collective in tangible and unforgettable ways.
72. Philip Page, “Furrowing All the Brows: Interpretation and the Transcendent in Toni Morrison's Paradise, “African American Review 35, no. 4 (Winter 2001): 637–664, writes, “In Paradise, and especially its last four chapters, Morrison constructs an elaborate model of reading and interpreting. She creates a fictional world in which many answers are not given or are hidden so well that readers are forced to look for answers. Like Patricia, they want to fill in the missing gaps, the apparent holes and spaces in the very surface of the text. But such attempts, like Patricia's, are bound to fail, focused as they are on narrow pursuits of facts and deductions. Instead, Morrison suggests that readers use their whole selves, pass beyond the merely rational, and truly become co-creators rather than merely passive respondents by emulating Lone's and Connie's stepping in, the Convent women's loud dreaming, and Richard and Anna's sensing of mystical portals to the unknown. Readers are urged to step into the fictional world, to share in the author's breathing of life into it, to join the characters and each other in voicing their co-creation of the novel's stories and of their own stories, and to sense and perhaps even pass through the open windows of transcendent worlds.” Page's deduction about “passing beyond the merely rational” is useful in my further elaborations about the women who appear and reappear toward the end of the narrative.
73. Morrison, Paradise, 310.
74. Morrison, Paradise, 311.
75. Morrison, Paradise, 312.
76. Morrison, Paradise, 313.
77. Morrison, Paradise, 314.
78. Morrison, Paradise, 317.
79. Morrison, Paradise, 318.
80. Ana Fraile Marcos, “The Religious Overtones of Ethnic Identity-Building in Toni Morrison's Paradise, “Atlantis XXIV. 2 (2002): 109, writes, “Rejecting both Manicheism and immovability, the Convent exists as a liminal land, a border area where the acknowledgment of difference and cultural hybridity are made possible. Transformed into a purgatory, the space where Catholics believe a soul tainted by sin can purify itself before joining God in Heaven, the Convent disrupts the dualistic theology of Ruby men by introducing an axis that brings the poles of Hell and Heaven together. Furthermore, the Convent shuns immovability by not remaining a purgatory but by turning itself into a paradise for the women living there, demonstrating that improvement relies on the viability of the change and fluidity that the men in Ruby eschew. The rejection of Manichean polarities is also perceived in the blurring of racial boundaries that takes place in the Convent. Race is actually deconstructed by its changing, chameleaonic quality when applied to the Convent women.”
81. Ana Maria Fraile-Marcos, “Hybridizing the ‘City Upon a Hill’ in Toni Morrison's Paradise, “MELUS 28, no. 4 (Winter 2003): 4.[Page 222]
82. Connie, not having been tried but convicted by a jury of vigilantes, the patriarchs of Ruby, suffers the punishment, shot in the forehead in a room of her own home. Here Morrison echoes an earlier period of American history, not long after the period which Walter Johnson focuses in his treatise on the auction block, the post slavery period when a good number of African Americans, tried or often not tried, were deemed to be guilty of whatever crime had been committed in their vicinity and paid with their lives for mostly, crimes that had little to do with them. Suzanne Lebsock writes about the trial of four African Americans at the turn of the century, three woman and a man, the man convicted and hung, all three women released on the unusual recognition on part of the court of their innocence. Out of these three, two were eloquent interlocutors on their behalf, arguing and speaking clearly about their lives, circumstances, and actions at the time a wealthy white woman was murdered, so articulately that Lebsock imagines if born a hundred years later, they could have been emissaries of the law themselves. One of the convicted, a young woman, Pokey Barnes, speaks so convincingly that she commands a large following of people who flock to see her just to hear her talk, for it is deemed that she talks her way out of a sure road to perdition. Susan Lebsock, A Murder in Virginia: Southern Justice on Trial (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003), 255, writes, “Pokey was perfect. SHE WAS A VERY EFFECTIVE WITNESS IN HER OWN BEHALF, declared the Times headline. IF AN ACTRESS, A CONSUMMATE ONE.” “Many who believed her guilty,” the article went on to say, “now proclaim that she is innocent.”
83. Morrison, Paradise, 263–264.
84. Ron David, Toni Morrison Explained: A Reader's Road Map to the Novels (New York: Random House, 2000), 174–187, writes with verve and lack of literary adornment on the hidden meanings and projects within the last of her trilogy, Paradise. He sums up the thematics of the novel with his two points: the presence of something absent, and doubling or twinning. He also arrives at a valuable observation while moving rationally through the logos here: by excess of God-love, it is not being insinuated that Ruby is the ideology of killing those who do not believe in God, but killing Goddess herself if the love is too profound, as expressed in David's summation, “I love God so much that under certain circumstances I would kill Her” (180), and that the novel is not about men's mythology, but women's mythology. David cheers himself as he links Morrison's intellectual projects with that of Elaine Pagels who wrote the Gnostic Gospels and spends a good amount of time examining female centers of divinity. David's conclusions are honest and bare, in that he reveals with alacrity the scholarly process and exuberance at finding meaning, though I have reservations about such scientific expeditions into the literary heart of darkness to which I wish to leave some aura of mysticism and indecipherability.
85. Morrison, Paradise, 318.
1. Edwidge Danticat, The Farming of Bones (New York: Soho Press, 1998), 310.
2. Mallay Charters, “Edwidge Danticat: A Bitter Legacy Revisited,” Publisher's Weekly 245, no. 33 (August 1998): 43.[Page 223]
3. Lois Parkinson-Zamora, The Usable Past: The Imagination of History in Recent Fiction of the Americas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 174.
4. Ranjana Khanna, lecture, “Asylum and Its Indignities,” Collective for Asian American Scholarship, Rutgers U, Plangere Writing Center, New Brunswick, NJ, 12 Apr. 2007.
5. Carolyn Forché, Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1993), 37.
6. Joan Dayan, “Haiti, History, and the Gods,” in After Colonialism: Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacements, ed. Gyan Prakash (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 66–97, opens by referring to the anxiety caused by the liberation and formation of the second republic and first black nation-state in the western hemisphere in 1804 when Dessalines named his land, Haiti.
7. Susan Buck-Morss, “Hegel and Haiti,” Critical Inquiry 26, no. 4 (Summer 2000): 821–865. Buck-Morss indicts the great European philosophers of the Enlightenment who, she charges were deeply aware of the problematic of slavery within their dialectic of liberation. She reads the silences of philosophical ruminations, especially that of Hegel in order to read into it a profound cognizance of the despair and anxiety caused by the liberation and statehood of the first black nation in the western hemisphere. She ultimately concludes that it is upon the enslavement of the darker races that the white nations wrote their treatises of human rights and freedom, in both the Americas and Europe. In the act of Hegel being a habitual reader of the papers, especially Minerva, Buck-Morss proposes that he imagines the dialectic of master–slave narrative from his knowledge of the Haitian condition. And still, western historiography and enlightenment scholarship remains silent as if Haiti, either does not exist, or does not matter. Buck-Morss wishes for a rupture from these disciplined and limited ways of thinking, imagining an alternate set of undisciplined stories. I am interested in resuscitating these stories that have been refused entry in the master narratives of historical archives, philosophical pontification, and the literary landscape.
8. Bernard Diederich, Trujillo: The Death of the Dictator (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1978), 12.
9. Ernesto Sagás, Race and Politics in the Dominican Republic (Boca Raton: University Press of Florida, 2000), 4–5.
10. Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995) provides a seminal text in comprehending the historical silence over the genesis of Haiti. Trouillot delves into the lack of access to means of historical production as a prime reason for large silences, and silencing of the Haitian revolution is a prime example of this deficit as instituted by practitioners of western historiography.
11. Deborah Cohn's synthesis of Faulkner, Fuentes, and Ortiz states the historical iniquity—even within the living communities then called sugar economies, blacks gained little from their labors. She writes:
Sugar, cotton, tobacco, and slaves. White and black, white for black. A chromatic exchange that is financial and political as well: the import and export of goods, labor, people, and power. Silver for flesh and blood and pain…. Blacks have sown, but they have reaped little benefit for themselves from a [Page 224]nature which cannot balance the social equations governing their lives and their homelands’ economies.
Thus, while the economy rests on the labors of its black peoples, it gives little back in terms of wages, compensation, and dignity. In such contexts, the dead are an excess from a lifetime of labor and exploitative practices. In all geographies of depredation, the dead become as vital as the living. Read Deborah N. Cohn, History and Memory in the Two Souths: Recent Southern and Spanish American Fiction (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1999), 184.
12. Deleuze and Guattari's proposed relations between desire, capitalism, the social machine, and universal history are useful here. As they chart the slow disjuncture from savage barbarian to the civilized man, they find the erasing tendency to be an essential part of the project of universal history, especially the writing of it. There is neither innocence nor surreptitiousness in this effort to code the flows of desire and making “ruptures and limits” an integral part of universal history. Exploitation, the violent instances of great cruelty are necessary for inscribing this historical writing upon the human body and for privatizing the various parts of the human body. These seismic spates of violence lead to the conditions of enlightenment and birth of a “nation of thinkers.” Thus history is broken as are bodies; stories are kept secret as is desire; memory is “fashioned” as is the various forms of exploitation of man. The social machine, intent on marking and inscribing, places a collective investment in the totalizing tendency to destroy man, his narrative, his being and the mask, his ghost. Even the Nietzschean creation of man is an act forged in forgetfulness. Deleuze and Guattari make explicit the culpability involved in material projects of desire production, historiography, and nation making.
Cruelty has nothing to do with some ill-defined or natural violence that might be commissioned to explain the history of mankind; cruelty is the movement of culture that is realized in bodies and inscribed on them, belaboring them. That is what cruelty means … For even death, punishment, and torture are desired, and are instances of production. It makes men or their organs into the parts and wheels of the social machine.
Read Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983), 145.
13. M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist and trans., Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 278, writes, “… the prose writer witnesses as well the unfolding of social heteroglossia surrounding the object; the dialectics of the object are interwoven with the social dialogue surrounding it. For the prose writer, the object is a focal point for heteroglot voices among which his own voice must also sound; these voices create the background necessary for his own voice, outside of which his artistic prose nuances cannot be perceived, and without which they ‘do not sound.'” Danticat's word is born in this Bakhtinian dialogic because as a Haitian living in Brooklyn and writing about a French Caribbean nation and imagining it in a language, Kréyol, already distanced doubly from French and English, the dialogic is born in the mixing and distancing of at least three languages at once. Empire and subject, power and powerless, the state and subaltern are all thematics engaged within this dialogic.[Page 225]
14. Michael Burkard, Entire Dilemma (Louisville, Kentucky: Sarabande Books, 1998), 37–38.
15. Azade Seyhan, Writing Outside the Nation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 39, echoes Geoffrey Hartman who quotes Walter Benjamin, when she writes, “Hartman sees official history as the greatest danger to public memory: ‘Even the dead, as Walter Benjamin declared, are not safe from the victors, who consider public memory part of the spoils and do not hesitate to rewrite history.'”
16. The Farming of Bones places this observation in Sebastien Onius's mouth as he makes love to Amabelle praising the midnight blue of her skin.
17. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 2.
18. Zamora, The Usable Past: The Imagination of History in Recent Fiction of the Americas, 77.
19. Ileana Rodriguez, “Apprenticeship as Citizenship and Governability,” in The Latin Subaltern Studies Reader, eds Ileana Rodriguez and María Milagros López (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), 362–363.
20. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 1.
21. Jacques Lacan, “The Insistence of the Letter in the Unconscious,” in Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader, eds. David Lodge and Nigel Wood (England: Longman, 2000), 72, says, “… the metaphor occurs at the precise point at which sense comes out of non-sense, that is, at that frontier which, as Freud discovered, when crossed the other way produces what we generally call ‘wit’ (Witz); it is at this frontier that we can glimpse the fact that man tempts his very destiny when he derides the signifier…. By pushing to its limits the sort of connaturality which links that art to that condition, he lets us glimpse a certain something which in this matter imposes its form, in the effect of the truth on desire.” While Lacan negotiates his own dream of conflation between Saussure and Freud in order to chart the unconscious not in terms of biology but linguistics, he offers the map of desire as “unachievable, public, contagious.” Once the child enters the realm of language and articulates his desire within a semiotic cartography, the object of his desire, absolute union with the mother, becomes impossible. Thus, desire becomes an eternal lack, as shown with Amabelle, estranged even in the beginning from her taciturn parents, then from her lover, and later even from herself. However Amabelle steps out of the Lacanian world in that she turns the “lack” into a presence, a positive force. It is this very lack that propels a new world of communings and community, a world where she can be soothed by the visitations from the dead and in turn, join the dead as a final act of will. In this project, we trace the path of desire to see that it yields to an imagined community with the dead which travels on a different wave length than a Lacanian journey.
22. By “end of desire,” I refer to a popular strain of Eastern philosophy stemming from Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, etc. referred in popular discourse as “vitrushna” or “lack of desire,” equating enlightenment with having reached a state where one is left with no desires.
23. Hélène Cixous, “Sorties,” in Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader, eds. David Lodge and Nigel Wood (England: Longman, 2000), 268, writes, “No, it is at the level of sexual pleasure (jouissance) in my opinion that the difference makes itself most clearly apparent in as far as woman's libidinal economy is neither identifiable by a man nor referable to the masculine economy. For me, the question ‘What [Page 226]does she want?’ that they ask of woman, a question that in fact woman asks herself because they ask it of her, because precisely there is so little place in society for her desire that she ends up by dint of not knowing what to do with it, no longer knowing where to put it, of if she has any, conceals the most immediate and the most urgent question: ‘How do I experience sexual pleasure? What is feminine sexual pleasure, where does it take place, how is it inscribed at the level of the body, of her unconscious? And then how is it put into writing?’ Cixous's fundamental questions marking an era of French feminism raises its feminized response to Freud's earlier troubling anatomical divide in female sexuality as one between early masculinity, clitoridal, aggressive against the feminine, vaginal, passive adult sexuality. Cixous places woman's ownership of pleasure in the center of the discourse on desire and the masculine economy with jouissance as prefiguring her own hypothetical prehistory about matriarchal originary era and altogether other forms of passion. Cixous's binary oppositions loom large in Danticat's text in Amabelle's relationship to the masculine in various forms: Sebastien, her father, the doctor, Señor Pico, the state.
24. Jacques Derrida, Dissemination, trans., Barbara Johnson (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1981), 220–221.
25. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 52.
26. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), 61, write, “Just as Empire in the spectacle of its force continually determines systemic recompositions, so too new figures of resistance are composed through the sequences of the events of struggle. This is another fundamental characteristic of the existence of the multitude today, within Empire and against Empire. New figures of struggle and new subjectivities are produced in the conjuncture of events, in the universal nomadism, in the general mixture and miscegenation of individuals and populations, and in the technological metamorphoses of the imperial biopolitical machine. These new figures and subjectivities are produced because, although the struggles are indeed antisystemic, they are not posed merely against the imperial system—they are not simply negative forces. They also express, nourish, and develop positively their own constituent projects; they work toward the liberation of living labor, creating constellations of powerful singularities. This constituent aspect of the movement of the multitude, in its myriad faces, is really the positive terrain of the historical construction of Empire. This is not a historicist positivity but, on the contrary, a positivity of the res gestae of the multitude, an antagonistic and creative positivity. The deterritorializing power of the multitude is the productive force that sustains Empire and at the same time the force that calls for and makes necessary its destruction.” In further tracking the life of the multitude and Empire, they refer to Marx's postulate of the Empire as being “a vampire regime of accumulated dead labor that survives only by sucking off the blood of the living” and later Althusser's rubric of comparing Machiavelli's The Prince to Marx-Hegel's The Communist Manifesto in order to trace the similarities in structures between the two. As they weave a “relationship of immanence” in a process of self-production, a materialist teleology that eventually works its way back into Spinoza's “prophetic desire” connected to the multitude. This is the place where I think the power of the subaltern dead of Danticat's landscape begin to have a powerful/prophetic place in the world of the living. The suddenly dead are not completely so, and they, in fact, carry this power and production within themselves.[Page 227]
27. Danticat's Kongo is reminiscent of others in a long line within the French–Caribbean literary tradition: Chamoiseau's Kongo who defenestrates as resistance to the brutality of the state, symbolic mourning taking flight after Solibo's death, like the African flight back over the seas. Kongo, like Maryse Conde's Xantippe in Crossing the Mangrove, Josef Zobel's Medouze in Black Shack Alley, Jacques Romain's Bienaime in Masters of the Dew.
28. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 208.
29. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 310.
30. Edouard Glissant, Caribbean Discourse, Selected Essays, trans., J. Michael Dash (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1981), 120–121.
31. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans., Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 254.
32. George B. Handley, Postslavery Literatures in the Americas: Family Portraits in Black and White (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000), 3.
33. Sigmund Freud, “Mourning and Melancholia,” in The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, XIV (London: Hogarth, 1957), 243–246.
34. Ranjana Khanna, Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialism. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 23. Khanna's work questions, “… what does it mean to foreground individuated memory when writing of social contexts? And what political use could be made from writing of ghosts?” (17). Khanna's project, in bringing to light the “ongoing worldification” of the project of psychoanalysis, frames the importance of the differing world presented in Danticat's novel. Amabelle's invitation of the ghosts brings the counter-narratives at play within the novelistic discourse.
35. George B. Handley, Postslavery Literatures in the Americas: Family Portraits in Black and White (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000), 14.
36. Sagás, Race and Politics in the Dominican Republic, 18.
37. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 136.
38. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans., Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 237.
39. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 56, “Sometimes the people in the fields, when they're tired and angry, they say we're an orphaned people. They say we are the burnt crud at the bottom of the pot. They say some people don't belong anywhere and that's us. I say we are a group of vwayajè, wayfarers. This is why you had to travel this far to meet me, because that is what we are.”
40. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, 255.
41. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 277–278.
42. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 243.
43. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, 257.
44. April Shemak, “Re-Membering Hispaniola: Edwidge Danticat's The Farming of Bones,” MFS: Modern Fiction Studies 48, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 83–112, notes in her final section in her essay about “the ambiguous nature of the border's history.” Shemak also makes a powerful connection between Amabelle's early prowess as a midwife, its connection to labor and now, as midwife to the border in the ending. She underlines the importance of the protagonist's refusal to return home to Haiti and instead, “situate herself in the border between the two nations.”
45. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 378.[Page 228]
46. Susan Strehle, “History and the End of Romance: Danticat's The Farming of Bones,” in Doubled Plots: Romance and History, eds. Susan Strehle and Mary Paniccia Carden (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003), 24–44. I find Strehle's reading of romance as an “absent presence” in the text to be very important, though I disagree the degree to which she reads romance into this text and absolute insanity upon the professor at the river.
47. Strehle, Doubled Plots: Romance and History, 41.
48. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 272.
49. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 285.
50. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 285.
51. I wish to include here references to papers published within the disciplines of anthropology, religion, or history that make apparent the Haitian belief system in the afterlife, and a cultural ideological system that engenders the possibility of characters who walk between worlds and help facilitate the communication between communities of the living and the dead.
52. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 300.
53. Sagás, Race and Politics in the Dominican Republic, 47.
54. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983), 9–10.
55. Kelli Lyon Johnson, “Both Sides of the Massacre: Collective Memory and Narrative on Hispaniola,” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 36, no. 2 (2003 June): 75–91, writes, “These Haitian survivors understand the traditions of history: if an event is written, documented, contained in a book, it is real. As part of the written record, their testimonies somehow will become the truth” (88), when explaining the event of Amabelle gathered with Man Denise and the villagers who wish to tell the government official, the justice of the peace, their harrowing personal encounter with the massacre. I wish to point that the Haitians perform a careful orchestration between the need for record keeping with the living and the dead.
56. Yanick Lahens, “Exile: Between Writing and Place,” Callaloo 15, no. 3 (1992): 735–746.
57. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 25.
58. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 310.
59. Danticat, The Farming of Bones, 266.
60. Shemak, Modern Fiction Studies, 103, points to Amabelle's body as an archive of alternative memory.
61. Zamora, The Usable Past: The Imagination of History in Recent Fiction of the Americas, 39.
62. Edwidge Danticat, “Nineteen Thirty-Seven,” in Krik? Krak! (New York: Vintage Books, 1996), 31–49.
63. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Diasporas Old and New: Women in the Transnational World,” Textual Practice 10, no. 2 (1996): 245–269.
64. Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994), 18. Bhabha raises the questions that are integral to my own study as the foundation for his text, “How are subjects formed ‘in-between,’ or in excess of, the sum of the ‘parts’ of difference (usually intoned as race/class/gender, etc.)? How do strategies of representation [Page 229]or empowerment come to be formulated in the competing claims of communities where, despite shared histories of deprivation and discrimination, the exchange of values, meanings, and priorities may not always be collaborative and dialogical, but may be profoundly antagonistic, conflictual and even incommensurable?” (2).
65. Joan Dayan, “Haiti, History, and the Gods,” in After Colonialism: Imperial Histories and Postcolonial Displacements, ed. Gyan Prakash (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 82–82, writes, “With independence, the underground opposition to the now defeated white oppressor did not disappear, for the spirits, and the people's need for them, was not contingent on being suppressed. On the contrary, vodou came, to some extent, out into the open to thrive. But haltingly so, as though the people were keeping some of the old secrets hidden, ready to serve in other repressive situations that did not fail to occur.”
1. The notions Bakhtin puts forward in The Dialogic Imagination are fundamentals at work in Sidhwa's novelistic discourse. He proposes that the novel is the sole genre that continues to develop but as of yet, is incomplete. A parody of other genres, it exists in a state of constant self-deprecation and criticism which makes it the most intractable of all genres—ready to criticize other genres and do the same to itself. Encoded in its three main principles—stylistic three-dimensionality, chronotype, and maximal contact with the present, Sidhwa's novel fulfills these principles as if keeping the Bakhtinian rubrics at the forefront. In the way that Bakthin proposes that laughter destroys epic by eliminating distance and refusing to record the distant and sacred past, Sidhwa institutes Lenny's and Ayah's and their friends’ laughter to not valorize the sacred history of the nation's genesis. The child's perspective eliminates any possible hagiographical tonality, and veers strictly away from elevating the fractious history of 1947 formation of India and Pakistan. Bakhtin summarizes his grand theory in five simple points: 1. Since he estimates that the novel forms its roots in folklore, the “folklore” is ever present in Cracking India. Whether it is in the mythic arrival of Parsis in India, or the stories spun by the national leaders to orchestrate new narratives of political autonomy, or Santha, who tells Lenny about the star-crossed lovers, Sohni and Mahiwal, the folklore flows as main arteries throughout the novel. 2. Bakhtin stresses the particularity of certain historic periods as ripe for the novel. Partition is an episode of South Asian history that gave rise to a large number of novels on both sides of the border, some of the famous ones being Bhisham Sahni's Tamas, Yashpal's Jhoota Sach, Amrita Pritam's Train to Pakistan, etc. In a period when the historical archives are being gradually suddenly shifted from the repositories in the empire to its now self-determined colonies, many narratives are lost and the novelistic forms steps in to fill the gaping hole in memory formed from such sudden seismic movements in time. 3. Epic distance disintegrates. Lenny is as close to the flesh and blood of 1947 as we can possibly be when we reach back in time to look at the losses accrued at that time—a child who enters the hearts of the people around her and manages to centralize the [Page 230]notion of an imagined community with the living and the dead. 4. Other genres such as the epic, the poem, the lyric, and the play are threatened since they cannot convey the details given in the novel, and they are incorporated and consumed by the novel. Examples of all the other genres, such as Ghalib's ghazals and refrains from songs dot Sidhwa's narrative, a sign of the successful gluttony of the novelistic form. 5. By nature, such a genre is not canonic and this can be seen in the popular appeal of Sidhwa's novel, which circles around marginal people—children, women, lower classes, battered, and beaten people. Turned into a film in 1998 by Canadian director, Deepa Mehta, “Earth,” it functioned in mainstream media as a film for everyone, breaking out of the confining and narrow art circle.
2. Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel (University of California Press, 2001). Watt contrasts the realism apparent in painting and philosophy of the eighteenth century with what he sees in the novels of Fielding, Richardson, and Defoe—realism in the novel does not rest in “the kind of life it presents, but in the way it presents it.” First, the novel rejects traditional plots borrowed from mythology or its predecessors and spins its plot around the individual, thus losing formal conventions in order to gain a sense of realism. Second, the individual is not an unbelievable or fantastic archetype used in previous narratives but extremely specific and unique. Third, these individuals are given names, most often first and last names in order to show that they are particular individuals in particular environments. Fourth, the novel pays attention to time, chronology, memory, and specific moment in history in which events and individual arises. Fifth, the same attention is paid to places so that an authentic portrait of the individual arises. The novel is thus the most translatable of all genres. Finally Watt astutely connects the novel and the Law. In both fields, the reader and jury respectively need all the facts and the novel provide this rich detail unlike its literary counterparts. Watt also points that this genre gives the closest correspondence between life and art, a correspondence so severe that it can read like proceedings in a courthouse. In conclusion, Watt declares that what brings the novel into its current and aloof existence is the lowest common denominator, this “formal realism.” Sidhwa's narrative is not strictly of the school of formal realism, since the child's voice leaves aspects of the logical momentum unexplained, mysterious and possibly magical. Still, most of Watt's structures are apparent in the novel—the characters are specific, named, and located, and rooted in a particularly well-known episode of history, an episode deeply connected to its specific time and places. Like the annals of the law, this novel with all its details makes the case for culpability to be distributed to not one individual, or one community, or even one nation, but evenly across a pluralistic canopy of culprits.
3. Frederick Cooper, Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 53. History, and more particularly, historiography is constantly in question when a feminist modern voice addresses its silent spots, such as Sidhwa in this particular novel. Thus, it is salient to attend to the voice of a crucial historian and attend to the teleological ruptures at hand, and out of some such blank space arises the character of Ayah.
4. “To have a body is, finally, to permit oneself to be described,” writes Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, eds. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 216. [Page 231]The question of permission is the most wrestled and complex issues in this groundbreaking piece on representation of the subaltern figure, the woman who remains outside the purview of state and history. Though the self of the woman might feel or say otherwise, simply in the act of assuming and having a body is equal to giving permission to others to describe this self. Thus, the act of agency could be involved in suicide, which mask under the political economy of patriotism or nationalism such as the Jauhar female suicides or Bhubaneswari Devi's 1926 suicide on the very day she was menstruating a rupture from main stream discourse and patriarchal representations of women. Spivak takes on the onerous task of questioning the intentions and voice of the intellectual—and though devout Foucauldians or Deleuze-Guattarians might disagree, she extends the Saidian collusion between the text and empire. She establishes a direct relationship between western capitalistic exploitation and intellectual production. She brings to the table the violent aporia present between the subject and object status. In the great historical slippage between the sixteenth century legalist misreading of a Rig Vedic document on mourning, in which the powerful position of married women celebrating the dead turns into the burning of living widows, she bring to light the power of the yoni (vagina) and the underlying point of her whole study: “there is no space from which the sexed subaltern subject can speak.” While the subaltern female can be heard, once translated and rendered mute in patriarchally familiar and acceptable forms, she, as herself, has no voice. So, Spivak famously concludes: “Subaltern rewriting of the social text of sati-suicide as much as the hegemonic account of the blazing, fighting, familial Durga. The emergent dissenting possibilities of that hegemonic account of the fighting mother are well documented and popularly well remembered through the discourse of the male leaders and participants in the independence movement. The subaltern as female cannot be heard or read” (308). Ayah is the subaltern figure in Sidhwa's text, and despite the fact that the novel is devoted to telling her story, it is clear that she does not speak and cannot be heard in the course of the novelistic discourse. Her stage motif is an act of constantly receding until the final disappearance across the border, a place of aporias and ambiguity from which she never is allowed to speak again. Lenny's memory and guilt thus inform the reader above the great subaltern silence; her alternate voice forms another type of alterity which is the subject of this chapter.
5. Robert J. C. Young, Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 64. Young positions postcolonial theory within a political sphere of representation for those without access to it on their own; by shaking it from the elite positioning within the academy and bringing attention to its originary purposes, he reminds readers of the urgency of such ideology in a world further shattered on a daily basis by the accumulating differences between the have's and have-not's. This certainly is the rubric oft-repeated by scholars of the Subaltern Studies Collective, such as Ranajit Guha in his work with peasant farmers, or Gayatri Spivak in her literacy teaching in Bengal that all of their works involve reading from below. Young defines postcolonialism as deeply syncretic and radical. He writes:
Postcolonialism, with its fundamental sympathies for the subaltern, for the peasantry, for the poor, for outcasts of all kinds, eschews the high culture of [Page 232]the elite and espouses subaltern cultures and knowledges which have historically been considered to be of little value but which it regards as rich repositories of culture and counter-knowledge. The sympathies and interests of postcolonialism are thus focused on those at the margins of society, those whose cultural identity has been dislocated or left uncertain by the forces of global capitalism—refugees, migrants who have moved from the countryside to the impoverished edges of the city, migrants who struggle in the first world for a better life while working at the lowest levels of those societies. At all times, postcolonialism stands for a transformational politics, for a politics dedicated to the removal of inequality—from the different degrees of wealth of the different states in the world system, to the class, ethnic, and other social hierarchies that operate at every level of social and cultural relations. Postcolonialism combines and draws on elements from radical socialism, feminism, and environmentalism. Its difference from any of these as generally defined is that it begins from a fundamentally tricontinental, third-world, subaltern perspective and its priorities always remain there. For people in the west, postcolonialism amounts to nothing less than a world turned upside-down. It looks at and experiences the world from below rather than from above. Its eyes, ears, and mouth are those of the Ethiopian woman farmer, not the diplomat or the CEO. (114)
And he provides a further example removed from the academy as a postcolonial practice:
In many ways, the MST (Movimento Sem Terra in Brazil) figures as a model for a postcolonial politics: a grassroots movement formed to fight a system of injustice and gross material inequality that is sustained by powerful local interests and international power structures of banks, businesses, and investment funds that want to maintain the status quo of the global economic market. (48)
6. Abdirahman A. Hussein, Edward Said: Criticism and Society (New York: Verso, 2002), 132. Hussein reads in Said's work a “technique of trouble” and presents the portrait of Said as laboring to articulate the role of the intellectual in modernity. The intellectual ought to raise uncomfortable questions and attempt to jar the status quo away from passivity and sameness. The intellectual is the voice of those without one, those who are not represented. Hussein concludes by comparing Said to significant twentieth century thinkers like Sartre, Williams, Foucault, and Chomsky. Such a “technique of trouble” resonates with Sidhwa's stance in attempting to represent the condition of the Ayah as a boundary figure.
7. Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 41. She writes, “Beside the overwhelming fact that a human being is severely hurt, the exact nature of the weapon or the miming of the deconstruction of civilization is at most secondary. But it is also crucial to see the two are here forced into being expressions and amplifications of one another: the de-objectifying of the objects, the unmaking of the made, is a process of externalizing the way in which the person's pain causes his world to disintegrate; [Page 233]and, at the same time, the disintegration of the world is here, in the most literal way possible, made painful, made the direct cause of the pain.” In this sense, Ice-candy-man is the weapon that causes Ayah pain, and then, he amplifies and furthers the pain by forcing her continued existence in a space of exploitation, where the torture continues habitually. Her disintegrating world also is the cause of her exacerbating her pain in direct and daily method of torture.
8. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999). “I will simply develop the suggestion that nineteenth-century feminist individualism could conceive of a ‘greater’ project than access to the closed circle of the nuclear family. This is the project of soul making beyond ‘mere’ sexual reproduction. Here the native ‘subject’ is not almost an animal but rather the object of what might be termed violation, in the name of the categorical imperative” (122–123). And later, she writes, “I have suggested that Bertha's function in Jane Eyre is to render indeterminate the boundary between human and animal and thereby to weaken her entitlement under the spirit if not the letter of the Law” (125). Spivak attends to the transformation in Bertha as a beastly figure in Jane Eyre to a humanity given to her in Rhys's 1965 experiment of “writing her a life.” By doing so, Rhys brings to attention the cruelty of the law and imperialistic endeavors as the axiomatics impelling Bertha's violence, not bestiality as given by Brönte. Kant's “categorical imperative” to endow the figure of alterity with humanity is “catachretized” in similar ways in the figure of Lenny, privileged yet outside the circle of power like Rhys's Antoinette, a.k.a. Bertha. A slight slippage where Lenny could just as easily be both Jane, and Bertha and their pasts as well, while Santha is beyond the trajectory of these proto-western feminists tracts.
9. Graham Huggan, The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins (New York: Routledge, 2001), 87. Huggan explains the logical development of his rubric of “staged marginality” from the socialist, Dean MacCannell's earlier term, “staged authenticity.” He writes:
Yet there is more in common between Naipaul's and Rushdie's novels than might at first sight be supposed. Like Rushdie, Naipaul advocates the cause of flexibility: the need to adapt to changing circumstances, to reinvent oneself if necessary. And like Naipaul, Rushdie finds a place in his novel for the rituals of mourning—his characters reconcile themselves to a past that they can change but never abandon. My initial focus here, however, will be on the novels’ theatricality and on their staging, more particularly, of disparate experiences of social and cultural marginalization. My term “staged marginality” comes initially by way of the sociologist Dean MacCannell, who in his influential 1976 study of modern tourism analyses the trope of “staged authenticity.”
For MacCannell, staged authenticity refers to the ways in which tourists are given access to “real-life” settings or, alternatively, to touristic objects that are made to display their “authenticity.” As MacCannell wryly notes, tourist settings are designed so as to “promise real and convincing shows of local life and culture. Even the infamously clean Istanbul Hilton has not excluded all aspects of Turkish culture [Page 234](the cocktail waitresses wear harem pants, or did in 1968). The ‘reality-effect’ (to adapt Barthes’ term) that is produced by such obviously manufactured settings is carefully orchestrated so as to cater to tourists” expectations of exotic peoples and/or cultures. Staged marginality refers to a similar phenomenon, but in a domestic setting: it denotes the process by which marginalized individuals or social groups are moved to dramatize their “subordinate” status for the benefit of a majority or mainstream audience. Staged marginality is not necessarily an exercise in self-abasement; it may, and often does, have a critical or even a subversive function.
10. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India (Minnesota: Milkweed Editions, 1991), 12. From here on, I will refer to this novel as Cracking India.
11. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 101.
12. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 29.
13. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 134.
14. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 141.
15. John Thieme, Postcolonial Con-texts: Writing Back to the Canon (New York: Continuum, 2001), 8. Thieme investigates the trope of “writing back” to the empire by entering texts that posit a beginning in canonic western texts and then, regurgitate it after a circuitous amble through the colonies. He works through ur-texts of English canon—Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Conrad's Heart of Darkness, novels of Brontes and mixes them with Rushdie and Walcott to look at its dissemination and reception and then, produce this highly charged dialectic contained in the fundamentals of “writing back”—how differently R. K. Narayan and Naipaul read Dickens. He destabilizes filial and fictional authority in these “writing back” narratives. Using Said's trope of “filiative relationships being replaced by affiliative ones” (so that families and genealogies wrestle for control with the name of the father), Thieme points to the importance of this context in decoding postcolonial literatures. In the case of Ice-candy-man and his obscure origins in the Kotha, this is important in that the Kotha is a hybrid place, a market where not only the classes mingle to barter the woman's body, but the colonialist and the native. His blurred parentage makes him oddly resonant with the more famous Tagorian character, Gora.
16. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 168.
17. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 170.
18. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 179.
19. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 179.
20. Bapsi Sidhwa, Lecture, “In Ink: South Asian and Diasporic Writers,” University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, October 23, 2003.
21. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 195.
22. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 272.
23. Ambreen Hai, “Border Work, Border Trouble: Postcolonial Feminism and the Ayah in Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India, “MFS 46, no. 2 (Summer 2000): 379–426. She writes, “But unlike Lalun, Ayah becomes altogether the marginalized victim, not a border inhabited with any agency. The ability to deploy one's in-between status is reserved for her savior; the storyteller and her family” (406). Also, she later writes, “The young Lenny's participant observer's complicity in betraying quite literally then is no minor detail in her story. Tricked by Ice-Candy-Man, she gives away Ayah's hiding place to the waiting crowd of men, for her guilt mirrors the [Page 235]text's repressed complicity in the traitorous use it makes of Ayah” (414). Finally, she writes, “As such, this contradictory text reveals both its good intentions and its myopias, its aspirations and its insufficiencies: as a border worker, it depends upon the use of a figure that finally becomes its own site of limitations and occasions its greatest troubles” (416).
24. Jill Didur, “Cracking the Nation: Gender, Minorities, and Agency in Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India, “ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 29, no. 3 (July 1998): 43–64. Didur observes how patriarchy and the state are resisted through the figure of Ayah.
25. Harveen Sachdeva Mann, “Cracking India: Minority Women Writers and the Contentious Margins of Indian Nationalist Discourse,” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 24, no. 2 (1994): 71–94.
26. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 168.
27. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 168.
28. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 288.
29. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 31.
30. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 252.
31. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 253.
32. For more, read Christophe Jaffrelot, Dr. Amdedkar and Untouchability: Fighting the Indian Caste System (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).
33. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 125.
34. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 126.
35. Alamgir Hashmi, “Prolegomena to the Study of Pakistani English and Pakistani Literature in English,” in English Postcoloniality: Literatures from Around the World, eds. Radhika Mohanram and Gita Rajan (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996), 114. Lenny's descriptions of her relationship with her younger brother, Adi, the Cousin, the constant teasing between Godmother-Slavesister and Dr. Modi and the banter between the men in the garden are all infected with this mockery of sacred facts and subtle reification of the very same facts.
36. NCDHR. National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. July 29, 2005. http://www.dalits.org/default.htm (accessed on November 5, 2011).
37. Deepa S. Reddy, “The Ethnicity of Caste,” Anthropological Quarterly 78, no. 3 (2005): 543–584.
38. Patrick Colm Hogan, Colonialism and Cultural Identity: Crisis of Tradition in the Anglophone Literatures of India, Africa, and the Caribbean (New York: State University of New York Press, Albany, 2000), 221.
39. Kelly Oliver, The Colonization of Psychic Space: A Psychoanalytic Social Theory of Oppression (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 90.
40. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 227.
41. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 254.
42. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 273.
43. Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 40.
44. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 276.
45. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 289.
46. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 159.[Page 236]
47. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 40.
48. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 31.
49. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 142.
50. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 21.
51. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 103.
52. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 213.
53. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 66.
54. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 124.
55. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 141.
56. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 129.
57. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 168.
58. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 189.
59. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 186.
60. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 188.
61. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 195.
62. Bart Moore-Gilbert, Postcolonial Theory: Contexts, Practices, Politics (New York: Verso, 1997), 94–95. For example, the construction of the “degraded” native woman as a subject to be “redeemed” creates a role for the benevolent Western woman (as missionary, for instance), which provides a new public space or role in citizenship into which she can emerge. Spivak elaborates her argument principally through analysis of the function of Bertha Mason within Jane Eyre (to which Said had already alluded suggestively, albeit in a very compressed fashion, in The World, the Text, and the Critic). While recognizing that Bertha is in fact a white Creole and a member of the plantocracy which built its wealth on slavery, Spivak reads her “catachrestically” as occupying the position of the colonized subject (“the woman from the colonies”) within the text, a reading particularly invited by the insistence in Brönte's novel not only on Bertha's origins in the West Indies, but on her dark features and “animal” qualities. For Spivak, it is only through the effacement of this resistant colonial female subject “that Jane Eyre can become the feminist individualist heroine of British fiction (and subsequent Anglo-American criticism).”
63. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 204.
64. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 224.
65. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 88.
66. Husain Haddaway, Arabian Nights: The Thousand and One Nights (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1990).
67. Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, trans. G. H. McWilliam (New York: Penguin, 2003).
68. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 94.
69. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 149.
70. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 195.
71. David Punter, Postcolonial Imaginings: Fictions of a New World Order (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., 2000), 33. Punter attempts to marry geography of postcolonialism to theory. In his opening, he relates maps to ideologies of world subjugation.
72. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India, 194.[Page 237]
1. Meenakshi Mukherjee, Realism and Reality: The Novel and Society in India (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985).
2. Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Pather Panchali (Bengali novel) (New York: Oxford University Press, 1929), immortalized through Satyajit Ray's trilogy of films, first of which was Pather Panchali (1955).
3. U. R. Anantha Murthy, Samskara: A Rite for a Dead Man (Kannada novel), trans. A. K. Ramanujan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979).
4. Munshi Premchand, Godan (Hindi novel), trans. Anurag Yadav (Delhi: Pustak Mahal, 2010).
5. Mirza Muhammad Hadi Rusva, Umrao Jaan Ada (Urdu novel), trans. David Matthews (Delhi: Rupa & Co., 1996).
6. David Rubin, Review of “Meenakshi Mukherjee's text, Realism and Reality: The Novel and Society in India, “The Journal of Asian Studies 45, no. 5 (November 1986): 1101.
7. Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane, Modernism, 1976. All their points lead to a sense of crisis in art, all of which resonate with the works at hand.
8. Marshall Berman, All that is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity (London: Penguin Books, 1988), 36. What Berman borrows from Marx, suggesting the always already nature of change, the disappearance of all things familiar, provides valuable lens to look at these novels.
9. Toni Morrison, Paradise (New York: Knopf, 1998).
10. Elaine Showalter, A Literature of their Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), 3–36.
11. Samuel P. Huntington, “A Universal Civilization? Modernization and Westernization,” in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998), 78, concludes by noting the gap between the two movements, “Modernization, in short, does not necessarily mean Westernization. Non-Western societies can modernize and have modernized without abandoning their own cultures and adopting wholesale Western values, institutions, and practices. The latter, indeed, may be almost impossible: whatever obstacles non-Western cultures pose to modernization pale before they pose to Westernization. It would, as Braudel observes, almost ‘be childish’ to think that modernization or the ‘triumph of civilization in the singular’ would lead to the end of the plurality of historic cultures embodied for centuries in the world's great civilizations. Modernization, instead, strengthens those cultures and reduces the relative power of the West. In fundamental ways, the world is becoming more modern and less Western.”
12. Partha Chatterjee, “The Nation and its Women,” in A Subaltern Studies Reader 1986–1995, ed. Ranajit Guha (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 245.
13. Oliver Mendelsohn and Upendra Baxi, Introduction, The Rights of Subordinated Peoples (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994), 5, “We would argue that the value of approaching particular issues through the idea of ‘subordination’ is that it cuts [Page 238]across conceptual divisions of race, class, and gender, without denying the importance of these perspectives. Our effort has been to move towards a more inclusive conception of oppression or subordination than is possible under any one of these rubrics. Thus it is possible to see subordination arising from a number of sources: colonialism/imperialism, including a considerable diversity of examples such as European colonization of the New World and the ‘internal’ colonialism of India (relative to the ‘tribals') and of the USSR; patriarchy; religion; developmentalism, with its devastating ecological and human consequences; and something as broad as statism. All these forces have in common an ideological and cultural drive to subordinate social formations that stand in their way.”
14. Janet Wolff, “The Invisible Flâneuse: Women and the Literature of Modernity,” Theory, Culture, and Society 2, no. 3 (1985): 141–148, also notes that the very same modernity which allows the men a greater freedom in the public sphere keeps the women confined within the private. This point is critical to understanding the melancholic subtext of the narrator's voice in Durrani's novel, Kufr.
15. Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, trans. Joan Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001), 13.
16. Arun Kumar, “Mere Aaka Aur Tahmina Durrani,” in Stree: Mukti ka Sapna, eds. Arvind Jain, Leeladhar Mandloi along with helping editors, Kamla Prasad and Rajendra Sharma (New Delhi: Vani Prakashan, 2004), 510–515. The information in this paragraph is borrowed directly from this critical essay written by Kumar on Durrani in Hindi.
17. What was known as “Hindustani” until the mid-twentieth century was partitioned (by the sole criterion of script) quite abruptly with the territorial partition of British India. My intention is not to conflate Hindi with Urdu but to point to a fluid boundary that exists between them. Thus “Urdu,” when written in Nagri script, is comprehensible to a large extent by virtue of shared vocabulary to those categorized strictly as “Hindi speakers.” As late as 1947, Gandhi insisted on Hindustani as a national language for India, “To confine oneself exclusively to Hindi or Urdu would be a crime against intelligence and the spirit of patriotism.” Granville Austin, The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 272.
18. Tahmina Durrani, Kufr, trans., Vineeta Gupta (New Delhi: Vani Prakashan, 2004), 13. The translations are all mine.
19. The novel opens on the scene of Heer returning from college. She is accosted by Chandi who confesses that her brother is sweet on Heer and would like to talk to her. Durrani really takes the reader for a spin by portraying a false start and giving the illusion of a love story. Heer–Ranjha are the mythic star-crossed lovers whose stories of love circulate on the plains of Punjab. Ranjha, the lover and partner meant to be, disappears for nearly the entire narrative space.
20. Tahmina Durrani, Kufr, 17.
21. Tahmina Durrani, Kufr, 26.
22. Chandra Talpade Mohanty, “Under Western Eyes Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles,” in Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives, eds. Carol R. McCann and Seung-kyung Kim (New York: Routledge, 2010), 459.[Page 239]
23. Jean Baudrillard, The Mirror of Production, trans. Mark Poster (St. Louis: Telos, 1975).
24. Tahmina Durrani, Kufr, 143.
25. Tahmina Durrani, Kufr, 129.
26. Tahmina Durrani, Kufr, 177. Later Heer goes on to say: In my eyes, what should have happened here according to the prescriptions of Islam, that would happen now. The only truth in the name of Allah was Pir Sai's death.
27. “I read the Qur'an as a ‘believing woman,’ to borrow a term from the Qur'an itself. This means that I do not question its ontological status as Divine Speech or the claim that God speaks, both of which Mustlims hold to be true. I do, however, question the legitimacy of its patriarchal readings, and I do this on the basis of a distinction in Muslim theology between what God says and what we understand God to be saying. In the latter context, I am especially interested in querying the claim, implicit in confusing the Qur'an with its patriarchal exegesis, that only males, and conservative males at that, know what God really means. It is this claim that I believe underwrites sexual oppression in Muslim societies and therefore needs to be contested.” Asma Barlas, “Believing Women,” in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002), 19. For another great reference in furthering feminist interpretations (tafsir) by women of faith, read Amina Wadud, Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
28. Fawzia Afzal-Khan and Bina Sharif, “Jihad Against Violence: A One-Act Play,” in TDR: The Drama Review 54, no. 2 (Summer 2010): 60–69.
29. Tahmina Durrani, Kufr, 219.
30. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969).
31. Gurleen Grewal, Circles of Sorrow, Lines of Struggle: The Novels of Toni Morrison (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998), 10–11. Deleuze and Guattari is quoted from their text, Toward a Minority Literature, 16–19.
32. Hélène Cixous, “Sorties,” in Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader, 2nd Edition, eds. David Lodge and Nigel Woods (New York: Longman, 2000), 265.
33. Mridula Garg, Kathgulab (New Delhi: Vani Prakashan, 2004), 190.
34. Julia Kristeva, “Stabat Mater,” in The Kristeva Reader, ed. Toril Moi (New York: Columbia University Press 1986), 178.
35. Julia Kristeva, Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art, ed. Leon S. Roudiez, trans., Thomas Goza, Alice Jardinie, and Leon Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 19.
36. Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994), 110–111.
37. Bhabha, The Location of Culture, 113.
38. Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Elementary Structures of Kinship (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969).
39. Judith Butler, Antigone's Claim (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002).
40. David Schneider, A Critique of the Study of Kinship (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1984).[Page 240]
41. David Eng makes this comment as an introduction to the discussion session we had on March 4, 2002 in his class on “Psychoanalysis, Reimagining kinship and Asian Literature and Film,” while we discussed the texts of David Schneider and Judith Butler.
42. Elaine Showalter, “Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness,” in Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader, 2nd Edition, eds. David Lodge and Nigel Woods (New York: Longman, 2000), 315 quotes Nancy K. Miller, “Women's Autobiography in France: For a Dialectics of Identification,” in Women and Language in Literature and Society, eds. Sally McConnell-Ginet, Ruth Borker, and Nelly Furnam (New York: Praeger, 1980), 271.
43. Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (New York: Routledge, 1997), 5.
44. Mridula Garg, Kathgulab, 178.
45. Mridula Garg, Kathgulab, 186.
46. Butler, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative, 86.
47. Mahasweta Devi, Three Stories by Mahasweta Devi: Imaginary Maps, trans., Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (New York: Routledge, 1995), 198–199.
48. I chose to read Devi's Bengali novel in its Hindi translation (given by Santvana Nigam) for the simple reason that I cannot read Bengali. A South Indian who speaks one of the Dravidian languages as removed from Indo-Sanskritic tongues of the north, Malayalam, I grew up in the capital, Delhi learning to speak and write English, Hindi, and Punjabi. My fluency in both Hindi and English aligns me to fact that in the linguistic arc of kinship, Hindi is much closer to Bengali than is English, and Bengali translated into English, other than some successes like Tagore, is generally lost in translation. Hindi is closer, its affect is familiar and it is what I have for now. I am glad to have read Devi in the Nagri prose as given to me by Nigam.
49. Mahasweta Devi's novel, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, trans., Santvana Nigam (Delhi: Radhakrishna, 1979), 11.
50. Devi, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, 15.
51. Devi, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, 17.
52. Evidence of a humorous berating is noted in thinking of her eldest son as “bevakuf” or “idiot.”
53. Devi, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, 26.
54. Devi, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, 81.
55. There is no adequate translation for the word “dukhiya” since no English word encapsulates the meaning and nuance of this commonly-utilized word of Hindi. Literally it denotes the image of the long-suffering woman, a victim of circumstances at the mercy of fate, a woman without control of her life. However translated, it has really no pertinent place or locale within which it conveys the same affect as it does in Hindi.
56. Devi, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, 61.
57. Devi, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, 72.
58. Devi, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, 93.
59. Devi, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, 119.
60. Devi, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, 143.
61. Devi, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, 143, translated by self.[Page 241]
1. I play here with the title and thesis of Gyanendra Pandey's article as part of the Subaltern Studies Collective, “In Defense of the Fragment: Writing about Hindu–Muslim Riots in India Today,” Representations no. 37, Special Issue: Imperial Fantasies and Postcolonial Histories (Winter, 1992), 27–55.
2. Urvashi Butalia, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 152–153. Butalia goes on to further explain how this bloody formulae calculated on the backs of women evolves into the more contemporary ill of communalism connecting the partition of 1947 to more recent spates of violence that took place in 1992–1993 in Ayodhya, Bombay or in 2000 in Godhra, Gujarat, and other neighboring cities. Such identity-formation places great stake on self-idolization and constructing a fictive and demonic “other” which is less civilized, pure, and worthy of humanity, thereby causing the rift between the fractured communities of Hindus and Muslims to grow over the decades.
3. Amrita Pritam's Pinjar from Chune Hue Upanyas, (Delhi: Bharatiya Jnanpith, 2004). The statement means, “This time they had decided resolutely that they will only return after relieving themselves of this burden.”
4. Pritam, Pinjar, 12, meaning, Pooro's mother's mind had turned into a state of stunned shock.
5. Pritam, Pinjar, 12, meaning, “if Vidhi Maata comes sulking, then she will listen to your pleas.”
6. Hastings Donnan and Fiona Magowan, The Anthropology of Sex (New York: Berg, 2010), 112.
7. Pritam, Pinjar, 24.
8. Toni Morrison, Paradise (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998).
9. Pritam, Pinjar, 45, meaning, “Someone who possesses neither youth nor beauty, just a body of flesh, who is not aware of herself, who is only a number of bones in a living skeleton … was a mad skeleton … the eagles/scavengers even clawed her apart and ate her … Pooro was tired of thinking.
10. Laura Sjoberg and Caron E. Gentry, Mothers, Monsters, Whores: Women's Violence in Global Politics (New York: Zed Books, 2007), 190.
11. Shari Daya, “Embodying Modernity: Reading Narratives of Indian Women's Sexual Autonomy and Violation,” in Gender, Place, and Culture 16, no. 1 (February 2009), 105.
12. Pritam, Pinjar, 60.
13. Pritam, Pinjar, 66.
14. Amrita Pritam is clear about not ascribing more blame to the Muslims even though the novel might show more instances of Muslim violence upon Hindus. Upon annotating the year 1947, the narrator explains that the Muslims victimize Hindus in the same way that the Hindus victimize Muslims, depending on which side of the border you are on. Since Pooro is now a Muslim woman staying in a Muslim community in modern-day Pakistan, the minorities who are victimized in 1947 happen to be Hindu.
15. Pritam, Pinjar, 81, meaning, “Pooro remembers Lajjo's downcast face, and she felt that Lajjo's face was like the skeleton of a little bird caught in the paws of a mercenary eagle for days on end.”[Page 242]
16. Urvashi Butalia, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), 110–111.
17. Debali Mookerjea-Leonard, “Quarantined: Women and the Partition,” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 24, no. 1 (2004), 35.
18. Pritam, Pinjar, 89.
19. Pritam, Pinjar, 91, meaning, “Whether a girl is Hindu or Muslim, whoever returns and reaches her domicile, understand that pooro's soul also has reached its domicile.”
20. Donnan and Magowan, The Anthropology of Sex, 60–62.
21. Mirza Muhuammad Hadi Ruswa, Umrao Jan Ada, trans., M. A. Husaini & Khushwant Singh (Delhi: Disha, 2006).
22. Andrea Dworkin, “Prostitution and Male Supremacy,” in Life and Death: Unapologetic Writings on the Continuing War Against Women (New York: Virago Press, 1997), 145.
23. Donnan and Magowan, The Anthropology of Sex, 75.
24. Dworkin, Life and Death: Unapologetic Writings on the Continuing War Against Women, 151.
25. Madhu Purnima Kishwar, Zealous Reformers, Deadly Laws: Battling Stereotypes (Delhi: Sage Publications, 2008), 131.
26. Here I combine Dworkin's charge that people who utilize prostitutes really hate women, and treat the prositute as the bottom, as less than human, with Nemishrai's politics that do much of the same and attempt to seek a humanity denied to the prostitute in her status quo.
27. Mohandas Nemishrai, Aaj Bajaar Band Hai (New Delhi: Vani Prakashan, 2004)
28. Nemishrai, Aaj Bajaar Band Hai, 71.
29. One of the Hindu gods of trinity, Shiva is often seen in a harmonious union with his wife, Parvathi or Shakti (energy/power, also that which makes the universe before the trinity) in one figure, a form which is half-man, half-woman.
30. Nemishrai, Aaj Bajaar Band Hai, 29–30, refers mainly to the female journalist, Rashim's questioning that finally is clearly articulated when she asks the group of prostitutes why they don't just stop what they are doing. This leads them to lose their tempers and warrants the reply, “You tell me this—didn't your mother do all this? If she did not take it inside, then bitch, how would you have come outside?”
31. Nemishrai, Aaj Bajaar Band Hai, 88–89. Sumeet uses the multi-valent word “sangarsh” which wraps in its layers actions of fighting, resistance, and struggle.
32. Nemishrai, Aaj Bajaar Band Hai, 6–7, Ambedkar's statements as quoted by the author in the introduction.
33. I use “shameful” referring to Sumeet, and in turn, the author and Ambedkar's stance on the profession as a shameful act on part of the women themselves.
34. Nemishrai, Aaj Bajaar Band Hai, 114–115.
35. Devdasis can be summarily translated as “temple prostitutes” but they have a long and tortured presence in South Asian history. Generally chosen through caste or priestly edict, the women and girl children born to them are forced to devote their lives to the temple and its surrounding community. Often this meant they entertained, danced, recited poetry, and sexually serviced the men of the court, clergy, and high caste with little or no remuneration even, serving a sort of sexual bondage through generations.[Page 243]Conclusion
1. Deniz Kandiyoti, “Bargaining with Patriarchy,” Gender and Society 2, no. 3 (1988): 274–290.
2. Hélène Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa,” trans., Keith and Paula Cohen, Signs 1 (1976): 875–893.
3. Edwidge Danticat, The Farming of Bones (New York: Soho Press, 1998).
4. Mahasweta Devi's novel Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa translated by Santvana Nigam to Mother of 1084 (Delhi: Radhakrishna, 1979).
5. Taisha Abraham, “The Politics of Patriarchy and Sathin Bhanwari's Rape,” in Women and the Politics of Violence, ed. Taisha Abraham (New Delhi: Har Anand Publications, 2002), 281.
6. Abraham, Women and the Politics of Violence, 283.
7. Margaret Abraham, Speaking the Unspeakable: Marital Violence among South Asian Immigrants in the United States (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000), 153.
8. Charlotte Bunch, “Patriarchal Customs cause Violence against Women,” in Violence Against Women: Current Controversies, eds. James D. Torr and Karin L. Swisher (San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999), 99. I substituted the word, “are” instead of the dash as was present in Bunch's much longer sentence for the sake of clarity.
9. Edouard Glissant, Poetics of Relations, trans., Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997), 94–95.
10. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans., Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987).
11. Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 2007).
12. Ilina Sen, “A Space within the Struggle,” in Writing the Women's Movement: A Reader, ed. Mala Khullar (New Delhi: Zubaan: An Imprint of Kali for Women, 2005), 80–97. For more, read Ratna Kapur who thinks across wide-ranging feminist contestations as configured through issues of complicity and resistance to patriarchy when it comes to legal reform aimed at uplifting women's condition. Also, Maxine Molyneux's chapter offers critical insights on the negotiations between the female subject and citizenship in Latin American and Caribbean regions. See Ratna Kapur, “Challenging the Liberal Subject: Law and Gender Justice in South Asia,” in Gender Justice, Citizenship, and Development, eds. Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay and Navsharan Singh (New Delhi: Zubaan: An Imprint of Kali for Women, 2007), 116–171, and Maxine Molyneux, “Refiguring Citizenship Research Perspectives on Gender Justice in the Latin American and Caribbean Region,” in Gender Justice, Citizenship, and Development, eds. Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay and Navsharan Singh (New Delhi: Zubaan: An Imprint of Kali for Women, 2007), 58–116.
13. Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 9–10.
14. Raka Ray, Fields of Protest: Women's Movements in India (New Delhi: Kali for Women, 2000).[Page 244]
15. Toni Morrison, Jazz (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992).
16. Toni Morrison: Conversations, ed. Carolyn C. Denard (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008), 55.
17. Toni Morrison, Paradise (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998).
18. Bapsi Sidhwa, Cracking India (Minnesota: Milkweed Editions, 1991).
19. Amrita Pritam's Pinjar from Chune Hue Upanyas (Delhi: Bharatiya Jnanpith, 2004).
20. Mridula Garg, Kathgulab (New Delhi: Vani Prakashan, 2004).
21. Shireen P. Huq, “Bodies as Sites of Struggle: Naripokkho and the Movement for Women's Rights in Bangladesh,” in Inclusive Citizenship: Meanings and Expressions, ed. Naila Kabeer (London: Zed, 2005), 164–180, and Naila Kabeer, “Growing Citizenship from the Grassroots: Nijera Kori and Social Mobilization in Bangladesh,” in Inclusive Citizenship: Meanings and Expressions, ed. Naila Kabeer (London: Zed, 2005), 181–198.
22. Elora Halim Chowdhury, Transnationalism Reversed: Women Organizing against Gendered Violence in Bangladesh (New York: State University of New York Press, 2011), 139.
23. Merry works out the politics and logistics of a coalescing of local/global feminisms most cogently through her analysis of “nari adalats,” a body of women who address the issues that pertain to women to shift traditional structures of power in Indian villages across Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat in the mid-1990s. For more, Sally Engle Merry, “Transnational Human Rights and Local Activism: Mapping the Middle,” American Anthropologist New Series 108, no. 1 (2006): 38–51.
24. Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory: Practicing Solidarity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 133.
25. Lois Weis, “Race, Gender, and Critique: African American Women, White Women, and Domestic Violence Issues in the 1980s and 1990s,” Signs 27, no. 1 (2001): 139–169.
26. A long list of important translations in English exist for this epic of Sanskritic antiquity of which, the following references are listed: C. Rajagopalachari, Ramayana (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1990); R. K. Narayan, The Ramayana (New York: Penguin, 1972); William Buck, Ramayana (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976); and Ramesh Menon, Ramayana: A Modern Retelling of the Great Epic (New York: North Point Press, 2001).
27. Tamsin Bradley, “The Interfaces between Gender, Religion, and Dowry,” in Dowry: Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice, eds. Tamsin Bradley, Emma Tomalin, and Mangala Subramaniam (London: Zed, 2009), 103.
28. Laura Sjoberg and Caron E. Gentry, Mothers, Monsters, Whores: Women's Violence in Global Politics (London: Zed, 2007), 200.
29. Navtej K. Purewal, Son Preference: Sex Selection, Gender and Culture in South Asia, (New York: Berg, 2010), 51.
30. Indu Grewal and J. Kishore, “Female Foeticide in India,” Internatioanal Humanist and Ethical Union, May 2004, http://www.iheu.org/female-foeticide-in-india (accessed October 28, 2011)
31. I am thinking here of various forms in which patriarchal ideologies of surveillance are inscribed upon the woman's body, from statist violence to much more subtle [Page 245]forms of institutional sanction, such as cultural productions like music. Kirk Hutson points to nineteenth century American musical traditions and how the refrains and lyrics of southern music affirms and in fact, encourages violent punishment for women for various transgressions such as adultery, betrayal or just simply, to keep them in their place. For more, read C. Kirk Hutson, “Whackey Whack: Don't Talk Back: The Glorification of Violence against Females and the Subjugation of Women in Nineteenth-Century Southern Folk Music,” Journal of Women's History 8, no. 3 (1996): 114–142.
32. Also see Gloria Anzaldua, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, eds. Gloria Anzaldua and Cherríe Moraga (New York: Kitchen Table Press, 1984).
33. Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 87.
34. Isabel Hoving, In Praise of New Travelers: Reading Caribbean Migrant Women Writers (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 2.
35. Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979); Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures (New York: Vintage, 1994); and Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage, 1994).
36. Natalie Melas, All the Difference in the World: Postcoloniality and the Ends of Comparison (Stanford: Standford University Press, 2007), 21.
37. Andrea Smith, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide (Cambridge: South End Press, 2005), 184.
38. Meyda Yeğenoğlu, Colonial Fantasies: Towards a Feminist Reading of Orientalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 125.
39. Amina Jamal, “Gender, Citizenship, and the Nation-State in Pakistan: Willful Daughters or Free Citizens?” Signs 31, no. 2 (Winter 2006): 286.
40. Khan, Shahnaz. “Locating the Feminist Voice: The Debate on the Zina Ordinance,” Feminist Studies 30, no. 3 (2004): 660–685.
41. I had the special privilege of attending a Feminist Pedagogies workshop at University of Houston on April 15, 2011 with Robyn Wiegman, Minoo Moallem, Caren Kaplan and Inderpal Grewal. Their new feminism offers transnational ways of tracing and bringing together a constellation of global voices without sublimating, displacing or effacing differences and local concerns. Caren Kaplan and Inderpal Grewal, “Transnational Practices and Interdisciplinary Feminist Scholarship: Reconfiguring Women's and Gender Studies,” in Women's Studies on Its Own, eds. Robyn Wiegman (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), 66–81.
42. Maythee Rojas, Women of Color and Feminism (Berkeley: Seal, 2009), 147.
43. Anuradha M. Chenoy, “Women in the South Asian Conflict Zones,” South Asian Survey: Sage Journals Online 11, no.1 (2004): 41.
44. Lauren Leve, “Failed Development” and Rural Revolution in Nepal: Rethinking Subaltern Consciousness and Women's Empowerment,” Anthropological Quarterly 80, no. 1 (2007): 153.
45. Gayatri Spivak, Outside in the Teaching Machine (New York: Routledge, 1993), 77.[Page 246]
46. Nick Mansfield, “Coalition: The Politics of Decision,” M/C Journal 13, no. 6 (2010), http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/319 (accessed January 16, 2011).
47. Margaret Chatterjee, “From the Abyss,” in In their Own Voice: The Penguin Anthology of Contemporary Indian Women Poets, ed. Arlene R. K. Zide (New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 1993), 29–30.
48. Mani, Contentious Traditions, 190.
49. Tahmina Durrani, Kufr, trans. Vineeta Gupta (New Delhi: Vani Prakashan, 2004).
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