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Lying on the Postcolonial Couch

Lying on the Postcolonial Couch: The Idea of Indifference

Rukmini Bhaya Nair
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Lying on the Postcolonial Couch
    Book Description:

    A revealing look into the long afterlife of colonial conquest, Lying on the Postcolonial Couch offers an original, overarching concept that informs—and helps to explain—the workings of postcoloniality. This concept, "indifference," is a play on the key critical term "difference." Indifference is a cognitive stance invented during the colonial period for the purpose of organizing the complex domain of the Indian subcontinent, one that created its own brand of poetics. Considering postcoloniality as a symptomatic condition, this book proposes a cure involving a return to buried memories of colonial trauma before the phenomenon itself succumbs to the absolute indifference of the slowly gathering amnesia of the new millennium. Rukmini Bhaya Nair traces a paper trail beginning in 1757 with the Battle of Plassey, winding through the contentious Mutiny of 1857, and ending with Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses predicament. Along this trail, she uncovers hidden residues of feeling, from guilt and mistrust to wonder and pleasure, and analyzes the linguistic pillars that hold up the institution of bureaucratic indifference that she exposes.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5289-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxxii)

    Postcoloniality awaits consignment to oblivion. In this it is like all historical phenomena, fated to be committed to memory, then to institutions, and thence to amnesia. Where postcoloniality differs from colonialism is that no concatenation of events may strictly be said to characterize it. No battle of Plassey, no war of 1857, no salt marches to Dandi signpost its territory. Rather, it is recognized that postcolonial is a region of shadows, indicative of a mentality, an inherited condition of the psyche. Although in all other ways the title of my book misleads by invoking the image of the Freudian couch...

  5. Part I. Interlocution:: The Arrangement of Couches

    • 1 Reading Texts, Resurrecting Cultures: Colonial Poetry in India (1757–1857)
      (pp. 3-40)

      My dear Raja,

      I am returning to you the circular letters after signing them.

      Your letter of the 21st September, so far as I remember the rule we passed was that travelling expenses should not exceed second class fare. Further we made it clear that where railway concessions were available these should be taken advantage of. On no account, therefore, should you pay anything beyond actual second class fare. No other expenses, whether incurred or not, and daily fee for the days of travelling should be paid.

      If however a member charges third or intermediate fare, his incidental expenses during...

    • 2 The Pedigree of the White Stallion: Postcoloniality and Literary History
      (pp. 41-68)

      Has anyone noticed the absence of weather inKim? The influence of climatic conditions on history as well as individual character form, as we know, an absolutely crucial element in the Orientalist narrative from Pierre Sonnerat through James Mill to William Arnold;¹ we know, too, that the novelKimspreads itself across Upper India like one of those detailed surveyor’s maps that its hero is trained to draw. And were we to go on to compareKim,certainly the cult novel of high colonialism, to the great Indian anti-Kim,Rabindranath Tagore’sGora,so replete with descriptions of seasonal changes, we...

    • 3 Translation as a Speech Act: Twelve Versions of One Subversive Verse
      (pp. 69-100)

      Translation, I suggest, means trouble, in the sense of meaningnnor non-natural meaning that the philosopher Paul Grice once stated is implicated in sentences of the sort “those clouds mean rain” or “those spots mean measles.”¹ No one, that is, would want to insist that the word “clouds”literallymeans “rain” or that the phrase “those spots” is equivalent in meaning to “measles.” Grice’s point, rather, is that all speakers and hearers proceed on the assumption that ordinary language allows a bountiful degree of latitude in interpretation. Aphoristically, to learn to mean is to learn not tobemean.


  6. Part II. Circumlocution:: The Institution of Indifference

    • 4 Glossolalia: The Dissimilar Twins of Language and Literature
      (pp. 103-117)

      Academic disciplines progress by policing their institutional boundaries. Although interdisciplinary work is currently fashionable, a great deal of such activity is predicated on the recognition of territorial differences. The goals, problems, methods, and consequently the ideologies of literary criticism and linguistics appear so divergent that any attempt to bring them together seems doomed to failure. Literary criticism, with English literature as its prototypical object of study, has had a distinguished pedigree in India; its aristocratic status is attested by the hierarchies that it has spawned. Linguistics, on the other hand, an upstart discipline, apparently offers just a crude bag of...

    • 5 Multiculturalism: Other Worlds in Edgar Allan Poe and Satyajit Ray
      (pp. 118-154)

      More than a century and a half before the utopian designs of multiculturalism coalesced, rainbow hued across the classrooms of the world, Edgar Allan Poe’s musings seem to have anticipated some of the consequences of a text “crossing the sea.”For it is with literature as it is with law or empire.Then, as now, the national appeal of a work of literature was considerably enhanced by the fame it found abroad—its international cachet. Being published, or at any rate read, in London, Paris, or Genoa was to be several steps closer to having arrived at home. Poe died...

    • 6 Colonization: Omeros Sails between the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean
      (pp. 155-176)

      The grammar of the suffix “-ization,” following upon the absent but iconic : in “colonization,” suggests a process. At the same time, deep-sea burial within the submerged interior of a suffix obscures those insidious processes of mental takeover implicated in the word “colonization.” Reading Derek Walcott’sOmeros,however, plunges one right back into the cold seas of word play. It forces upon readers the realization that recovery from amnesia is always a matter of coming up for air and back into the world of language. For what comes before the : in colonization? It is the word “colon,” stand-in for...

  7. Part III. Delocution:: The Sacralization of Subjects

    • 7 Acts of Agency and Acts of God: Postcolonial Narratives of Disaster
      (pp. 179-200)

      Violence, and more specifically, the violence inflicted by an alienated modern state on its powerless citizens, has been the focus of much recent sociological enquiry in India.³ On the basis of this sort of work and the research of the subaltern school of historians, it appears that the postcolonial Indian state has taken over intact many of the working presuppositions of its former rulers, in both its institutional discourses and its governmental praxis. A subalternist perspective on India’s colonial inheritance, when extended to a reading of the current political scenario in India, would seem to suggest that the notoriousmai-bap...

    • 8 The Testament of the Tenth Muse: Toward a Feminist Sensibility
      (pp. 201-224)

      Let me begin with the most brusque of questions: of what exactly does an alleged feminine sexuality consist? Most twentieth-century critical commentary emanating from the West, and concentrating mainly on male representations of women in Western literature, has so far made the apparently obvious claim thatfeminine sexuality is to be identified with an exploration of the female body and the female psyche.I want to suggest in this brief exploration of the ways in which some Indian as well as Western women writers have scripted their own cultural roles that this essentialist presumption could be fundamentally mistaken.

      Feminine sexuality...

    • 9 A Fatwa against Indifference? Of Shamianas, Death, and the Platonic Censors
      (pp. 225-249)

      Heterocosmic in its beginnings, colonialism foreshadows its end as post-colonial medley. Between these two frayed ends of empire lies an often faceless violence that has initiated and sustained the myth of the monolithic Indian nation. In this book, I have named that violence, calling it—indifference. Indifference is an institutionalized mode of response to pluralism, necessarily reductionist in its erasure of differences of style, opinion, culture. It was this basic colonial idea, existing in an uneasy relationship with the values of democracy—the fundamental, and lately fundamentalistidea that the geographical area of Hindustan was not just a loose cultural...

  8. Postscript
    (pp. 250-254)

    Armed men, homicide, martyrdom, massacre, execution, slaying—fatal violence inheres in Milton’s vocabulary. TheAreopagiticaseems to lead readers of Rushdie’s texts straight to another scene of carnage. Three centuries down the line, we walk into postcoloniality’s hell for which no phrase but Conrad’s overused iteration can be adequate, September 11, 2001, and earlier, December 25, 1995. Here is an excerpt from an editorial in theTimes of India,December 26, 1995:

    The tragic death of over 400 persons, mostly children, participating in the annual day function of the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic (DAV) School at Mandi Dabwali in Haryana was entirely...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 255-288)
  10. Index
    (pp. 289-308)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 309-309)