Focusing on late nineteenth- and twentieth-century stories of
detection, policing, and espionage by British and South Asian
writers, Yumna Siddiqi presents an original and compelling
exploration of the cultural anxieties created by imperialism. She
suggests that while colonial writers use narratives of intrigue to
endorse imperial rule, postcolonial writers turn the generic
conventions and topography of the fiction of intrigue on its head,
launching a critique of imperial power that makes the repressive
and emancipatory impulses of postcolonial modernity visible.
Siddiqi devotes the first part of her book to the colonial
fiction of Arthur Conan Doyle and John Buchan, in which the British
regime's preoccupation with maintaining power found its voice. The
rationalization of difference, pronouncedly expressed through the
genre's strategies of representation and narrative resolution,
helped to reinforce domination and, in some cases, allay fears
concerning the loss of colonial power.
In the second part, Siddiqi argues that late twentieth-century
South Asian writers also underscore the state's insecurities, but
unlike British imperial writers, they take a critical view of the
state's authoritarian tendencies. Such writers as Amitav Ghosh,
Michael Ondaatje, Arundhati Roy, and Salman Rushdie use the
conventions of detective and spy fiction in creative ways to
explore the coercive actions of the postcolonial state and the
power dynamics of a postcolonial New Empire.
Drawing on the work of leading theorists of imperialism such as
Edward Said, Frantz Fanon, and the Subaltern Studies historians,
Siddiqi reveals how British writers express the anxious workings of
a will to maintain imperial power in their writing. She also
illuminates the ways South Asian writers portray the paradoxes of
postcolonial modernity and trace the ruses and uses of reason in a
world where the modern marks a horizon not only of hope but also of
economic, military, and ecological disaster.
Subjects: Language & Literature, History
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