Homelands and the representation of cultural and political identity in selected South-Asian texts, 1857 to the present
This thesis is a study of representations of cultural and political identity in a selection of literary and cinematic texts (in English and in regional South-Asian languages in translation), all of which situate South-Asian cultural and political subjectivity in relation to specific narrative constructions of space. I suggest that through these successive depictions it is possible to plot narratives of belonging. Furthermore, in each chapter I explore these constructions of homeland at different nodal points in the history of colonial and independent South-Asia, and trace out their aesthetic and geopolitical implications. In my first chapter I address a wide variety of nineteenth century colonial and indigenous writings, including William Lambton's and George Everest's records of the cartographic surveying of India, Honoria Lawrence's and Harriet Tytler's personal journals, and Mirza Ghalib's poetry and prose written during the 1857 rebellion. These contemporary narratives are framed against Satyajit Ray's cinematic adaptation of Premchand's historical short story, The Chess-Players (1977). My second chapter investigates constructions of national and cultural belonging which develop out of representations of village-life in novels written during the struggle for Indo-Pakistani independence, namely; Bibhutibhushan Banerji's Pather Panchali (1928) in translation, Mulk Raj Anand's The Village (1940) and Raja Rao's Kanthapura (1938). Again, I examine South-Asian cinema, in this case Satyajit Ray's post-colonial filmic reworking of Banerji's novel. In my third chapter I analyse representations of Partition in Sadat Hasan Manto's Urdu short-stories (published in the aftermath of Partition) and in Intizar Husain's historical novel, Basti (1979)- in both cases working from translations of the original texts. Also covering Partition writings in English, I examine Khushwant Singh's Train to Pakistan (1956) and Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India (1988). My final chapter deals with metropolitan post-colonial identities and the Indian Emergency of 1975, in Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (1981) and Nayantara Sahgal's Rich Like Us (1985). Throughout the thesis, whilst underlining the political salience of cultural constructions such as identity and belonging, I also maintain a theoretical perspective which attempts to show how these narratives are continually shadowed by the fact of cross-cultural transaction and slippage. In discourses which are constructed upon a more or less ambivalent implementation of difference, such as colonialism and certain forms of nationalism, I focus on the way in which these narratives are modified, negotiated, or transgressed across their own borders. In contemporary postcolonial writings I argue that homeland has become a more flexible concept, and underline the way cross-cultural negotiation has developed as a means of identity and belonging in itself.