Politics in Rushdie

The Massachusetts Review, Inc.

The Politics of Post-Colonial Identity in Salman Rushdie Author(s): Anuradha Dingwaney Needham Reviewed work(s): Source: The Massachusetts Review, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Winter, 1988/1989), pp. 609-624 Published by: The Massachusetts Review, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25090032 . Accessed: 28/12/2011 09:33
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Politics of Post-Colonial in Salman Rushdie Dingwaney
and its genealogical
Most scars of


holding their past tion

offsprings, there is thus a
writers as of bear instiga the past and re

and within

crossing-over. themas practices, a future,

the post-colonial

for different towards

of humiliating wounds, as potentially revised visions as urgently re-interpretable


in which the formerly silent native speaks deployable experiences and acts on territory taken back from the colonialist. (54-55)
Edward W. Said, Intellectuals in the Post-Colonial World”

THIS ESSAY FOR A SPECIAL ISSUE devoted to South-Asian on a I would like to begin by reflecting expatriate experience, IN context that should, and often does, inform this expe particular rience in the U.S. and U.K. This contextthat of a shared colonial concern with defining forth as the expatriates her/his pastissues I and for the “West.”l When post-colonial identity and role within of a post-colonial I have in mind not that process of speak identity, an essential definition self, an irreducible whereby subjective core, is expressed and laid bare; I have in mind, rather, the process of a post-colonial definition which itself through identity constructs in relation to a specific time and place and a and politically socially set of (often inhospitable) circumstances. particular a post-colonial The task of defining identity assumes signifi cance for the South-Asian because s/he is “now partly of expatriate two cultures; at other times theWest-sometimes… stradd[ling] two stools” in between “An Indian Writer (Rushdie, fall[ing] of 79). Of course, one could argue that this experience England,” or inhabiting two cultures is not new for being caught between South-Asian As a formerly colonized expatriates. peoples, most of them already are familiar with and have existed in two cultures *Irealize “West” is an inadequate
However, rience venient since in U.K. term I am and to use. U.S. talking about (traditionally

term, which
the South-Asian labelled


I use it sparingly.
expatriates its expe a con

“the West”),


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or indigenous native culture and a culture simultaneouslya and selectively the Europeans. the However, imported imposed by move to the West from ones native throws into away country both the sense of loss and of cultural sharp relief, even exaggerates, an and compels the difficult of defining business displacement anew. More the vast gap, radical dispar identity important, given theWests popular and academic ity even, between representations of the formerly colonized world and the “truth” of the expatriates own experience of her/his the native and its peoples, country a definition of a post-colonial for the expatriate identity assumes fundamental and strategic importance. to focus on the workselections Iwant from essays, interviews, an expatriate Salman talks, and the novel Shameof writer, to because it exemplifies, for me, self-conscious Rushdie, attempts a politically viable post-colonial forge identity. on the “problems of definition” for a post-colonial Reflecting in England in a 1983 essay, Rushdie asks: Indian writer to be an “Indian” What does it mean culture be preserved without becoming
discuss the need for change both to Western embracing that came within

outside India How can ossified How should we
and our community to the


are make the

consequences, concessions of ones

to play into the hands of our racial enemies What
spiritual ideas those with us and and practical, practices and practices of What refusing are turning


consequences from



(“The Indian Writer

in England,”


of what make Rushdies clear that an examination questions and role the expatriates should or should not define identity to to the West, in response in relationship almost always proceeds to the expatriate. In Rushdies the West does and/or means what the is between this relationship case, as in the case of several others, and the colonizer, Indians and Pakistanis, colonized, formerly enters not a neutral, value free Britain. the expatriate Hence, terrain, but one that is crowded with previous (mis) that have been, in Saids words, representations “put to use in the domestic of an imperial economy society” (“In the Shadow of the first West,” What, then, are the expatriates 4). options Rushdies ones native few questions that, on the one hand, privileging imply it in an “alien” soil culture by simply transplanting and preserving discursive is extremely problematic. On the other hand, negotiating for




when power rests and our community,” ourselves “change within A call is just as, if not more, problematic. “our racial enemies” with for instance, be taken to imply a “lack” or for change can, as coinciding “absence.” As such, it can be (and often is) construed with theWests of the formerly colonized world as “under critique in this context, and in need of change; change, equals developed” the lines of the West. Rush and developing transforming along that raise the issue of consequences dies questions also explicitly or whole-hearted assimi flow from either whole-hearted rejection Neither ideas and practices.” lation of “Western stance, I surmise, is unproblematic for Rushdie because each, in its own way, disem her/him the expatriate and thus disengaging powers by removing from a politically charged debate. a third alternative There that Rushdie and some of is, however, overcomes the inherent his fictional characters proffer, which stances I have described above. of the mutually problems opposing and many-valenced This alternative incorporates multiple posi to particular each variously alert and responsive audiences, tions, the realities. Rushdies 1984 essay “Outside needs, and political me with a productive with Whale” provides example opening to begin a discussion rhe which of the situatedness of Rushdies toric and construction of a post-colonial self.

revival … as


(to end where
about Raj

I began)

it really is necessary
the zombie-likeof

the defunct



Empire. The various
propagate loudly and notions

films and TV
about history

shows and books
which as possible. must

[about the Raj]

be quarrelled

as embarrassingly

(“Outside In his remarks on Rushdies



has was

theWhale,” “Outside Edward Said how Rushdies main already brilliantly purpose(s) exposed in the West when “numerous indeed, distorted displaced, commentators towhat some of them considered simply responded to be Rushdies in in public” and whining (“Intellectuals wailing the Post-Colonial to extend the point of Saids World,” 46). Iwant on the way comments in which Rushdie by focussing positions in this essayhis himself rhetoric and self-representation. Decry in the lack of native presence and points-of-view ing the absolute recent recycling of the British Raj by the British film and T.V inserts himself industry, Rushdie (and thus a natives point-of


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a hermetically closed could otherwise remain into what view) field by contesting the images of the sub-continent discursive they “Ultra parochially British” and morally propagate. reprehensible, this recycling of the Raj is at radical odds with his own (and other of colonial rule on the subcontinent”only natives) experience in a very long line of fake portraits the latest inflicted by the West on the East” (126). of Rushdies What interests me particularly is the significance the in terms of its timing intervention and its tone. “Outside on the international Whale” follows his much-touted appearance Children (1983). (1980) and Shame literary scene via Midnights the prestigious had already been awarded Children (Midnights Booker Prize; Shame was nominated for it.) By the time “Outside in 1984, Rushdie fame and the the Whale” had acquired appeared stature and authority it. His that usually fame, accompanies that his intervention would be heard/read. ensured moreover, the terms in and contesting This is not to suggest that intervening discourse is ever easy. Indeed, the bloody of an overly determined commentators” minded of the “numerous response whereby into the service and pressed Rushdies “strong case” was distorted to the West points to the inherent of an argument more congenial to distort of the task. But, I would the attempt difficulties argue, was also carried out because Rushdies could not be denied, charges his intervention could not be ignored, and both are in large part the status. result of his celebrity at a particular his Rushdies occurred moreover, intervention, a number of Western writers and intellec torical moment. While to invoke stereotypes tuals continue about the formerly colonized of their discourse the potency and intellectual world, respectability a substantially has been challenged voices that now articulate by different “truth.” Simply put, Frantz Fanon, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Edward Said (to name a Wole Soyinka, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and what few) have spoken and written, they have to say contests world. Salman Rush the Wests articulation of the ex-colonized I have rhetoric belongs with the group of people dies oppositional to the mentioned above; it is both made possible by and contributes counter discourse this group has spawned. he posi tone is a telling index of the way in which Rushdies in this essay, his view of the strategic tions himself importance, in other words, indeed, necessity of his intervention. What matters, and is not just what he says, but also how he says it. Polemical




scorn and ridicule on the renditions he pours of the agressive, in both The Far Pavilions British Raj and Jewel in the Crown and versions. When he evaluates M. M. Kayes book as their T.V. as “no version “fibrous garbage,” and its T.V. “purest bilge,” drivel” and Paul Scotts book as a “literary chewing-necessary version of Mulligatawny soup” that “tries to taste Indian, but ends British” the readers up being ultra-parochially (126; 127), what even disappearance witness is not only a radical diminution, of on the subject of colonial and Scotts so-called Kayes authority rule on the subcontinent, but also a corresponding rise in Rush dies authority, which allows him to indict in the first place. to note, however, It is important that, in this essay, Rushdies tone and stance is not typical. He is usually more playful, irrever ent and, as he says in a 1983 interview with Rani Dharker, “open at even contra the edges” (357)letting other voices, modulations, dictions tends towards creep in. In other words, Rushdie typically less authoritative and belligerent discourse. Rushdies Regarding confrontational rhetoric and stance, then, we would do well to bear inmind that “Outside toWestern theWhale” is primarily directed audiences made up of writers like Scott and Kayes whose fictions to Rushdie, the indigenous of the sub allow, according people continent bit parts in their own history only “walk-ons,” (128), and to these fictions. viewers who willingly accede readers and T.V. Most Rushdies rhetoric and appropriation of author importantly, are directed at exposing and giving the lie to the “revisionist ity that in Britains seeks to conservative climate enterprise” political the “Empires refurbish tarnished (129). image” The reason I have dwelt at some length on Rushdies somewhat tone and stance in “Outside theWhale” is because Iwant untypical to emphasize the situatedness of Rushdies rhetoric. I have tried to show how Rushdies is called for by a particular situation response and audience; by the same token, a different situation and audience would merit a different idea is significant because it response. This is implicated with the (varied) constructions of post-colonial iden we witness in his work. We do not find, I hope to demonstrate, tity a unitary, monolithic rather, his work reflects identity in Rushdie; a conception of post-colonial that is fluid, multiple, shift identity ing, and responsive narratives audiences.” to varied situations and varied audiences.

“Rushdies for different

. . .are riven by the strain of double (Kumkum 176) Sangari,



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two novels the subcontinent, Rushdies about Midnights and Shamebecause Children address differ they simultaneously ent audiences, who have sometimes sometimes mut overlapping, or competing the post-colonial exclusive needsinscribe ually even contradictory in diverse, sometimes ways. These identity to that peculiarly novels form cultural/textual hybrid belong in English novel. Written called the Indo-Anglian by writers either to and from, or at least originally from, the sub-continent, aspiring firms from the often being published by well-known publishing a significant U.K. and U.S., of the Indo-Anglian proportion audience is from the West. works Fed on a diet of colonial (and like Kipling, works Forster, and, now, by writers post-colonial) to Western representa Kayes and Scott, familiar with and acceding of the colonized this audience certain pre tives brings subject, to any work about the subcontinent. But conceived expectations work also draws the Indo-Anglian its readers from the urban While of this middle class of the subcontinent. many members on occasion, share the cultural, class are Anglicized middle and, their and social values of their Western counterpart, political, cul with colonial “diverse, diffuse and class-divided relationships ture and the English them “equivocal about make language” 177). The Indo-Anglian (Sangari alignments” [their] cultural audience. Furthermore, then, does not have a homogeneous work, in so far as it must different the Indo-Anglian work, negotiate to can be particularly terrains and audiences, cultural hospitable must the South-Asian the diverse, competing pressures expatriate a viable post-colonial to construct in the attempt also negotiate can be keyed the subcontinent novels about identity. Rushdies so far. work discussed into all the features of the Indo-Anglian the absence of a homogeneous for example, audience, They reflect, for different “riven” as they are “by the strain of double-coding audiences” ideologi drawing upon and “caught between different Rushdies cal systems” 176). Furthermore, relationship (Sangari the West and from the sub his diverse audiencesfrom with with his colonial continentand is, for the most part, legacy and aware. self-conscious critical, questioning, Shame to examine in those “moments” In the rest of this essay, Iwant narrator and self Rushdies where deliberately plays status of both his identity as a post with the hybrid consciously for several and his fiction. I have chosen Shame colonial expatriate the two of which Ill mention: reasons, 1) it has not received


Post-Colonial sustained critical attention


earlier novel, Mid that Rushdies Shame is significant For my purposes, has; 2) nights Children, an expatriate in fact, its narrator, like Rushdie, because who, stands in for Rushdie,2 meditates and at length on virtually overtly some of status and thus foregrounds his expatriate, post-colonial of a the elements that interest me about Rushdies construction(s) Furthermore for me, this is particu (and, identity. post-colonial uncovers the narrator the “sup and includes larly significant) then are imbricated with his histories of women, which pressed” of a post-colonial identity. construction(s)

I am

a border


I grew in our own





the Mexican

(with a heavy
colonized territory have been people to live



and the Anglo

(as a member

of a

. . . Its not a comfortable territory). . of contradictions… there in, this place However, on borders and certain and joys. Living compensations

integrity, element…. areas of is

like I have

intact ones shifting and multiple
a new element, … “faculties” and

identity and
an and “alien” dormant

to swim in trying a sense that certain are being




(Gloria Anzaldua,


In Shame, situated on borders constitute characters/experiences or in which of the ways the questions Rushdie scrutinizes that beset definitions of a post-colonial iden problems expatriates or edge; as “border” in two ways: tity. (I am using 1) as margin or bounding as a line, imaginary or otherwise, line; 2) boundary two entitiescountries, situ etc.) Being separating experiences, ated on borders is also tied in with the notion of distance from the that is, not as the opposite but as that of proximity, center; distance, a critical and which can, though does not necessarily, produce one self-aware mode of inquiry. Omar Khayyam the “peripheral” hero of the tale, and Shakil, are both the narrator of such characters instances situated on borders; both are similar to the extent that they figure some of the For pressures a post-colonial competing expatriate must negotiate. instance, having Omar Khayyams dual “one of the nose-in-the-air cultural [Shakil] result of parentagethe and girls” for a mother (58), where Rushdie

2See Rushdies explicitly points

interview with David to this connection.



The Massachusetts an “Imperialist
tors status as

Review (9)3approximates
a person caught


for a father

the narra
between two


different cultural Omar Furthermore, alignments. Khayyam Shakil derives his name from the Persian poet, whose work, when translation, (and made famous) by the West recuperated through as the narrator points out, what was “really a complete underwent, of his verses, in many cases very different from the spirit reworking of the content) of the original” (to say nothing (24). The narrators
identity, too, as “a translated man,” as someone who has been

across” is open in original). emphasis situated on borders Being another from Omar price


to similar


and distortions


(i.e. as edge or bounding (and, perhaps, Khayyam

line) exacts from the

sense thing

inversion, worse: the of

Shakil was afflicted,
of fear a world that he was turned living

from his earliest days, by a
upside-down. at the edge And of by some so the world,

close that he might

fall off at any moment.


on the border, “excep whereas for Shakil his position However, on lossan tional by any standards” variations (25), yields only to “police” what goes in and what out; frequent inability “dizzy the narrator it is a fertile zone (137)for spells”; “terrible vertigo” the narrator of inquiry: regarding his status as a “translated man,” lost remarks that “It is generally is always that something believed
. . . ;I cling to the notion . . . that something can also be gained”

between the narrator and Shakil, (24). I believe that the differences in this regard, are a consequence of the uses to which they put (or are unable on borders. to put) border their habitation Shakils is an accident of his birth. Though existence “a person apart,” he a “side-lined” a spectator of his own remains life, personality, never an active participant His one desireunreflected (18, 31). tenure in the “sweltering his entire upon, just thereduring the “time-eroded of his “mother zone,” labyrinth” entropical not But escape is precisely whats is to escape (25). country,” for him. Several years into his career of debauchery, after possible 3Rushdie seems particularly fond of giving certain characters in his novels dual cultural parentage. Consider Saleem fromMidnights Child the departing colonial sahib, ren, whose parents are William Methwold, and Vanita, wife of WeeWillie Winkie.




from his mothers himself he has physically escaped and distanced in their ideological zone of influence, he remains system: trapped him to obey his mothers ancient “his very act of distancing helps dis the fellow feels no shame” (137). Thus, physical injunction: it is not transformed because tance from his “mother country,” into a critically aware and self and evaluation through reflection a re-inscription stance produces merely of his mother conscious is This codes and knowledge. re-inscription countrys ideological Shakil unre related to the fact that Omar Khayyam also causally reacts to his mother and uncritically countrys ideologi flectingly in bile,” issues from “marinated cal codes. His reaction, moreover, case as a instead of love” (36). I see Omar Khayyams “hatred situated on borders, both psychic and cautionary example; though circum the absence of critical insight and love4 radically spatial, of his location. scribe the more valuable potential as an expatriate who on his own border situation Remarking notes: two cultures,” Rushdie “straddle[s]
however infertile business again our ambiguous territory of finding distance, to do an it is not this ground and be, may shifting a writer to occupy. the If literature is in part new at which to enter then once reality, angles us our may geographical provide perspective,



such angles. Or
in order our

it may

be that that is simply what we must (“The Indian Writer in England” 79)


is that for Rush this passage regarding point worth making on borders (i.e., as line die, as for the narrator of Shame, habitation two cultures) two countries, is “not infertile” because separating it work for themselves reflecting on by self-consciously they make the strategic gains (and losses, for that matter) of being positioned At one at a distance their “mother from and outside country.” the terrible things in Shame, the narrator, while reporting point in jail, done to his “friend the poet who had spent many months
4Consider Rushdies own return to Bombay my other two on a visit as a counter

seeped out

to Omar
of my

minds eye;


“The colours

of my



is probably not too romantic to colours, by the vividness of red tiles_It Children was really born; when I say that was when my novel Midnights to restore the past to myself, not in faded realized how much I wanted in CinemaScope and greys of old family-album snapshots, but whole, (“The Indian Writer in England,” 75-6). glorious Technicolor”


The Massachusetts for social reasons” this story” telling


his “friend should be (22), speculates whether his speculation leads to this imaginary (23); a series of assertions made dialogueactually, by one “voice” a series of questions followed inserted by the other “voice”: by Outsiderl Trespasser! You have no right to this subject! I know: nobody ever arrested me. Nor are they likely to. Poacherl Piratel We reject your authority. We know you, with your foreign language wrapped around you like a flag: speaking about us in your forked Is tongue, what can you tell but lies I reply with more questions: history to be considered the property of participants solely In what
courts are such claims staked, what boundary commissions map out

the terrritories (23, emphasis

in original)

On the one hand, the questions raised above seem to cast doubt on to speak or write about that in which the expatriates s/he is right no longer a participant. the ques On the other hand, ostensibly the right of the tions also raise an alternate about possibility to speak or write precisely s/he is stationed because expatriate can be made to work; In this formulation, it outside. distance creates the space for a mode of inquiry makes possible, that is not that has often claimed Rushdie trapped in dominant ideologies. of their because writers, writers, especially expatriate precisely distancetheir struggle “long geographical perspective”can are powerful” “the control of history by by those who against contest offi “alternate histories,” that is, which histories, offering in England” cial versions of events 78, (see “The Indian Writer Such a task entails and interview with Dharker 81-82; 356, 360). not only official Western accounts about the meaning questioning the Whale”), of colonial rule on the subcontinent (e.g. “Outside War and but also official versions of eventslike the Bangladesh in India5circulated Indira Gandhis Rule by the Emergency on the subcontinent. side of the Neither politically powerful from critical scrutiny. border, then, is exempt is natural If, as the narrator puts it, “History selection-Only the anonymous, the mutations of the strong survive. The weak,


5In his interview with Rani Dharker, Rushdie notes: “The point about it seems tome, is the Bangladesh War and the emergency particularly, that what I started doing was writing a novel of memory and that as it came into contact with certain kinds of events of which the official then the novel description was quite unlike the remembered description of memory became politicised” (355-6).




“alter defeated leave few marks” (134), then surely constructing nate histories” that have histories should also include recovering or excluded accounts. The narrator been suppressed by “official” it with does take on this archeological task, addressing varying He is haunted, for instance, by of alertness and complexity. degrees to tell is a kind of that “every story one chooses the possibility it prevents the telling of other tales” (72-73). His own censorship, of course, does not quite accord with such censorship. practice, The of his “fairy story” is often imperilled by all sorts of logic events “realistic” details whereby “actual” (often highly contested) of Pakistans get included. To an extent, his narrative history enacts a form Rushdie finds most for his novels about congenial the subcontinent: There are novels which proceed on the basis of excluding most of the that one strand out of the universe and writing world, of plucking
about that. Or there are novels in which you try to include every

of thing, what Henry James called “the loose baggy monsters” fiction. And I suppose my books would fall roughly into the loose
baggy-monster camp, and although Im not sure about the loose, the

true. (Rushdie, in a talk delivered is probably baggy monster Denmark in 1985, later published in Kunapipi, 10)


One of the things I have discovered
suppressed history, somewhat like

is that migration
the way women have

has a kind of
been erased

from history. Among to uncover


interview with David Brooks,


the suppressed the narrator seeks histories or exclusions are the histories in a 1985 of women. Interestingly, connects at the level interview with David Brooks, Rushdie (if only erasure from history with of suggestion) womens the suppression of the history of migrant communities. the narrator Thus, what has to say about women, the terms through which he formulates their roles, the strategies he uses to excavate their histories, could well have implications for the expatriate. women are In the male-dominated culture of the sub-continent, to the peripheries or margins. is Yet, in Shame, which consigned concerned with oppressions of all kinds, that womens assume a fundamental seems particularly importance Indeed oppression is the context which defines, and appropriate. are within which their histories and their roles in these histories I should emphasize narrator does not, for the revealed. that the centrally histories


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or visionary most which part, create a Utopian space within women can fully and without He coercion define themselves. of the particular and horrifying conditions seeks, rather, to expose that their oppression of a culture through his searing indictment off from the whole and closes women range of social, cultural, networks that men have such easy access to. In such a political tomeneither often get defined by their relation of or reaction against both simul (sometimes through adoption and values. male codes of behavior taneously) in a For example, regrets her sex because, Arjumand Harappa that she “Mans world,” in power networks dictates participation “rise above her gender” transform (136), that she, quite literally, to do: “when herself into aman, which is exactly what she proceeds to swell, she will bind in linen them tightly her breasts begin so fiercely that she blushes with pain. She will come to bandages, victory over enjoy the war against her body, the slow, provisional culture, the soft, despised flesh” (136). She spends her life carefully nurtur remakes her father, Iskander Harappa, ing the legend into which a remaking she proudly takes credit for: “I did this … my himself, it so badly finally made you see” (135). wanting her lover murdered, abandoned Bilquis Hyder, by her husband, slowly goes crazy. “Good News” Hyder, who wills Her second daughter, Naveed so she can attract men and get married, herself to become beautiful to be shes just “a vegetable realizes that to her husband patch” “there was no with his “seed” annually; she understands planted in the world” she hangs herself for women (228); finally, hope women



and an




an idea,


a person


for they must certain inherent difficulties she the variety of roles and significances simultaneously negotiate to focus on her “spectral past” Iwant For my purpose, embodies. as location in the narrators and on her material imagination and Raza Hyders firstborn. Bilquis The “character” Sufiya Zinobia grew in the narrators imagina in London. occurred both of which tion out of two happenings, the murder of an only child, a daughter, The first involved by her to a white boy she had father “because by making love Pakistani second involved dishonour upon her family” (123). The brought in a late-night train by a group of “a girl set upon underground presents her readers with




white” teenage boys_the girl Asian again, the boys predictably the event the girl did not talk about her beating, (125). Although in the narrators imagination. Believing began to get transformed … a wildness a people for long enough that if one “humiliates bursts out of them,” he speculates have hap about what would the if she had retaliated; have thrashed “how she would pened an inch of their lives” (125). white kids within Both women”ghosts” the narrator calls theminhabit Sufiya firstborn. And though “repat and Raza Hyders Zinobia, Bilquis to a country riated [through Sufiya] [they] had never seen” (125), the material do not conditions of their/Sufiyas oppression a significant is humiliated and oppressed undergo change. Sufiya because she is a firstborn daughter who should have been a son. a familys For her family, she is “a miracle-gone-wrong, shame made flesh” (150). Like the “Asian” girl, whose humiliation issued in the narrators in violence scenario, Sufiya too “discov imagined self the hidden path that ers] in the labyrinths of her unconscious links sharam to violence” (151). She becomes mens nemesis; hyp men to dismember to have sex with her, she proceeds notizing them, tearing their heads off their bodies and leaving the landscape torsos. peopled with headless two “births”via in the two “Asian” expatriate women Sufiyas the narrators and in the Hyder household allow me imagination women to draw some parallels in the sub the positions between in the West occupy continent and expatriates I believe, (parallels, in his text). Both women Rushdie encodes and expat obliquely Their marginalizations riates, male and female, are marginalized. are a result of and perpetuate the peculiar their suppressions become heir to. Both end up being defined in terms of histories to the dominant can their relationship culture. And this definition and usually does proceed either as assimilation of or reaction the dominant culture. against costs of assimilation The psychic for both the women and the are great: Bilquis herself; goes crazy; Naveed expatriate hangs allows herself no identity other than as caretaker and Arjumand nurturer of her fathers legend. But the psychic costs of reacting are also great: An expatriate his Pakistani father murders against child despite his “enormous and obvious” love for her (123); the inside Sufiya and Sufiya “ghost” of the second “Asian” woman herself do not comprehend the violence violence they unleash; or reacting Both alternativesassimilating finally destroys Sufiya.


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and victimize those who were vic brutalize againstultimately tims in the first place. the narrator of Shame and Rushdie (via the narra Significantly, to an alternative, other than the ones discussed tor) are able to point in Shame do not that the women above, for the expatriate writer seem to have access to. As I have already pointed out, poised on at a distance from the dominant that flourish borders, ideologies on both sides of the border, the narrator the (and Rushdie) envisage role as that of an adversary, contesting male writers official truths, to In this scheme, alternative histories. constructing according as a natural the writer functions rival of the politician; Rushdie, like the politician, he tries to make the world in his own image, in Eng for the same territory (see “The Indian Writer competes the such a role is empowering, land,” 78). Surely claiming making not just into a powerful writer but also one whose adversary how “official facts” are subsequently claims determine alternative the writers role and authority exceed received. Indeed, for Rushdie, who is fearful of the writer: “this iswhy,” that of a politicians, says in his interview with Dharker, “the more repressive poli Rushdie . . . ticians get more of writers [and] lock them up frightened that is false” (360). because writers can threaten a view of the world Rani wife), (Iskander Harappas estranged Only Harappa in the backyard of the universe” “stranded (101), seems to escape in Shame arise that for the other women the specific oppressions male within from their definitions and through a predominantly “the true mistress of Mohenjo,” culture. At forty, Rani becomes content with her earned respect, and having [she] was strangely shawls of memory” Her “eighteen life” (164; 165; emphasis added). of Iskander the Great” give the lie to “The Shamelessness depicting facts” about Iskanders rule and character and function as “official to the narrators in ways similar (and Rush her physical location on the margins Moreover, (or borders) dies). that allow her the kind of critical distance and awareness produces to challenge truth. sanctioned officially even though Rani Harappa is the only female figure However, the terms of official in and contesting who is seen as intervening For instance, ambiguities. history, her role is not entirely without a counter-discourse about shawls produce the Ranis though their of the book, Shame, the confines Iskanders reign, within contest to her daughter Arjumand, sent effect is circumscribed: they their assessment of her father; hence worshipping Arjumands a counter-discourse


Post-Colonial effect


seem to be limited as a counter-discourse to the private of with that her severely critical account little possibility sphere, enter a larger community, at least Iskander and his reign will the parameters of the book. At the same time, however, the within to consign to the Ranis subversive discourse reader is not allowed to some forgotten the margins, space. For the narrator describes on those of Iskander “The Shamelessness the Great,” depicted in graphic, with details: shawls, “Isky conspiring unforgettable Shah of Iran], embracing Dada Amin; Pehlevi [the eschatological Iskander riding an atomic of “Iskander and the Death bomb”; his hands around her throat, squeezing Democracys Democracy, “Pinkies she committed “the shawl, on which suicide”; gullet”; there it all the separatist movement… shawl of Hell [depicting]… was in scarlet, scarlet, and nothing but scarlet, what he did for the
sake of no-more-secessions, in the name of never-another-East

without the sundered genitals, legs …” (210-215). Wing,… The readers of Shame are likely to be aware that Iskander is a thinly Zulfiker Ali Bhutto, who was Pakistans disguised only civilian ruler in several decades before being ousted by Zia ul Haq. What the readers may or may not not know is that the events the shawls on a An indictment depict also have a basis in actual happenings. grand scale, then, these shawls do describe “unspeakable things” that actual history has covered up. Thus, the book though within the shawls effects are restricted, insofar as the shawls touch upon events their effects spill over the boundar actual, though repressed as it ies of the book into the worldthe actual history of Pakistan, were. It is significant that though the narrator describes the shawls, the testimony offered is by Rani, and it is her authority that lies concrete and damaging account. And behind the narrators it is that the shawls depicting her husbands bear a significant bestiality “re her maiden name, “surprising signature: Rani Humayun,” trieved from the mothballs of the past” (210). Ranis counter-discourse but a few pages Admittedly, occupies of Shame. Admittedly, that the also, despite the narrators assertion
“womens stories” explain, and even subsume the mens,” these


stories yet nest within the “masculine tale, a saga of sexual rivalry, death” ambition, power, patronage, betrayal, (189). Admittedly, are co-opted finally, all the women, except Rani, by or passively to their oppressions subscribe in the male-dominated history of we should bear in mind Pakistan. Nevertheless, that in this novel, which seeks among other things to redescribe the history of Pakis


The Massachusetts tan, to point women play


to an “alternate” (perhaps not yet possible) “reality” a large and important role. Indeed, I would argue, to a great extent, the enabling that their histories become, agents of such a re-description.

Iwould like to conclude by reflecting briefly on what Rushdies work and its formulations of a post-colonial Shame) (especially mean to me as an expatriate it and woman, identity reading it in courses I am allowed to teach on prescribing occasionally Third World Literature. What are the personal and pedagogical are also political that Rushdie (which agendas (and his agendas) me to define and forward First, the personal: characters) help Rushdies of post-colonial work, his constructions identity, speak to me in powerful ways, though, perhaps, they cannot speak for me in all my historical and allegiances. Since I do particularities not and cannot to the notion of an essential subscribe self which in the same (i.e., identical) the what operates way, no matter or audience, situation Rushdies of post construction particular colonial to varied situations identities as responsive and audiences is particularly attractive and enabling the pedagogi for me. Next, cal: Rushdies have Children and Shame, narratives, Midnights turned out to be wonderful texts with which to begin and end a course I teach on “Third World” in English Literature (Third in for formerly colonized World territories). Since Rush standing the histories of India and Pakistan die “rewrites” I in these novels, am able to explore the strategies whereby (with my students) contest both the “Wests” and the subconti Rushdies histories nents notions about Indian and Pakistani Shame, history. to talk about in which allows me the complex moreover, ways women are recovered and their histories and inserted into the “alternate” history of Pakistan.


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