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The “Politically Correct Memsahib”: Performing Englishness in Select Anglo-Indian Advice Manuals

S. Vimala, M.G.R. College, Hosur, India

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Abstract

Examining select Anglo-Indian advice manuals written after the Indian Mutiny in 1857and during the ‘high imperialism’ period of the British Raj, the essay proposes that this cultural artefact served the purpose of constructing and naturalizing the English Memsahibs’ gendered racial identity. By reiterating the performance of gender, class and race imperatives to construct a unique identity prerequisite for the Anglo-Indian community as well as the Indian colony, these texts aimed at the crystallization of this identity that will strengthen the idea of the British Raj. Such reiteration- apart from revealing the imperial anxiety of the subversion of the Memsahib identity- were useful to caution the English women new to the colonial environment.  Reading these Anglo-Indian advice manuals produced for the consumption of the Anglo-Indian community, what the essay further proposes is that the performance of gendered-racial identity of the English women in India constituted not only the governance of their bodies and the Anglo-Indian spaces, but also their management of travel and material consumption including food.  Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Bodies That Matter provide useful insights to study the performance of the “politically correct Memsahib” identity and its attendant relation to the imagining of the homogenous British Raj.   

The Semiotics of Violence: Reading Italo Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies

Debamitra Kar, Women’s College, Calcutta, India

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Abstract

This paper attempts a reading of Italo Calvino’s novel, The Castle of Crossed Destinies (1969) from a postmodern perspective. The novel has always been seen as structuralist experimentation, particularly because it was written at a time when Calvino was associated with the OULIPO, the group of the French philosophers like Claude Levi-Strauss, Roland Barthes and others. The paper argues that the simultaneous reading of the words in the text and pictures in the margin, challenges the very practice and method of reading. The novel suggests that it can be read as a card game, a game that accentuates deferral and plurality of meaning. These conflicting readings create the semiotics of violence, which again is reflected in the theme of the stories. The paper cites example of three stories which show that the violence of language is codified as the violence of the feminine on the masculine, arguing that the feminine challenges the rules, laws, and structures of language as well as life and destroys things that adheres to any strict binary form. The conflict between the rule of the Father and the lawlessness of the Mother leads to no higher synthesis—it ends in violence that refuses all routes of communication or meaning.

The ‘Blue Flame’: An ‘Elliptical’ Interaction between Kahlil Gibran and Rabindranath Tagore

Indrani Datta (Chaudhuri)

Vidyasagar University, India

Volume 2, Number 1, 2010Download PDF Version
DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v2n2.02

Abstract:

This paper focuses on certain aporias in the life and works of a Lebanese American writer, Kahlil Gibran, that reveal his idiosyncratic interest in and preoccupation with India, neither his native nor his adopted country. It also charts out the ‘elliptical’ connection that this Lebanese immigrant forged with the Indian Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. A “belated” (Behdad 1) reading of these aspects opens up the possibility of critiquing Gibran’s life and writings through the theoretical framework of Nico Israel’s “outlandish”-ness (ix), a state that exists between, as Israel has stated, “exilic emplacement” and “diasporic self-fashioning” (16-17). This kind of “reading behind” (Behdad 4) rewrites “a kind of philosophical décalage” (2) that ruptures existing West-centric discourses by destabilizing and displacing them through “other locations…other trajectories of subjectivity, and…forms of knowledge” (Behdad 1). My critiquing of Gibran’s life and texts, in this manner, show how his sense of identity, generated out of trans-cultural and transnational spaces, not only engenders a counter discursive practice to the West-centric politics of exclusion but also tries to rescue non-Western writers, and their literatures, from the “anamnesiac order” (Behdad 3) of such politics.

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