The Hong Kong Moment


This post continues a conversation I began with this post on Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things on the body, the nation, and postcolonial meta-narratives. In an attempt to parse the tensions I feel the in the book–and many others of its era–I continue my thoughts below. 

Many have argued that The God of Small Things is a postcolonial novel about migration; conversely, others have claimed it as a novel primarily concerned with diaspora in the post-colonial age. However, these two understandings miss the novel’s deep discomfort with postcolonialism as 1) intellectual practices/ fields and 2) genres and, by extension, metanarrative. This idea that postcolonialism, as a field and as a set of practices, might have/ has already begun to replicate some of the very same structures it works against is deeply troubling. Those who control the representations of and critical theory behind postcolonialism often invoke subtle structures (unrecognizable to those who use them and therefore, unknowable to those same individuals) that bar entrance to postcolonial bodies simply through the use of the word “postcolonial”. The Donahue scene in The God of Small Things reflects this deep anxiety; indeed, looking at the Donahue scene—and the entire novel itself—we sense a barely concealed turbulence beneath the muted tone of the novel, all centered around postcolonialism as a structure. In order to do this novel—and the plethora of novels that have been born since the nineties—we must somehow move past postcolonialism. How, then, do we think “postcolonialism” outside of postcolonialism? Read more

The Body, The Nation: Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things

Only three chapters into the novel, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things offers up a disquieting scene: Baby Kochamma, the grandaunt of the novel’s main protagonists, and her servant, Kochu Maria, sit together in the living room, eating peanuts from the same bowl as part of a “television-enforced democracy” (84). They’ve gathered to watch The Best of Donahue, a spin-off of the popular American talk-show that ran from the late sixties to the mid-nineties and featured Phil Donahue as its host. In this moment, the reader sits outside a double screen: that of the paper (or virtual) pages of the novel and that of the television screen. This double framing gives the reader the flexibility to dismantle what follows.

Read more