Communist Movements and Postcolonial Metanarratives

This post continues a conversation I began with this post and continued 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. 

Let’s backtrack for a moment and take a look at one of the largest figures in the novel: the Communist movement.

As presented in the novel, the Communist movement is a nostrum:

“As a reformist movement that never overtly questioned the traditional values of a caste-ridden, extremely traditional community. The Marxists worked from within the communal divides, never challenging them, never appearing not to. They offered a cocktail revolution” (The God of Small Things, 64).

 

As Roy writes in the above quote, the movement—intended to overthrow the bourgeoisie and bring justice to and for the exploited proletariat—is nothing more than a “cocktail revolution.” It panders to each faction, easing fear of the Other for both. Chacko, uncle to the twins, epitomizes the waffling, self-serving tendencies of the movement. Oxford educated, Chacko often fondly invites the female workers at the factory to become comrades even as he reinforces the very ideals he ostensibly opposes: “[Chacko] would call pretty women who worked in the factory to his room, and on the pretext of lecturing them on labor rights and trade union law, flirt with them. He would call them Comrade, and insist that they call him Comrade back” (62). Read more

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

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