Literature and Theatre

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Resisting idealising resistance
Maryam Mirza

The epilogue highlights how both the concept and the praxis of resistance have been problematised in the preceding chapters and it draws attention to the myriad ways in which South Asian women’s fiction de-idealises and de-romanticises resistance, whether feminist or otherwise, without negating or discounting its, often existential, significance.

in Resistance and its discontents in South Asian women’s fiction
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Revisiting resistance (again)
Maryam Mirza

The Introduction provides an outline of the current debates in the field of postcolonial studies around the theme of resistance and explains the intellectual impetus behind the book. It addresses the relationship between women’s fiction and feminism, as well as between feminism and resistance. It also offers a discussion of how South Asian women’s fiction in the English language positions itself with respect to other genres (in other South Asian languages) and considers the relationship between realism, magical realism and resistance. The Introduction includes a conceptual discussion about how the book defines the notion of resistance and the varieties of resistance with which it is preoccupied. Finally, the Introduction specifies what will be discussed in each of the six chapters.

in Resistance and its discontents in South Asian women’s fiction
Maryam Mirza

Through the lens of four short stories by Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan writers, the third chapter examines the depiction of a range of ‘ordinary’ defiances enacted by women in micro-settings, such as the so-called domestic sphere and the small town. It grapples with the emotional vulnerabilities that come with the contestation of the domestic status quo and the negotiation of affective ties that are deeply hierarchical. The chapter elucidates the ways in which these acts of contestation compel us to reconceptualise the relationship between individual and collectivist resistance and to come to grips with the unexpected ties that exist between the two. More broadly, the chapter reflects on the relationship between ‘ordinary’ forms of resistance as depicted in the works under discussion and the short story as a genre.

in Resistance and its discontents in South Asian women’s fiction
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A Married Woman, Babyji and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
Maryam Mirza

The fourth chapter grapples with representations of resistance enacted by homosexual and intersex characters in Babyji, A Married Woman, and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and it addresses the multi-layered relationship between queerness and anti-heteronormativity, as well as between queerness and anti-normativity. Engaging with the large-scale collectivist protests and social upheavals in recent Indian history which serve as a backdrop for each of the three novels - the 1990 protests against the Mandal Commission, the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992, and the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the state of Gujarat respectively - the chapter examines the diverse, even contradictory, forms that queer resistance assumes in these works and it unpacks the ways in which the texts complicate our understanding of the relationship between freedom, equality and identity. In particular, the chapter brings to the fore the importance of examining the subversive contours of sexed, sexual and gender identities in relation to questions of caste, class, age and religion in contemporary India.

in Resistance and its discontents in South Asian women’s fiction
Editor:

Resistance and its Discontents in South Asian Women’s Fiction challenges the prevailing misgivings about the relevance of resistance as a concept in postcolonial literary studies and complicates existing debates in the field about the possible meanings and manifestations of ‘resistance’. While clearly situating dissent and subversion at the heart of questions of power and oppression, the book brings to the fore the ways in which the literary texts under discussion compel us to grapple with the emancipatory politics as well as the contradictions and slipperiness of the term ‘resistance’. More broadly, the monograph demonstrates the importance of the notion of resistance when coming to grips with the idea of ‘the political’ today.

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The politics of apathy and disengagement in Difficult Daughters and Broken Verses
Maryam Mirza

The first chapter focuses on the female protagonists of Difficult Daughters and Broken Verses who resist involvement in collectivist struggles against socio-political injustice. Set against the backdrop of two significant moments of female activism in pre-Partition India and in 1970s and 1980s Pakistan respectively, the two narratives bring to the fore the tensions that the idea and practice of protest politics can elicit, particularly for women. But precisely because the protagonists are shown to be in close proximity, emotional as well as physical, to women who are actively engaged in political affairs, the two texts resist being read as allegories of female political inaction. The protagonists’ rejection of protest politics and their ostensible distance from the notion of ‘the political’ appear to be deeply personal and invite an examination of the ways in which political apathy is intimately tied in not only with the concepts of freedom, choice and agency, but also with fundamental questions of self-identity.

in Resistance and its discontents in South Asian women’s fiction
Broken Verses, The Lowland, The God of Small Things and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
Maryam Mirza

The second chapter addresses the intersection of romance and resistance in four novels: The God of Small Things, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Broken Verses and The Lowland. Each of the four texts features a heterosexual couple whose amorous trajectory is intertwined with public acts of resistance, including (in the case of three of the four novels under discussion) violent militancy. The chapter examines the construction of the activist identity of the female and male characters and assesses the extent to which the depiction of female activism in the four novels is shown to be informed by gendered imperatives, notably those pertaining to romance, beauty, the institution of marriage, and motherhood. The chapter also considers whether the romantic relationship itself can be read as an act of resistance which challenges gendered roles and other hierarchies.

in Resistance and its discontents in South Asian women’s fiction
Homework, The Namesake and A Disobedient Girl
Maryam Mirza

In analysing three troubled and troubling figures of resistance, the fifth chapter evaluates some of the ways in which contemporary fiction by South Asian women writers problematises the purely positive and emancipatory connotations of nonviolent resistance as a concept and as a practice. The figures of distorted resistance considered in this chapter are consciously disparate: a middle-aged Indian male immigrant in Australia in Homework who agitates for Goa’s liberation following its annexation by the postcolonial Indian state, Moushumi in The Namesake, whose ostensibly transgressive decisions confound the line between (self-)destructive and constructive defiance and need to be understood in terms of her deep malaise about her identity as a second-generation Bengali-American, and finally Latha in A Disobedient Girl, who works as a domestic servant in Colombo and for whom the erotic emerges as the primary source and form of agentic behaviour while attempting to contest the socio-economic and affective status quo.

in Resistance and its discontents in South Asian women’s fiction
Maryam Mirza

The sixth and final chapter of the monograph addresses the act of writing itself and examines the figure of the female writer by focusing on Maya’s character in A Golden Age and The Good Muslim, set against the backdrop of Bangladesh’s brutal war of independence and its aftermath, and the author-narrator of The Gypsy Goddess, which grapples with the 1968 massacre of Dalit peasants in Kilvenmani. The chapter grapples with the meanings assigned to writing, publishing and reading as activities in these novels and evaluates the representation of the intricate social, emotional, intellectual and economic forces that are shown to underpin the practice of writing as well as the dissemination of the written word. Moreover, in pluralising our understanding of both ‘writing’ as a construct and ‘woman’ as a social category, the chapter alerts us to the complex relationship not only between resistance and writing, but also between violent and non-violent forms of resistance in the three works under consideration.

in Resistance and its discontents in South Asian women’s fiction
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How a decade of conflict remade the nation
Author:

When Britain left the European Union in January 2021, it set out on a new journey. Shorn of empire and now the EU too, Britain’s economy is as national as it has ever been. A decade or so since globalisation seemed inevitable, this is a remarkable reversal. How did this happen?

Britain alone argues that this ‘nationalisation’ – aligning the boundaries of the state with the boundaries of the nation – emerged from the 2008 global financial crisis. The book analyses how austerity and scarcity intensified and created new conflicts over who gets what. This extends to struggle over what the British nation is for, who it represents, and who it values.

Drawing on a range of cultural, economic, and political themes – immigration and the hostile environment, nostalgia and Second World War mythology, race and the ‘left behind’, the clap for carers and furloughing, as well as SuperScrimpers and stand-up comedy – the book traces the complex nationalist path Britain took after the crash, demonstrating how we cannot explain nationalism without reference to the economy, and vice versa.

In analysing the thread that ties the fallout of the crash and austerity, through Brexit, and to the shape of lockdown politics, Britain alone provides an incisive and original history of the last decade of Britain and its relationship to the global economy.