Author's Diction~Vipin Behari Goyal: Post Colonial Literature ~ a misnomer

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Post Colonial Literature ~ a misnomer

Us Versus Them

Blog, vipin behari goyal, arundhati roy, amitav ghosh

Whosoever  is responsible for coining this misnomer term has fulfilled his own objective of dividing culture of many nations into  Colonial and Post Colonial eras, in terms of a historical event that would ever remind the oppressed of their humiliating past. For political and economic purposes it could have been tolerable, but for art and literature it is sheer absurd. The word was easily picked up by West who have unlimited craving for establishing their superiority over the rest of the world.

No such distinction has been made for Second World War. It was a major event that divided history in two parts. So far as literature is concerned, it was termed  "Postmodern Literature" that was based on narrative techniques and style. And not on any historical or political event.

The cover page of Edward Said's book 'Orientalism' shows naked butt of a teenage boy who is a snake charmer. It is funny that how the westerners are so overwhelmed by snake charmers of India. Due to humid subtropical climate of India and dense forest snakes were part of the vast biodiversity of India. Being an environmentalist since ancient time Indians did not kill snakes, rather they worshipped them. It was found that snakes dance to the tune of special musical instrument called Been and can be captured easily once they are hypnotized by snake charmers. So whenever snakes encroached in human territories of urban area, they were caught and deported back to their natural habitat. So what's the big deal about it?

Black Skin White Mask (1952) written by Franz Fanon is a good attempt to understand the black people specially who move upward in the white dominated society and start wearing a white mask even when they go to sleep. One day they forget their original face and become a distorted version of Homo Sapiens. Any  person would behave strangely when subjected to all together different culture, and when whole race undergoes certain similar experiences it may lead to form a Collective Unconsciousness. The psychoanalysis can only play a small important role in determining and understanding the behavioral pattern of such race.

Bharati Mukherjee,   RK Narayan, Mahashweta Devi, Anita Desai, Arundhati Roy and Jhumpa Lahiri are some of the Indian writers who are labeled as post colonial writers.

Some defects in the dogma of Post Colonial Literature are mentioned here.

1. Loss of Identity : One of the popular belief is that 'native' suffered from loss of identity once they were decolonized. The literature created in languages other than English is not dominated by this subject. Very few writers wrote in English but either they did not live in colony or did not have firsthand experience of  colonial and postcolonial life.

2. Cultural Erosion: We can also call it cultural enrichment. This has happened in East as well as West. The history of English literature in Britain  from Anglo-Latin to late modernism and twenty first century literature shows their enrichment.

3. Value-Shift: Shifting of values is a constant phenomenon in any society. There could be difference of opinion on the issue whether values went up or down during certain time period. If we go by thumb rule that change is always good, the shift in values was imminent weather it was colony or not. The same shift happened in many other countries who were not colony at that time.

4. Us Versus Them: It is alleged that colonizer countries discarded everything that pertained to the culture of Colony and imposed their superiority. It is also said that despite the fact that many decolonized  countries continued to be dominated by their colonizers politically, economically and culturally. It needs to be analyzed with open mind and paradigm shift. The superpowers of the world have always dominated rest of the world. Out of 192 counties of the World how many countries have economic, political and cultural sovereignty. Since World is Conical there is always tug of war between Us and Them.

5. Inferiority Complex: Eurocentric Universalism takes for granted the superiority   of West and inferiority of East. This argument is also not tenable. Many Europeans like Max Muller, Schopenhauer, Sir John Woodruffs were highly impressed by Easter Culture. Many are still of the view that India would be World Guru in 21 Century and would lead the World from "Darkness to the Light". 

There is need to change the nomenclature. The Indian English Literature is good for Indian writing in English. It has acquired a "Selfhood" by moving towards self assertion and self definition in is journey of two hundred years. It is tolerable to identify Literature by region but it is absolutely wrong to use a derogatory term like Post-Colonial Literature. The Stranger King needs a paradigm shift to come out of obsession to control culture of countries through economic measures.

© Vipin Behari Goyal

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