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Sunday, February 26, 2012

* A Post on Post Postcolonialism

I start by acknowledging the goodness and kindness of Saptarshi Mallick, who informed me and registered my name for the UGC-assisted DRS SAP III Phase II National Seminar on Post Postcolonialism: Theory and Texts organized by the Department of English, University of Calcutta, at Chandramukhi-Kadambini Sabhagriha on 23rd and 24th February, 2012. I also thank Prof. Sanjukta Dasgupta, the DRS co-ordinator, who reminded me to write about this seminar, which aimed at attracting young scholars. So I write. Each of my previous articles, covering the DRS seminars of 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011, has a life of its own on this blog. The viewership statistics reveal the pattern of their relative popularity on the cyber space.

amit's DIARY Stats 2009 May – 2012 February 

Reflections (Breaking the Silence: Reading Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir and Ashapurna Devi)
Jan 19, 2009, 2 comments
373 Pageviews

The School of Athens (Connecting Cultures: Translation and Texts)
Mar 2, 2010, 6 comments
311 Pageviews

Tagore: Place and Space (Tagore: At Home in the World)
Feb 15, 2011, 2 comments
121 Pageviews

Report (Imperial Constructions and Indigenous Self-fashioning)
Jan 15, 2006, 3 comments
38 Pageviews

The reason for this statistical number crunching about my blog articles in cyber space is see how these write-ups have comparatively fared since being released in the digital world. The idea came to me from the seminar’s keynote address delivered by Prof. Pramod Nayar of the University of Hyderabad on digital race and cyber criticism. Prof. Nayar started in a light vein by stating that Bill Gates has difficulty in pronouncing the names of eight of the top ten of his employees. Prof. Nayar’s contention is that the virtual world is a window for a newer form of colonization. The internet is not an open space for the marginalized because it dissolves ethnic identities. Hence the need for ethnicization of the digital world. But the digital world has a characteristic of its own. It allows people of an ethnic diaspora to unite online and at the same time it diminishes the idea of territoriality. Moreover, cyber space is ephemeral and so are representations there, the online avatars. This was made more evident in Indrani Ray’s paper on the issue of identity in interactive video games designing. Just as prejudices are built into games in the real world too it is true. There is the neo-imperialist and racialized practice in call centers where Shyam becomes Sam by undergoing accent training. This is a kind of hybridity that Bhabha’s thoery does not address. This is not to indict only the capitalist first world of exploitation. There are cases such as the mushrooming of call centres in the by-lanes of India where with minimal establishment cost groups off individuals sell products and services, either genuine or spurious, to overseas clients posing as Westerners located overseas. Prof. Nayar then raised the issue of ownership of the data generated by the Human Genome Project and the vexed question of genetic determinism. These areas bring to the forefront the digital divide existing in the world. These newer problem areas of imbalances in contemporary cultural practices are what post postcolonialism addresses.

If cyber criticism is one post postcolonial area of exploration another is ecocriticism. Samrat Laskar’s in his paper on “Ecological Imperialism and the Revenge of the Pastoral” explored J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Ring as a botanical version of nationalist struggle. He highlighted the neglected non-human elements of nature and life. Saptarshi Mallick gave an overview of theory from the Hegelian historiography of viewing colonizationa as a heroic adventure of spirit to the postcolonial writings of Cesaire, Fanon, Said, Bhabha, Spivak, Ashcroft, et. al. to the new directions of race, ethnicity and empire studies. It is exploring these new directions that Runa Chakravarty spoke of the journey of the Bengali Dalits after the partition of India, Somraj Basu spoke of the subjugated knowledge of Tibetan medicine, and Sreya Sarkar on the Obeah Dawta, the transformation of the snake woman into a respectable woman in Jamaica. In the field of gender discourse Srima Nandi delved into the narratives of Chinese women to show how the early capitalist America saw immigration as a masculinist enterprise. Trayee Sinha questioned the paradigms of postcolonial feminist historiography in her study of the new women in the fictions of Shashi Deshpande and Dr. Tania Chakraverty showed the resistance to patriarchy in the stories of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Debarati Maity explored gender identities in time and space in the backdrop of the political turmoils in Sri Lanka of the 1970s an 1980s in novels like Funny Boy and A Change of Skies.

The return of focus to texts was apparent in Dr. Arpa Ghosh’s interrogation of nation-concept in the novels of Amitav Ghosh, Dr. Naina Dey’s reading of Life of Pi as a survivalist text, Debanjali Roy’s study of cultural identities in Brick Lane, Ujjwal Panda’s examination of the concepts of de/re-territorialization in Seamus Heaney’s poetry, Anirban Guha Thakurta’s reading of Achebe’s poetic bricolage, Jashomati Ghose’s exploration of the bildungsroman of the new Nigerian diaspora and Sonal Kapur’s exposition of Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories as an amalgamation of east and west. It was not only the written word but also Ketan Mehta’s movie Mangal Pandey: The Rising, where the allegorization of the nation/al was shown by Gargi Talapatra. Kuntala Sengupta showed in the paintings of Jayasri Barman how postcolonialism share boundaries with cosmopolitanism, transnationalism and globalization.

From the wide area of theory to the specificity of textual analysis leads to post postcolonial reading of Gora by Anwar Hossain, who showed how Tagore, as an internationalist, has given importance to the individual. Sanghita Sanyal showed in her paper Tagore’s vision of a glocal identity for Visva Bharati. Nabaneeta Sengupta depicted how globalization was anticipated in the travel writings of nineteenth century Bengali travel writers. Mahitosh Mondal in his paper titled “World as a Single Nest: The Postcolonial, the European Dialectics and Beyond” questioned whether we are wasting our time reading Foucault, Lacan and Derrida instead of Chaitanya, Vivekananda and Aurobindo. Will it be too humanist a position to take if the concept of the world as a single nest is not only studied for its archival value but also put into practice as an alternative form of cosmopolitanism? These questions were perhaps anticipated in the inaugural address of the seminar given by the Head of the English Department, Dr. Tirtha Prasad Mukhopadhyay. He had made it clear that he is not in agreement with the postcolonial agenda because postcolonial binarism does not exist in history as it is accepted in the echelons of academia. According to him, colonialism is a misnomer for a hierarchical system of human existence where human beings have a natural tendency towards aggrandizement. In this context colonization appears as a phenomenon of about five hundred years old, etched in the history of civilized human beings, of more than five thousand years old, and postcolonialism is the theory and practice of territorial and ideological decolonization and its existence is subject to the presentism and topicality of the earlier phenomenon. Increasingly as the world is becoming transnational, accepting hybridity and asserting ethnicity, the rubric of colonizer/colonized designation is becoming indeterministic. In the future the exploiter will no longer remain of a particular class, caste, religion, etc. and neither the exploited remain so. Prof. Sanjukta Dasgupta commented that oppression was present everywhere and in all times and Prof. Jharna Sanyal added that one must not fall in the trap of categorizing oppression. So post postcolonialism has to confront the hideous cockatrice formed by the coalescing of a variety of potential oppressors who have control of the limited resources of the world. In order to domesticate such a terribly hybrid monster all the archival materials, which have survived elision, need to be articulated in such a manner that they are made universally significant. 

Also read my article on "The Calcutta Book Fair and Me" that covers Kolkata Literary Meet too in

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