Held to Ransom? The South Asian Diaspora and Postcolonial Discourse

Jasbir Jain


The present paper explores the critical approaches to postcoloniality and subalternity in the theoretical writings of the South Asian diaspora as it seeks to define the nature of postcolonial theory – is it a methodology, an approach, or a theory? Its close association with diasporic studies with its emphasis on exile, homeland and identity and its constant addressivity to the West identifies it with diasporic approaches. If so, where does its use lie for home cultures? Working with Arun Prabha Mukherjee’s two books, Bhabha’s essays on the “Postcolonial and the Postmodern” and “Unsatisfied: Notes on Vernacular Cosmopolitanism,” Gayatri Spivak’s translations of Mahasweta Devi’s stories alongside her Prefaces, Introductions and translator’s notes and her long essay “A Literary Representation of the Subaltern,” the discussion foregrounds the gap between political freedom and cultural independence.

Even though there has been a visible shift in translation theories and in the use and intermittent inclusion of native languages, it has still not succeeded in reclaiming cultural territories of intellectual thought. The world of the diasporic critic, no matter where located, is still locked up in a one-sided approach (refer to Vijay Mishra and Satendra Nandan). There is an urgent need to return to a closer examination of the critical views of native writers in order to relocate our objectives and define our spheres and to complete the incomplete process of liberation and reclaim lost territories. This argument requires a better understanding of colonial histories and pushes us towards an in-depth exploration of power relations. The discursiveness which appears to inhabit this discourse must be sharpened towards making a coherent pattern.

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