Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/151401
Title: THE SILENCE OF THE SUBALTERNS: DECONSTRUCTING POWER STRUCTURES THROUGH THE FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN IN THE WORKS OF AMITAV GHOSH AND MAHASWETA DEVI
Authors: VISHNU PREYEI
Issue Date: 12-Nov-2018
Citation: VISHNU PREYEI (2018-11-12). THE SILENCE OF THE SUBALTERNS: DECONSTRUCTING POWER STRUCTURES THROUGH THE FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN IN THE WORKS OF AMITAV GHOSH AND MAHASWETA DEVI. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: The extreme oppression of the lower castes has been plaguing South Asian society since the British rule of India. Amitav Ghosh and Mahasweta Devi are both prominent authors committed to excavating the hidden narratives of the subalterns, and their works exhibit an acute sensitivity to the lower castes' circumstances. In this thesis, I will examine two of Ghosh's novels - The Hungry Tide (2004) and The Calcutta Chromosome (1996) - and two of Mahasweta's short stories - "Draupadi" (1978) and "Arjun" (1984). I explore how the representation of the subalterns in these works of the authors align with Gayatri Spivak's caution of not speaking for the subalterns, but instead reading for the subalterns' silence. I argue that the authors represent the subaltern characters' silence by using the form of their narratives to construct the subalterns as and in a locus of unreadability. Following this, I contend that the fear emanating from the unknowability of the subalterns reverses unequal power dynamics between the elites and the subalterns, and deconstructs dominant colonial and neo-colonial power structures. With respect to representing the subalterns' silence, Ghosh only chooses elite characters as narrators and uses the gaps in his fragmented narrative structure to foreground the subalterns' inaccessibility. Similarly, Mahasweta emphasises the inability of neo-colonial state mechanisms to contain the consciousness of the subaltern. Building on the enigma of the subalterns, I will argue that the fear emerging from the unknowability of the subalterns subverts power relations. The authors achieve this in the following ways: While Ghosh destabilises epistemological knowledge by centralising the native knowledge of the subalterns, Mahasweta undermines neo-colonial power structures via her portrayal of the subalterns' resistance against neo-colonial authorities. Through aligning the authors' use of narrative structures with prominent ideas in the field of Subaltern Studies, I hope to contribute to existing literature on the deconstruction of power structures that oppress the subalterns through the narrative possibilities that literature creates.
URI: http://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/151401
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