'From the British Raj to Monsanto Raj': seeding dissent in Sonora Jha's foreign
Janhavi Mittal (King's College London)
Paper short abstract:
Addressing the concatenating forms of structural and‘slow’ violence that precipitate farmer suicides in Vidarbha, I examine how Sonora Jha’s Foreign strategically negotiates the representational challenge of new figures of subalternity through a performative aesthetics of ‘literary governmentality’.
Paper long abstract:
The advance of biogenetic capitalism presents not just a revisionary challenge to theories of biopolitical governmentalities, but constitutes as Gayatri Spivak, observes, an urgent imperative to rethink the 'new location of subalternity'. Specifically addressing the concatenating forms of 'structural' and 'slow' violence that precipitate farmer suicides in India's GMO cotton belt, I examine how Sonora Jha's novel Foreign strategically negotiates the representational challenge of these new figures of subalternity through a performative aesthetics of what John Marx terms, 'literary governmentality'. Distancing itself from the conventional topos of the dissenting anti-state Indian English novel in India - particularly the polemical novel of postcolonial citizenship and the jaded bureaucratic imagination of 'babu fictions' - I argue that Foreign's critique of 'governmentality from below' marks a strategic aesthetic maneuver in rejecting the neoliberal development narrative and its insidious appropriation of subaltern consciousness. Thus, I demonstrate that the novel marks a rare moment in the history of the Indian novel in English through the mimetic representation of the real time space of Indian political society post liberalisation, by simultaneously interrogating the privilege of dissent along with the transformative potential of the politics spawned by neoliberal governmentalities. Finally, this paper argues that the novel's negotiation of transnational solidarity with the farmers of Vidarbha is hinged on a sociological reflexivity that recognizes its own limitations through a careful interrogation of the uneasy complicity of the muted 'unbound serialities' of global print capitalism with the creative fictionality of the 'bound serialities' of neoliberal governance.
Arts of the political in contemporary South Asian literature and film