The margins of postcolonial urbanity: reading critical irrealism in Nabarun Bhattacharya's fiction

Bhattacharya, S. (2016) The margins of postcolonial urbanity: reading critical irrealism in Nabarun Bhattacharya's fiction. In: Chakraborty, M. and Al-wazedi, U. (eds.) Postcolonial Urban Outcasts: City Margins in South Asian Literature. Series: Routledge research in postcolonial literatures (55). Routledge: New York, NY, pp. 39-55. ISBN 9781138677234

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This chapter discusses the dynamics of marginal space in the postcolonial city. It looks at the way marginalized humans utilize the urban space and resist in signicant ways the postcolonial state’s imposition of the capitalistic logic of clearing the space for multinational investment and development. It situates what it considers to be the central contradiction within postcolonial urbanity: the thesis of rationality as against the practice of “irreal” activities. It takes the term “irreal” from the Marxist scholar, Michael Löwy, who separates it from the domain of “unreal” and “anti-real” and argues for a case of dissent and critique in the term’s use. Through a reading of work on Indian modernity, anthropological ndings by postcolonial scholars, and recent literary criticism on urban space, the chapter argues that “irreality” is integral to the dispensation and practice of space in the postcolonial urban world. The literary writings on postcolonial urbanity that specically highlight this contradiction can be meaningfully read through the lens of critical irrealism which combines irreality with the element of authorial critique. For the literary part, the chapter reads the ctional work of Nabarun Bhattacharya (1948-2014), son of Mahasweta Devi and Bijon Bhattacharya, whose work centers around the margins of postcolonial society; the domain of the urban poor-beggars, prostitutes, small-time crooks, freaks, drunkards, rickshaw-pullers, hired assassins and others-who are stampeded by the joint forces of multinational capitalism and consumerism. It is argued here that Nabarun Bhattacharya provides the urban poor with the “armory” of the spectral and the mysterious to ght the bourgeois weapon of instrumental rationality and class dominance. The deliberate narrative effort at blurring spaces, times, and processes of reason-making contributes to his empowering of the subaltern and the outcast, and pushes for a rethinking of the matrices of postcolonial urbanity and modernity.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bhattacharya, Dr Sourit
Authors: Bhattacharya, S.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
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