Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction: Reversals of Representation in Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children

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Author: Sara Upstone
Date: 2007
From: Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies(Vol. 28, Issue 1/2)
Reprint In: Contemporary Literary Criticism(Vol. 336)
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 11,000 words

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[(essay date 2007) In this essay, Upstone analyzes Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children as a postcolonial fiction indicative of a transition in the representation of domestic space, from the idea of home as a metaphor for the colonial project to the idea of home as a politicized dwelling where the boundaries between public and private space become blurred. Upstone considers the implications of the postcolonial model for more fluid male and female gender roles; she uses the term magical realism to refer to literary strategies that make of the home a place for subverting the colonial system.]

Anne McClintock's assertion that "imperialism cannot be understood without a theory of domestic space" illustrates contemporary critical awareness that colonialism cannot be considered only in terms of "public" structures, such as the nation or city, but must also be debated in terms of its construction through the private lives of both colonizer and colonized.1 Against the anthropological tradition's repetition of the patriarchal division of public and private spheres--treating the house as a "self-contained world," the globe split between an inside of emotional dialogues and an outside of political negotiations, "intimacy and exposure, of private life and public space"--colonial discourse analysis focuses frequently on the home as a site of power contestation.2 "[C]onnected to, and perhaps stemming from, the principles of spatiality," as Bill Ashcroft has noted, "... the idea of enclosure, or property, has dominated colonizers' views of place."3 Postcolonial critics connect the home to political struggle: "a site of resistance" with "a radical political dimension."4 Not only does such a home distance itself from representations in geography, spatial theory, and conventional anthropology, it is at the same time distinguished from colonial representations of the home.

In this paper, my focus is on the postcolonial novel and how this novel's representation of domestic space, reflecting the concerns outlined above, addresses the preexisting relationship between domesticity and colonialism. I use Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children as a fiction indicative of postcolonial authors' engagement with issues of domestic space and its colonial implications.5 Combining close reading of Rushdie's text and more overarching theoretical discussion, I want to suggest that at the center of the postcolonial novel's focus on the home is the desire to unravel and undermine processes central to the colonial home, asking for the idea of "home" to be examined not metaphorically, as I will suggest is key to the colonial home, but, instead, literally. In such a distinction are two opposing representations of domestic space: the dwelling of the postcolonial novel, and the home as a force of colonization. In the dwelling of the postcolonial novel, this latter metaphorical "colonial home" is an unspoken intertext. At the center of the postcolonial literary treatment of domesticity, therefore, is a reversal of representation, in which the home is no longer presented in denial of its political status to construct a colonial ideal but is instead explicitly political. Throughout the paper, I will suggest the implications that this reversal has, not only for colonial discourse, but also for associated concepts of colonial and postcolonial gender politics. Finally, through a reading of the home's personal spaces, I will suggest that it is the domestic space that, in the postcolonial novel, in fact embodies the subversion of colonial order.

Colonial and Postcolonial Domesticity

In colonial discourse, the home can be seen as a structure both prominent and overlooked: prominent because of ideological investment in the home in both fiction and nonfiction that, at the height of colonialism, saw it take a central place in political and literary discourse; overlooked precisely because of the motivation behind this prevalence, meaning the house never really represented what it was but rather acted metaphorically for the colonial project itself--an exemplification of Homi Bhabha's argument that the nation is maintained by metaphorical and metonymic strategies.6 Such function is supported by Alison Blunt, for whom domestic imagery was a crucial factor in encouraging support for action against Indian mutiny where "the domestic images of 'houses,' 'wardrobes' and 'cravats' appear to stand for British rule in India."7 The home becomes a microcosm of the colony; even increased use of particular household items is intimately entwined with colonial expansion, what McClintock calls "the mass marketing of empire as an organized system of images and attitudes":

Both the cult of domesticity and the new imperialism found in soap an exemplary mediating form. The emergent middle class values--monogamy ("clean" sex, which has value), industrial capital ("clean" money, which has value), Christianity ("being washed in the blood of the lamb"), class control ("cleansing the great unwashed") and the imperial civilizing mission ("washing and clothing the savage")--could all be marvelously embodied in a single household commodity.8

In this reading of colonial domestic discourse, acquisition of territory and its association with violence are replaced with the establishment of home, and--rather than violence--an association with the natural and timeless processes of settlement. In keeping with this, the political role of the home--though ever-present--is obscured. A harmonious ideal is invoked, as "the values and behaviour inculcated in the home were considered crucial to the formation and maintenance of national identity, a necessary protection against less predictable social and economic changes."9 Using the home to stand for the colony, the colonial nation's discourse of naturalness is propagated.

Such an ideal, however, is all part of the fiction. This has been exposed in the writing of Sigmund Freud, whose discussion of "The Uncanny" ("Das Unheimliche") captures that what is "homely" is always "unhomely." The explosion of "uncanny" events both frightening and disturbing are a result of the repression of turmoil in the service of a desire to present a vision of natural order.10 This is further emphasized in the work of Sharon Marcus, for whom nineteenth-century metropolitan homes were, despite seemingly solid boundaries, already "fluid spaces."11 Domestic order, denying the colonial exploitation and tension inherent in colonial settlement, was rigorously enforced in the colonies themselves. In his study of colonial space in German South-West Africa, J. K. Noyes offers an account of the fluid spaces underlying colonial settlement and the stratification of these spaces through imperial discourses. Importantly, the domestic space is not exempt from this control. Observation of indigenous citizens' homes by their employers and indoctrination into normalized domestic practices through a discourse of moral concern was commonplace: "the dwellings are to be constructed in a specific way, because they are to be used in a specific way [... to enable] a strategy of surveillance and classification."12

Here what happens inside homes plays its part: orderly, clean, and well-kept dwellings serve to maintain the colony's order on the scale of the individual family. At least in English colonies and neocolonial America, the home followed Victorian trends in domestic practice. Nineteenth-century domesticity may have been an illusion but, as Antoinette Burton emphasizes, it was nevertheless--indeed perhaps even more so because of this--a powerful force, and one inherently tied to colonies.13 Not only was the colony described in household terms, but the household, in all its grandeur, was a microcosm for the wealth of empire and its maintenance as "the Victorian middle-class home became a space for the display of imperial spectacle ... while the colonies ... became a theater for exhibiting the Victorian cult of domesticity that needed constant and scrupulous policing." The spatialized hierarchies of the colonial home seem to enforce such suggestion, "domestic space ... mapped as a hierarchy of specialized and distinct boundaries," in the same way that the colony is divided into territories; both divisions are heavily enforced, both boundaries naturalized by documents--architectural plans or national maps.14 That it is only with the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that we find "housing alterations expressing privacy and class differentiation" as standard practice suggests strong connections between domestic hierarchies and colonial division.15

I want to suggest that the order and metaphorical function of this home is radically called into question by postcolonial literary representations. Such re-visioning, I would argue, entails a two-fold strategy: first, a reclamation of the home from colonial metaphor to maintain the "house as house, "rather than seeing it as being in the service of something larger, such as nation or colony; and second, a reinvestment of the home with chaos: an awareness of the perpetuation of colonial models in the house stemming from factors such as servitude and slavery, "the violence, terror and difference that is repressed in everyday securing of a home" for many postcolonial citizens.16 This second process is inextricably connected to the first: it is in altering the mode of representation that diversity is reinstilled in the house structure, giving the home its own identity where it must no longer conform to ideals of order tied to colonial ideology.

In constructing a transgeographic discourse, many postcolonial texts might be cited as engaging this strategy. In addition to Midnight's Children, one might draw upon Keri Hulme's The Bone People, Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, Ben Okri's Famished Road Trilogy, Wilson Harris's Da Silva da Silva's Cultivated Wilderness and Genesis of the Clowns, the short stories of Pauline Melville, or the novels of Toni Morrison as examples of texts that reconfigure the domestic space as a site of chaotic disorder--each within its own unique postcolonial context, contexts that cover the Caribbean, the United States, Africa, and Australasia--as well as reaffirming the connection to Indian postcolonial literature.17 In Hulme's The Bone People, for example, the socially isolated central character Kerewin reflects her isolation in the home she builds for herself: a linear tower, "a prison" that leaves her "encompassed by a wall, high and hard and stone."18 Such a home is a literal manifestation of her marginal position--as an independent woman but also as a mixed-race individual whose whiteness alienates her from the Maori culture she longs to be a part of. It is a space of control, a space that denies community, for Kerewin admits she builds it because she likes "to be able to do most things for myself."19 Yet even in this imprisoning structure, there is the possibility of an alternative for Kerewin. The home's spiral staircase interrogates linearity and order with the promise that "you can't see more than a step and a half in front." In the wake of the transformation fostered by the alliance between Kerewin, Joe (a troubled local Maori man), and Simon (his equally troubled foster son), the tower is destroyed and, at the novel's conclusion, Kerewin builds a very different sort of home. This home will provide an alternative not only to her own fixed structure but to the equally austere home of Joe and Simon, its "neat lawn bordered by concrete paths. No flowers. No shrubs ... typical older State house. ... Sparsely furnished."20 The spiral is no longer overwritten by order in the way that Kerewin's own cultural identity has been obscured. Instead, it is pushed to the forefront and celebrated. Against the isolation of the tower, the new spiral home Kerewin builds embodies community; it is a space of inclusiveness and of positive disorder:

Sunflowers and seashells and logarithmic spirals (said Kerewin); sweep of galaxies and the singing curve of the universe (said Kerewin); the oscillating wave thrumming in the nothingness of every atom's heart (said Kerewin); did you think I could build a square house? So the round shell house holds them all in its spiralling embrace. Noise and riot, peace and quiet, all is music in this sphere.21

The spirals that for Kerewin "wind and flow together, like eddies of smoke, eddies of water ... make more sense than crosses, joys more than sorrow," become the center of the new building, challenging the violence, and the social and racial exclusion, that precede it.22 Similarly, in Harris's Da Silva da Silva's Cultivated Wilderness, a colonial home in London's Holland Park is re-visioned by its immigrant owner. Transforming the domestic space into an artist's studio, what the central character da Silva paints is a refusal to deny the home's political status, "a comedy of empire, a dying empire, a newborn commonwealth." The fluid space that is created draws in the postcolonial landscape: the floor "shone like water," resonating with the coastal regions of Guyana and the rivers of Brazil. At the novel's conclusion, what results is a new-found postcolonial domestic confidence. For while the daemon who visits da Silva at the end of the novel suggests "I'm never quite sure where home is," the protagonist is always sure of his, rejecting any sense of a "back home" to end the novel with the capitalized reassertion "Home."23 Despite its acknowledged hierarchies, the home is a space of hope.

What unites such texts, however, beyond their postcolonial status, is their engagement with one particular form of representation: the magical-realist. A term itself that is subject to overuse and debate surrounding its relevance, I use it here strategically to suggest how particular strategies that extend beyond conventional realism imbue the home with an active presence that offers particular opportunity for subversion of colonial models. For magical-realism, I want to argue, adds a third term to the process I have outlined above. Opened up as an explicitly political space by an acknowledgement of its trauma, the house may become a space of resistance, as my discussion of both Hulme and Harris above evidences. This distinction between realist and magical-realist strategy may be illuminated by the commentary on the home provided by R. M. George in The Politics of Home. For George, contemporary realist Indian novelists offer representations of domesticity that challenge the earlier use of domesticity as national allegory.24 Yet in resisting this burden, they become depoliticized spaces that George sees as lacking what she views as the "conventionally postcolonial" quality of resistance. Against this, I want to suggest, the magical-realist novel refuses both colonial and national metaphors as George indicates, yet also draws upon transformative strategies that facilitate a new form of resistance. Freed from the limits of both colonial and national metaphor, the home is open to diverse meanings encompassing the fluid and subversive. This is not to suggest that magical-realist texts avoid allegorical elements; indeed, they are often steeped in them. However, here metaphor is used not to serve order or an ideal, but rather to reveal inconsistencies and the fact that the discourse of order is both inherently false and--from a postcolonial point of view--immensely damaging. The usage supports Nathaniel Mackey's discussion of imagery in relation to Wilson Harris: "Such recourse to metaphor betrays an estrangement, a distance, that the metaphor--the word is derived from a verb meaning 'to carry over'--seeks to overcome. The use of metaphor is then a 'confession of weakness,' the recognition of a chasm one wishes to cross, to be carried across."25

In such usage there is always a recognized gap between the house and the colony. Metaphorical associations continually attempt to bridge this gap and yet, in failing to do so, only draw into clearer relief a representational chasm. Even as house and colony are brought together, so the house breaks free of the colony, revealing its independence because it can never be fully attributed to the larger structure. The metaphor of the home as colony is no longer the mirage of a perfect colonial construction; rather all metaphor is grappling for the unspeakable and lost. Homes in Rushdie's Midnight's Children, for example, appear to function metaphorically as microcosms of the nation, where the greatest home is the "noble mansion of free India" (118). Yet the intimate connection means they are in fact metonymic, as the small and the large are interrelated, even interchangeable, Saleem's "destinies indissolubly chained to those of my country" (9). Equally, in relation to Morrison's Beloved "we recognize the implied author's privileging of metaphor and metonym over black dialect,"26 as well as the way in which "the text functions on an axis that is simultaneously metaphoric and metonymic," without distinction between the two tropes.27 This recognition seems to be true of representation of houses more than elsewhere: Beloved's central location of 124 Bluestone Road may be read as metaphor for the slave ship. The two spaces are seemingly unconnected, fulfilling the Oxford English Dictionary definition of metaphor as "the figure of speech in which a name or descriptive term is transferred to some object different from ... that to which it is properly applicable" (emphasis added). Yet it is also metonymic, because there is in fact an explicit connection between the house's meaning and the slave community. As "the implied history of the house covers the same time-span as Beloved's ancestral memories," so the house also fulfils the Oxford English Dictionary definition of metonymy as "a figure of speech which consists in substituting for the name of a thing the name of an attribute of it or something closely related."28 This use of metonym defines what might also be referred to as "postcolonial metaphor." Such metaphor no longer serves to uphold ideals or discourses of power, but instead dissolves them; it connects to that which is always fragmentary and provisional and--because metonymy (in contrast to the colonial metaphor) "is context bound and therefore exposes specific cultural values, prejudices, and limitations"--counters the colonial metaphor of a universal ideal.29

The home is not only a space of postcolonial resistance because it is reclaimed from its colonial service; it is a space of postcolonial resistance because it is instead a site of hope and awakening--not closed down into order, but opened up to marvelous possibility. The power of this contamination of the colonial vision should not be underestimated. Following Nancy Armstrong's argument that nineteenth-century fiction's representation of domesticity not only reflected social forces but also had a role "in modern history," as that which "helped to formulate the ordered space we now recognize as the household," the postcolonial magical-realist novel's disordering of this space may be seen to hold the same potential now: a force not only reflecting the status quo but also offering pathways towards new experience.30


One result of the division and idealization of colonial domesticity was an explicitly gendered space, placing women at the heart of the imperial project. The "idealized domesticity ... of the Victorian era" not only constructed gender roles,31 it did so partly to serve colonial needs: A woman must be maintained inside the home as a "devout maiden" and "industrious housewife," because through it she had her own role in the imperializing of space.32 Nineteenth-century fiction and conduct books emphasize both this gendered division of space and the desire to order it, where open domestic space is "in need of spatial and narrative closure."33 As males are responsible for maintaining political and public order--to overwrite chaos--so females are responsible for echoing this in the home and providing refuge from the perceived turmoil of the market place.34 Firmly establishing the metaphorical connection, in the colonies "competent home management was part of a wife's 'civilising mission'"; as the colonizer battles with territorial expansion, so his wife engages in her own struggle against unfamiliar domestic conditions.35 Such practice is evident in the domestic manuals read by Englishwomen in India. R. Temple-Wright, an author of several such manuals at the fin de siècle, gave advice on how to be a good English "hostess" in India in the late nineteenth century. She instructed her reader "never to eat Bazaar bread," to improve the nation "through the improvement of the nation's homes," to buy pots from "any large European shop," and to "buy and keep cows" because of poor local standards of herd-raising.36 In her determination to order domestic space, Wright was vehement on the division of the household from the external world: "Things you must never, under any circumstances, allow in your kitchen are--a hookah, a bed, and the personal apparel of the cook and his mate."37 Yet as the feminist desire to see women freed from the confines of domesticity supports, a woman herself could be trapped by, as much as complicit in, the perpetuation of such space. The home interrogates the identity not only of the colonized, but also its female inhabitants.

What I want to suggest is that, in its repoliticization of the home, part of the postcolonial novel's subversion of the colonial ideal of domesticity is a coterminous subversion of the patriarchal connotations of that ideal. Politicized, the split between public and private space is corrupted, and the fluid boundaries established by postcolonial fiction instead offer the opportunity for women's lives to be actively connected to the outside world, even when patriarchy physically confines them to the "inside." The power centered on the home gives women a significant status in how colonialism is challenged. For the colonial wife, the successful home was to be seen as a contribution to empire, so maintaining this home against colonial infiltration could be, for the colonized wife, an act of anticolonial resistance.

What is significant about these approaches, moreover, is that they reject the assumption that domesticity is wholly the sphere of women and, moreover, they reject the continued assumption even in today's academic climate that control of the home affects men only indirectly through its impact on the public sphere. The gender implications of the colonial home do not affect women only, and, more significantly, the influence of colonialism is felt by all the home's inhabitants. For all, the home becomes tied to colonial power relations and the subversion of these interests is a shared aim, whether that subversion would ultimately lead to a concomitant dissolution of domestic patriarchy or, ironically, even a reinforcement of patriarchy in a new nationalist form. Notably, however, while emphasizing nationalist patriarchy, postcolonial fiction seems to indicate ultimately that the former result is one shared by both female and male indigenous challenges to colonial domestic discourse. With patriarchy indissolubly linked to the colonial project, a reversal of the latter is also a reversal of the former. This may be at odds with analyses that emphasize a nationalist patriarchy with equally restrictive gender politics centered upon the home; however, it may be seen as a powerful component in the postcolonial novel's use of domesticity as an anti-imperial setting. While gender differences are indicated, remaking and re-visioning the home--re-instilling its political status as a challenge to the colonial discourse of domesticity--largely takes precedence over representing the complexities of gender relations outside the colonial dynamic.

The ways in which postcolonial authors use magical realism to engage with such issues are complex and varied, though I would argue they share this overarching approach, with obvious differences of emphasis and degree. In all its forms, such a shift in representation--away from the service of colonial discourse--means that the home's chaos and hierarchies are no longer overwritten with a space of harmony and order. I shall now discuss, as an example, how a single text by one author--Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie--offers one specific way into the complexities of postcolonial literary reversals of colonial domesticity.

Reversing the Overwriting

The choice of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children to exemplify this process is motivated by the author's engagement with the colonial role of the home throughout the novel, which provides clear examples of the strategies I have outlined. In his essay "Imaginary Homelands," Rushdie clearly identifies the domestic structure as central to the novel's construction. Recalling a faded black-and-white photograph of his childhood home in Bombay, Rushdie recounts how the photograph motivated him to return to its subject and that, with this recollection, "my novel Midnight's Children was really born."38 The home becomes the motivation for Rushdie to attempt reclamation of his past from the dislocations of colonial history and migration. More than for perhaps any other author, magical realism is crucial to Rushdie's engagement with the domestic space: the dwellings Rushdie provides seem to reflect traditional nostalgic construction, seem to act as simple metaphors for the nation, but they are quickly imbued with a fantastic life that complicates such connections. For, as Rushdie outlines in "Imaginary Homelands," while his project may have begun as an attempt to recreate the past, this effort would quickly become an acknowledgment "that we will not be capable of reclaiming precisely that thing that was lost"39--a metaphor of fallibility and failure that resonates with Mackey's discussion of Harris. Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children is centered on the remembrance of domestic structures as a flawed corrective to the loss and instability of colonial dislocation. Rushdie's narrator and protagonist, Saleem Sinai, beginning his story with the parallel remembrance of a man, his grandfather, who after "five springs, away from home ... would try and recall his childhood springs in Paradise, the way it was before travel and tussocks and army tanks messed everything up" (11), continued by remembering his mother as the woman for whom moving home means waking up to believe the sun had "come up in the wrong place" (65). Indeed, every remembrance around which the novel revolves seemingly begins with a domestic structure: Ghani's house, the house of Saleem's grandparents in Agra, all framed by the comic domestic machinations of "Padma, who brought me my dinner and then withheld it" (31).

The importance of domestic space in the novel is centered on Saleem's declaration to be "remaking my life" to be no longer "public property" (10, 77). The situation of home as private space is central, offering Saleem the possibility of reconstructing a stable, private location. In this sense, Rushdie's use of the home seems conventional rather than subversive. Maintaining the sense of home as "the only haven from the trials of a heartless economic world," Rushdie seemingly repeats the colonial construction of home as politically detached and hermetically sealed, providing resonances at the same time with the Indian patriarchal institution of similar ideals.40 This is reinforced by the conventional roles played by female domestics in the novel, most notably Padma, who longs to create a typical family unit with Saleem and is characterized as the stereotypical simple, home-oriented woman, continually attempting to woo Saleem through her exhibition of her domestic qualities such as food preparation.

Yet in terms of the model of postcolonial domestic space I have outlined, Rushdie situates Saleem's search for meaning within the context of a fantastic and unreliable narration that reveals the artificiality of idealized imagined spaces and, indeed, the impossibility of creating this perfect metaphorical function in denial of the home's infiltration by political concerns. In such a way, Saleem's endless search for meaning, his reflection of the colonial need to order domestic spaces and their histories, is itself a denial of the colonial project to create an apolitical domesticity and an exposure of the colonial overwriting of the politicization of the domestic space, even as it appears to repeat the gender roles and divisions of public and private space at the center of this construction. Rushdie's homes are immersed in the chaos that colonial discourse of the home overwrites. They are spaces of "violent disorder" with "gloomy spidery corridors" that often suggest, rather than security, unnamed threats (21, 22). As water rushes into the home when "there were towels wedged against the doors and windows of the house" (59) because "things ... have a way of leaking into each other" (38), so what are in colonial discourse impermeable walls between inside and outside are disrupted, social realities invading in a way that even the narrator's recreation cannot prevent. Rather than an idealized space of safety, there is awareness of exclusions and divisions, homes with "repeatedly-slammed doors" (250).

Rushdie represents the particular effect of these exclusions on women in a way that directly calls into question those critical approaches that accuse Rushdie of misogyny.41 In particular, Rushdie reflects upon the connections between domesticity and colonial patriarchy, and the continuance of these connections in nationalist ideology, a reflection that resonates with discussions of Indian feminism, most notably Gayatri Spivak's famous comments on the silencing of Indian women by colonial, nationalist, and intellectual representations of them.42 Reflecting readings of Indian nationalism as a discourse that echoes the colonial, establishing order in the home in an effort to protect it from colonial influence, as a "sphere unpolluted by foreign rule," Rushdie shows how, for his female characters, the home may become a prison. Mumtaz "saw very little in those days of the father whom she loved" because of her marriage to a fugitive (59), Amina is "immobilized in a room in a tower" (101), the often ignored Padma is consigned to sitting in the narrator's "enchanted shadows" (121), and Toxy Catrack waits at "a barred top-floor window" because of mental illness (130). For Reverend Mother the security of the home is so hyperbolic that it becomes imprisonment, "an invisible fortress of her own making," complete with the colonially resonant "traditions and certainties" (40). The sense of familiarity that the home provides, its provision of assuredness in the wake of anxiety, is ironically the feature transformed from comfort to trauma, the sense of walking a tightrope across a precipice that is made clear by Rushdie through his linguistic subversion: "the domestic rules she established were a system of self-defence ... leaving her, like a smug spider, to rule her chosen domain. (Perhaps, too, it wasn't a system of self-defence at all, but a means of defence against her self.)" (40-41).

Ironically often self-enforced because of this nationalist turn, the seclusion of women marks at once a challenge to Western influence and a reinforcement of patriarchal domesticity in a transference of values resonant with wider nationalist concerns. Thus Rushdie problematizes the simple construction of patriarchy as colonial and the challenging of colonialism as naturally a challenge to patriarchal values.

Yet, as I have indicated, the postcolonial novel's critique often subsumes gender interests into a more general concern with the colonial influence on home life. This is not to deny the nationalist continuance of colonial patriarchal models of domesticity, but rather is an acknowledgment of the negative effect of these models, not only for indigenous female inhabitants but also for indigenous males. Such awareness reflects McClintock's argument that "the English middle-class male was placed at the pinnacle of evolutionary hierarchy," with the result that colonized men, as well as women, were classed as inferior and subjugated into domestic space--their physiognomy compared not to white males, but to the female.43 At the same time, indigenous males were relegated further to a contradictory but equally damaging stereotype that impinged upon their domestic role: the enlargement of the stereotype of the "animal prowess of the black male" into a larger discourse, in which indigenous males of all races were frequently cast as rapists who defiled the bodies of white women and threatened the domestic as a site of privacy and female purity.44 This dual subjection cannot be ignored, for it may itself be seen as essential to the continuance of colonial models, creating the male indigenous anxiety that would demand a reassertion of domestic ordering by the colonized male to counter coterminously both emasculation and the sense of the indigenous threat to domestic ideals. This is what Bill Ashcroft, in his discussion of male bodies, terms the construction of the "national body," where imperial discourse on corporeality is simply replaced with an equally "hegemonic image" necessitated by the identity crisis caused by the colonial domestication and demonization of male indigenous bodies.45

Midnight's Children thus presents a unified experience of oppression that reflects this complex interaction, in which the domestic is for both male and female--in unique ways--a site of power contestation. For all, the home is exposed as part of neocolonial social inequalities, rather than as a haven from them. As Tai lives in "the insanitary bowels of the old wooden-house quarter" (14), so Saleem is clearly aware of his own privilege, where "the brutalizing effect of servant status" is defined by "a servants' room behind a blackstove kitchen" (144), "his grandfather's house containing "the low outhouse rented cheaply to the family of old Hamard and his son Rashid the rickshaw boy" (49), the new "ugly concrete blocks" where "we looked down on them all, on white and brown alike" (180), and the magician's ghetto of "higgledy shacks" (386). There is also a strong religious element to such differentiation, which means that these conflicts, too, are represented on the domestic scale--where Muslims "dropped garbage on his house from their rooftops. They hurled multilingual abuse at him from their windows" because he was a Hindu (73). Equally, in Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, racism against cross-cultural relationships is not escaped from in the Ayemenem House, but rather magnified. Baby Kochamma proclaims Estha and Rahel "Half-Hindu Hybrids whom no self-respecting Syrian Christian would ever marry," denied belonging as she reminds them that they live in the house "on sufferance ... where they really had no right to be"; Vellya Paapen goes to the back entrance because "Pappachi would not allow Paravans into the house. Nobody would."46

At the center of this politicization is the awareness that colonial infiltration of the home cannot be denied. Personified in Major Zulfikar, entering "with a force of fifteen men" to expose Nadir (62), the classic colonial utilization of openness only to tabulate, control, and deny is evident. Nowhere is it clearer than in Methwold's sale of his home to the Sinai family, an "empire in miniature" that comes to represent the perpetuation of imperialism after independence.47 Methwold's estate is a perfect example of the colonial ordering of territory on a domestic level, geometry and symmetry in "four identical houses ... conqueror's houses ... red gabled roofs and turret towers in each corner" (94), overwriting of identity through language as the houses are named after "the palaces of Europe" (95). Methwold's "little game" (95) of selling the houses "complete with every last thing in them" (95) marks the continued dominance of colonial ideas of domesticity, "transferring power, too" (96), but doing so in such a way that his patterns become part of Saleem's own family "talking budgies[,] ... imitation Oxford drawls" further illustrate the colonial influence on nationalist principles with consequences for the construction and valuing of home (98, 99).

In the novel's last words we find the hopelessness of such invasion, but also the reality of the home. It is a space that will never be private: "to forsake privacy and be sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes, and to be unable to live or die in peace" (463), as the colonial ideal of domesticity and all that it would obscure gradually fades into the distance and the home's political status is made explicit. In its bleakness, Rushdie constructs a postcolonial metaphor that raises explicitly the realization of the colonial metaphor's fallibility, where the home at times comes to stand for the colony, only to make such a connection self-consciously constructed and to signal a need for the return to a home qua home.

Postcolonial Re-Visioning: Home as Space

I want particularly to suggest that, in such representation, it is central that postcolonial fiction does not represent the home only as a space of trauma. Instead, the narrative must find value in the home outside the colonial ideal--not in place of its political significance but precisely because of it. While rejection of the colonial ideal may be one element of the postcolonial writing of home, this is not its whole. For the postcolonial writing of the domestic is not interested simply in negation but rather, in Bhabha's terms, negotiation.48 This is its site of subversion: where politicization of the home is not only a negative factor prompting lament for a lost ideal but also the potential for new interruptions, where the ideal itself is a political force in the service of a colonial image, and where chaos may be productive as "what is perceived as a 'disorderly' house by a visitor is not necessarily perceived as such by the inhabitant."49 The manifold meanings repressed in the colonial writing of homes are now released; no longer forced to serve as colonial metaphor, home comes to serve other purposes undermining discourses of power.

What is important here is that the politicization of the home should not obscure its positive potential but must instead be seen as intimately connected to it. In readings of Roy's The God of Small Things, for example, the home's reflection of wider political concerns is often noted; but what is neglected is the positive potential of the invasion of politics into the home. While the Ayemenem House offers one model, it is in counterpoint to another home at the center of the novel: the History House. Like Toni Morrison's slave-ship house in Beloved, the History House extends beyond both its physical and temporal boundaries to encapsulate far more significance in terms of memory and history than its limited structure seemingly allows.50 On the one hand, it is, like the Ayemenem House, a space that signifies oppression; it is explicitly imperial, a "symbol of colonial authority."51 It is also iconic of India's communal conflicts, where organized power in the form of the police force uses both neocolonial authority and patriarchal male physical strength. And yet the way in which various characters interact with the house and the use to which it is put suggest an interruption of its official status, and, at times, a direct confrontation with the values it represents. In a world where the inhabitants of Ayemenem House are "trapped outside their own history[,] ... unable to retrace their steps because their footprints had been swept away" by colonial assimilation that has made them "adore our conquerors and despise ourselves," reclaiming the History House means reclaiming fragments of that lost past, replacing History--the capitalized, official form--with history.52 As Simon Barnabas notes, it is outside the History House, in defiance of its official connotations, that Velutha and Ammu find "some of the most precious moments of their togetherness": the link between caste development and increased control over sexual relations, so present in the Ayemenem House, unravels in this alternative domestic space.53 Such subversion is undoubtedly temporary, and the novel's ending, in which the house returns to its negative signification, further entrenched because it is bought by an international hotel chain, suggests a limited impact. And yet the fact that such an interruption does take place suggests the hope of further disruptions and asserts the power of individuals to change their circumstances, however limited.

In the service of this reclamation of the domestic space, Rushdie does not reject domestic chaos but rather seizes it as a window to magical awakenings, houses of possibility full of "potential mothers and possible fathers" (51). Most significantly, Rushdie may be seen to engage two distinct strategies, what I will refer to as, first, domestic deterritorialization, and second, domestic appropriation. Although Deleuze and Guattari do not discuss the home explicitly, their concept of deterritorialization--signifying removal of fixed boundaries and the renewal of the abstract--offers opportunity to make the home into a space we can politically "defamiliarize," where fluid structures are outside the colonial influence and capable of resistance, where "the flows ... have not been reduced to ... neuroticized territorialities."54 Such positive deterritorialization is a useful way to envisage the effect of antimetaphoric strategies: removing the codes and patterns signifying conventional domestic space, favoring instead the turmoil and tensions that the colonial ideal obscures. It is because of this process, I would argue, that the home in the postcolonial novel explicitly becomes a space where negotiations of power are played out and where critique of colonialism is clearly possible.

Such multiplicity is prevented from evolving into postmodern free play, for deterritorialization may contain a "reterritorialization; we re-inhabit a world of our making."55 This first step of reterritorialization may also be seen in terms of what Perla Korosec-Serfaty designates "appropriation," where the status of the home as contested space leaves it "capable of being mastered" through various activities--"Ornamentation, maintenance, and housework."56 The house is not rejected for its complexity, but reclaimed so that its politics can be turned around and used decisively in the service of the postcolonial cause rather than of its colonial predecessor. This may appear at odds with the postcolonial literary endeavor to create fluidity that I have outlined earlier; yet it is also the necessary first step towards such liberty. What is needed is a habitation that forms the first step in a movement toward more fluid spaces, where the abstract that postcolonial critics such as Ashcroft so suspect ultimately becomes a discourse of freedom.57

The undercurrent to this deterritorialization and appropriation is always the opportunity for reappraisal of postcolonial interactions, particularly with gender. Enacting deterritorializations or reversals, Rushdie removes the female from the center of the home; thus Aadam Aziz's mother "had suddenly found enormous strength and gone out to run the small gemstone business ... while his father sat hidden behind the veil" (12). Enacting appropriations, his imprisoned women reverse their status to become the home's most powerful figures and, through the no longer denied political status of this location, key players in any negotiations of power. Women seem almost magically to take their place at the center of the narrative, moving to its core as they overwhelm the boundaries delimited for them. Although Reverend Mother is imprisoned in the home, it is also her "inalienable territory" (41) at a time when perhaps, in terms of both patriarchy and colonial rule, it is the only territory available, a space where the domestic is used to gain a sense of empowerment so that "at the dinner table, imperiously, she continued to rule" (41). There is a particular colonial connotation here, where use of "imperiously"--meaning, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "supreme or absolute rule, imperially"--denotes that it is Reverend Mother's own personal appropriation of colonial rule. In situations where women cannot simply reject their role in the home, Rushdie's women instead appropriate the space and use their assigned role to their advantage. And, of course, "imperiously" should not obscure the fact that this act is a dual questioning of both colonial patriarchy and its Indian nationalist extension.

Here the postcolonial form of narration enacts a crucial intervention: Rushdie's fragmented, chaotic presentation is not the mark of the migrant's trauma alone but coterminously an effective deterritorialization of the colonial totalization of space, a complex interweaving of secret spaces undermining the projected simplicity of colonial architectural construction. For when containment is combined with this chaotic setting it may be turned to serve radical ideals rather than the conservative colonial ideal of domesticity. Nadir Khan's concealment "under my family's rugs" (48) acts against the establishment because "things seemed permissible underground that would seem absurd or even wrong in the clear light of day" (56). While the 1947 house may reflect colonialism, its description also continually marks resistance to imperialism. The assertion that "this is still India" (100) indicates possibility for appropriation, enacted by the Brass Monkey, whose burning of shoes and items "broken accidentally-on-purpose" (151) obliterates with disorder the last remnants of the mirage of colonial domestic order, and by cleaning, which, in common with the association of appropriation with housework, means "his successors emptied his palaces of their abandoned contents" (128), so that Methwold and his empire pass simultaneously with its British parallel.

Although such interaction with the home clearly has gendered connotations--most notably in the use of women's domestic work as appropriation, and in the questioning of Indian nationalist patriarchy--Midnight's Children shows evidence here of the wider engagement with domesticity offered by the postcolonial magical-realist novel. In politicizing the domestic space away from its idealized status in colonial discourse, the domestic becomes a site of resistance to colonial rule.

Inside as Outside

To this point, my discussion has focused on the home in its entirety, as a general structure linked intrinsically to the world outside. But I would like to address, by way of final comment, the importance of the spaces within the home. Focus on these spaces forms the final stage of the postcolonial literary treatment of domestic space and, ultimately, is the most significant subversion of the home as an imperializing social structure. Enter through an undecided doorway to an undecided room, to a Bombay bathroom, to a heavily described white washing-chest of slatted wood, and it is here that you find the real power of the postcolonial house, the miniscule spaces where resistance is ultimately and most securely held.

The postcolonial domestic is not a space of the complete structure, it is a space of its deconstruction, its turning around and inside out: the fact that the house may be seen as "simultaneously huge and tidy ... with all its infinite possibilities."58 Such a strategy is the ultimate confusion of public and private, for the most private of spaces--the spaces of the house that visitors never enter--paradoxically become the most contested sites: "sub-units of interior space" where "cultural values are thus embedded," the most private "boxes, chests, drawers, closets," which are the secret spaces, even more obscured than the house proper itself.59 It is not the small discussed here but what Frances Armstrong has referred to as miniaturization that enriches "by condensation," magnifying meaning and power by creating a "magical condensed domain."60 This is not an isolated miniature, but rather that which "has the capability to make its context remarkable; its fantastic qualities are related to what lies outside ... life inside life."61

The implied action here is at the center of repoliticizing the home from its colonial ideal. Marcus makes exactly such a point in her deconstruction of the nineteenth-century novel when she explains that "interiorization cannot be sustained because the very activities and attributes associated with perfect interiorization--containment, enclosure, covering, wrapping, repression, silence, sequestration--produce diametrically opposite effects of explosion, discharge, excess, escape, and overflow," so that "total internalization collapses in on itself."62 Rewriting the political as personal foregrounds the fact that there are some spaces the establishment cannot enter, though its influence is always found within them: spaces where resistance operates for the individual. It is in these pockets that dreams of changing the outside flourish: the neglected by the establishment--and therefore protected--spaces of the domestic interior.

Midnight's Children immediately foregrounds the positive importance of the spaces within the home in an opening chapter that introduces us to "an empty pickle jar ... an old tin trunk" (19), an "old brass spittoon" (44) that is a "lost receptacle of memories" (449), pepper pots that are used to plan military coups. Indeed, just as each section of the novel begins with a remembrance of a house, so each of these remembrances leads to an even smaller and more personal contained space. Spaces are layered, getting ever smaller yet more significant, like Russian nesting dolls, so that Saleem's grandparents' house in Agra leads to "an old trunk," which itself leads to "this leather bag inside this trunk" (31) in which are contained the perforated sheet of the novel's opening; the house on Cornwallis Road leads to a cellar, which itself leads to a "gemstone-crusted silver spittoon" (58) that itself will also later be placed within the same tin trunk.

These spaces, characterized as open both to the narrator's privileging of them and to multiple meanings--Saleem's surprise when going to the trunk to find "it had not been locked in the first place" (31)--repeat the refusal of ideal identification that the postcolonial home in its generality refuses. Most magical of these spaces are the pickle jars that allow "chutnification of history" (459), contained within the home of the frame story itself: the factory-home that is both public and private space, so that Saleem may write "above present and past" (194), a home that holds both the history of India and, in a Marquez-style dénouement, Saleem's own story. These jars are the novel itself, a metaphor for the creative act of filling empty spaces, "chutneys and kasaundies ... connected to my nocturnal scribblings ... the great work of preserving" (38), an "open-sesame" (456) that "carried them back into the world of my past" (210). The transformation within the pickle jars is, on a smaller physical scale, the same transformation from negative to positive space, of incongruous significance and capacity, that typifies the domestic structure. Its power is such that it has been taken up by several postcolonial authors, particularly within an Indian magical-realist context: not only Arundhati Roy's well-known repetition of the pickles motif but also Vikram Chandra's use of magical ladoos in Red Earth and Pouring Rain and the magical kababs of Vijay Singh's Whirlpool of Shadows.63

So, for domesticity, what is the result of this deferral to the small? Certainly, such personal spaces reinforce the sense of possibility within the domestic structure as a whole: the way that "one jar stands empty" (460) must be seen as hope as well as the novel's resignation, witness to the "questions ... dreams" (461) that remain. In the wake of colonial appropriation of other personal spaces--"testicles were removed from sacs, and wombs vanished for ever ... and they drained us of more than that: hope, too, was excised" (439)--the filling of such spaces is an act of resistance, and a renewal of optimism. Such an act typifies the two stages of postcolonial treatment of the domestic that I have engaged with throughout this paper. Sites of personal meaning are stripped of ideal status and made explicitly political. And, as a result of this process, they are re-instilled with positive possibility.

Thus, the significance of these spaces, ultimately, is that even when resistance may seem impossible, they represent the fact that there are always other scales, other spaces, where survival can occur. Even within the most oppressive domestic structure, it is suggested, a site for personal expression and defiance may be located. In The Bone People, a central part of Kerewin's survival is a logbook that contains a multitude of different expressive forms but also empty spaces that, like the jars, offer continued hope:

The pages are mainly blank, because there are 1000 pages. There are no headings, dates, day names. She has filled in some pages at random with doodles and sequences of hatching. Small precise drawings and linked haiku. Some days a solitary word. "Hinatore" says one, "Nautilids!" another.64

As for Rushdie, such a logbook is a space within space: contained on the bottom shelf of a "grog cupboard," itself contained within Kerewin's tower. Like the spiral staircase, it is a mark of the possibility latent in Kerewin's life--obscure and only to be revealed with the disruption offered by Simon's entry into her life.65 Like Saleem's jars, the logbook is full of concoctions of influences, rather than a unified meaning. By juxtaposing Latin and Maori, Hulme destabilizes the primacy of colonial use of language as definition; rejecting headings, dates, and names challenges colonial scientific and Enlightenment authority with an alternative means of expression.

Nowhere is this space of shelter seen more clearly, however, than in Saleem's reminiscence of the sanctuary of the bathroom that refuses the colonial idealization of domestic space: where you can be anything because it is at times an "unclean" space that demands none of the usual deference to domestic cleanliness or purity (160). Such a level of intimacy creates a true sacred space from the secular, a place that violence and cruelty, even if it permeates the rest of the house, can never enter. In the washing-chest in the bathroom of Buckingham Villa, "servants are excluded[,] ... school buses, too, are absent" (153), leading Saleem to the powerful proclamation: "Banned from washing-chests: cries of 'Pinocchio! Cucumber-nose! Goo-face!' Concealed in my hiding-place, I was safe ... I could forget, for a time, my ugliness" (154).

The power of such a secure space is not simply to remove personal anxiety but also public danger: the tumult of society that is, under transition from empire to freedom, in political crisis: "A washing-chest is a hole in the world, a place which civilization has put outside itself, beyond the pale ... safe from all pressures, concealed from the demands of parents and history" (156). Because the basket takes on a more homely significance than the actual dwelling, its status as a breach in the normal spatial order gives it a capacity far beyond its linear measurements. As abstract space, this is absence as positivity: a silence of the currents of time passing and of political change, a stillness, a "pause,"66 a gasp for breath that facilitates survival, paradoxically a "pause in movement"; the deterritorialization that leads to the appropriation before the further deterritorialization of leaving the home behind.67 A new kind of domestic politics emerges in such a space, in which what matters is the possibility outside of an official history that has been revealed to bear only limited truth. This is confirmed by the fact that it is the bathroom and its basket that are the location of Saleem's awakening--his transformation into an "untuned radio" (163) for the children of midnight--and a chance at democracy. Acting as "a mirror of the nation" (255), the space is implicitly politicized against the colonial ideal. In such a reversal, the house becomes the outside, the public, finally and definitively removing it from the grasp of colonial and national ideologies.

Again, Saleem's masculinity is not an issue in this use of the home. Saleem's appropriation of the bathroom occurs at no expense to the home's female inhabitants, denying the colonial implication of indigenous male destruction of domestic ideals. Indeed his mother, Amina, finds similar sanctuary in the bathroom, suggesting a gender-transcendent relationship to small personal spaces. Equally, the fact that the bathroom is also a site of powerful anticolonial action in its role as the site of Saleem's psychic connection to the Midnight's Children challenges the emasculation of indigenous males by making domesticity central to rather than at the peripheries of resistance. Regardless of gender, the public space is a colonial battleground. And though the relationship between colonialism and patriarchy doubly disenfranchises women in this public sphere, nevertheless, Rushdie suggests here, men too, when colonized, may find the personal a site of significance. This, I would suggest, is itself a radical statement in terms of gender that goes beyond a simplistic suggestion of nationalist collusion in colonial patriarchy. For instead, it seems that colonialism radically reconfigures the gender politics of the home. No longer simply a female space, the home is through colonialism reconfigured as a universal site of political resistance, extending into its most personal--and perhaps most stereotypically female--spaces. When Saleem enters the bathroom or produces the pickle jars, he enacts a politicization and privileging of the domestic that calls into question the gendered division of public and private space. Even though gender distinctions clearly still exist, they are superseded by a united challenge to colonial rule enacted through the home. Undoubtedly, this may raise questions about the continued silencing of women's perspectives as concerns with patriarchy give way to concerns with the colonial. Nevertheless, the gendered mixing and disruption of public and private offered by this may itself be the most powerful subversion of patriarchal, as well as colonial, discourse. Radically re-visioning the role of men within the home and the role's significance, it is impossible to see how nationalist patriarchy might go unchallenged. And, indeed, as the deterritorializing and appropriating actions of Reverend Mother, Amina, and the Brass Monkey prove, their own domestic status only benefits from, and is not hindered by, the re-visioning of home as an important site of anticolonialism.


What Rushdie does with domestic space is indicative of a wider treatment of the home in postcolonial magical-realist fiction. In their reversals and inversions--their replacement of depoliticized order with politicized chaos, the inversion of large and small scales so that the home itself ultimately becomes the public of a smaller structure--Rushdie engages a magical-realist mode of representation that allows domestic space to transcend the colonial model. Through motifs of movement and fluidity, layering and invasion, flowing and leaking, a new vision of the home emerges. The architecture of this new home refuses to succumb to norms and ideals. Its layers and complexity--the very nature of its confusion--make it a space of important protection: outside the linear narrative of history and all that represents in colonial and patriarchal terms, and instead within magical space. Unlike the ideal home, in which "[t]he outside has no more meaning," the postcolonial home is always in tension with this outside, both echoing and challenging its prejudices because it is intensely involved in their construction.68 Invaded by public space, the home's gender politics is foregrounded. Yet, at the same time, politicization creates the home as a site of resistance for all its postcolonial inhabitants, regardless of gender. Renewed by chaos and possibility, the postcolonial home reverses the colonial ideal, and, with it, the assumptions and stereotypes on which such a home was so evidently based. The space that results is, as Midnight's Children proves, both intensely political and capable of offering the potential for subversion.


1. Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (New York: Routledge, 1995), 17.

2. Sharon Marcus, Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 1; Yi Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (London: Edward Arnold, 1977), 107.

3. Bill Ashcroft, Post-Colonial Transformation (London: Routledge, 2001), 162.

4. bell hooks, Yearning: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics (Boston: South End, 1990), 41-42.

5. Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children (1981) (London: Picador, 1982). All subsequent references to this work are cited parenthetically within the text.

6. Homi K. Bhabha, "DissemiNation: Time, Narrative and the Margins of the Modern Nation," in Nation and Narration, ed. Homi Bhabha (London: Routledge, 1990), 291-94.

7. Alison Blunt, "Embodying War: British Women and Domestic Defilement in the Indian 'Mutiny,' 1857-8," Journal of Historical Geography 26, no. 3 (2000): 406.

8. McClintock, Imperial Leather, 209, 208.

9. Inga Bryden and Janet Floyd, introduction to Domestic Space: Reading the Nineteenth-Century Interior, ed. Bryden and Floyd (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), 2.

10. Sigmund Freud, The "Uncanny," trans. Alix Strachey, reprinted in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Volume XVII (1917-1919): An Infantile Neurosis and Other Works, ed. James Strachey (London: Vintage, 2001), 217-52.

11. Marcus, Apartment Stories, 3.

12. J. K. Noyes, Colonial Space: Spatiality in the Discourse of German South West Africa 1884-1915 (Chur: Harwood, 1992), 274.

13. Antoinette Burton, At the Heart of Empire: Indians and the Colonial Encounter in Late-Victorian Britain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

14. McClintock, Imperial Leather, 34, 168.

15. Donna Birdwell-Pheasant, Donna and Denise Lawrence-Zuniga, introduction to House Life: Space, Place and Family in Europe, ed. Birdwell-Pheasant and Lawrence-Zuniga (Oxford: Berg, 1999), 10.

16. R. M. George, The Politics of Home: Postcolonial Relocations and Twentieth-Century Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 27.

17. Keri Hulme, The Bone People (1985) (London: Picador, 1986); Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things (1997) (Flamingo-Harper Collins, 1998); Okri's trilogy consists of The Famished Road (1991) (London: Vintage, 1992), Songs of Enchantment (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993) and Infinite Riches (London: Orion, 1999); Wilson Harris, Da Silva da Silva's Cultivated Wilderness and Genesis of the Clowns (London: Faber, 1977); Pauline Melville, Shape-shifter (London: The Women's Press, 1990); Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970), Sula (New York: Knopf, 1973), Song of Solomon (New York: Knopf, 1977), Tar Baby (New York: Knopf, 1981), Beloved (New York: Knopf, 1987), Jazz (New York: Knopf, 1992), Paradise (New York: Knopf, 1998), and Love (New York: Knopf, 2003)

18. Hulme, The Bone People, 7.

19. Ibid., 107.

20. Ibid., 32, 76.

21. Ibid., 442-3.

22. Ibid., 273.

23. Harris, Da Silva da Silva's Cultivated Wilderness, 65, 43, 52, 77.

24. R. M. George, The Politics of Home: Postcolonial Relocations and Twentieth-Century Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 141.

25. Nathaniel Mackey, Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 176.

26. Bernard W. Bell, "Beloved: A Womanist Neo-Slave Narrative; or Multivocal Remembrances of Things Past," African American Review 26, no. 1 (1992): 11.

27. Sally Keenan, "'Four Hundred Years of Silence': Myth, History and Motherhood in Toni Morrison's Beloved," in Recasting the World: Writing after Colonialism, ed. Jonathan White (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 61.

28. Carol Schmudde, "The Haunting of 124," African American Review 26, no. 3 (1992): 411 (my emphasis).

29. Keenan, "Four Hundred Years of Silence," 61.

30. Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 7, 23-24 (emphasis added).

31. Claudia Tate, Domestic Allegories of Political Desire: The Black Heroine's Text at the Turn of the Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 5.

32. Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction, 67.

33. Marcus, Apartment Stories, 53. See also Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction, 59.

34. Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction, 8.

35. Janice N. Brownfoot, "Memsahibs in Colonial Malaya: A Study of European Wives in a British Colony and Protectorate 1900-1940," in The Incorporated Wife, ed. Hilary Callan and Shirley Ardener (London: Croom Helm, 1984), 195.

36. R. Temple Wright, Baker and Cook--A Domestic Manual for India (1896), 3rd ed. (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co., 1912), 5, 7, 41, 202.

37. Wright, Baker and Cook, 42.

38. Salman Rushdie, "Imaginary Homelands," (1982) in Imaginary Homelands (London: Granta, 1991), 9.

39. Rushdie, "Imaginary Homelands," 10.

40. Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction, 8.

41. The most well-known of such critiques is Inderpal Grewal's discussion of Shame "Salman Rushdie: Marginality, Women and Shame," Genders 3 (Fall 1998), 24-48. This position is reinforced by D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke who in Salman Rushdie (Hampshire: Macmillan, 1998) criticizes the representation of women not only in Shame, but also in Midnight's Children, Grimus, and The Moor's Last Sigh (see pp. 88 and 136). The position on The Satanic Verses in relation to this issue is divided: Goonetilleke sees it as marking a new appreciation of female characters, but this is contradicted by Gayatri Spivak's comments in Outside the Teaching Machine (New York: Routledge, 1993), 223. The most considered response in these terms is perhaps that of Ambreen Hai in "'Marching in From the Peripheries': Rushdie's Feminized Artistry and Ambivalent Feminism," in Critical Essays on Salman Rushdie, ed. Keith Booker (New York: G. K. Hall, 1999), 16-49, who defends Rushdie against earlier criticism but nevertheless argues that "his narratives undermine their own (proto)feminist strains by regressing (perhaps because of a concurrent anxiety about effeminization/emasculation) into reification of stereotypes of gender and sexuality" (18).

42. This is a recurrent theme in Spivak's work: see, for example, her recent work, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), which includes a revised version of her seminal essay, "Can the Subaltern Speak."

43. McClintock, Imperial Leather, 54-55.

44. Ronald Segal, The Black Diaspora: Five Centuries of the Black Experience Outside Africa (New York: Noonday, 1995), 59. See Blunt, "Embodying War," 407-8, and also Jo-Ann Wallace, "'A Class Apart': Josephine Butler and Regulated Prostitution in British India, 1888-1893," in The Body in the Library, ed. Leigh Dale and Simon Ryan (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998), 78.

45. Bill Ashcroft, "Constructing the Post-Colonial Male Body," in The Body in the Library, ed. Leigh Dale and Simon Ryan (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998), 209, 210.

46. Roy, The God of Small Things, 45, 73.

47. George, The Politics of Home, 6.

48. See Homi K. Bhabha, "The Commitment to Theory," in Questions of Third Cinema, ed. Jim Pines and Paul Willemen (London: British Film Institute, 1989), 117.

49. Perla Korosec-Serfaty, "Experience and Use of the Dwelling," in Home Environments, ed. Irwin Altman and Carol M. Werner (New York: Plenum, 1985), 82.

50. Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987) (London: Vintage, 1997).

51. Tirthankar Chanda, "Sexual/Textual Strategies in The God of Small Things," Commonwealth Essays and Studies, 20, no. 1 (1997): 42.

52. Roy, The God of Small Things, 52, 53.

53. Simon G. Barnabas, "Ayemenem and the Ayemenem House: A Study of the Setting of The God of Small Things," in Arundhati Roy: The Novelist Extraordinary, ed. R. K. Dhawan (New Delhi: Prestige, 1999), 299.

54. Mark Seem, introduction to Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane (London: Athlone, 1984), xvii.

55. Caren Kaplan, "Deterritorializations: The Rewriting of Home and Exile in Western Feminist Discourse," Cultural Critique 6 (1987): 195.

56. Korosec-Serfaty, "Experience and Use of the Dwelling," 74, 82, 75.

57. Bill Ashcroft, Post-Colonial Transformation (London: Routledge, 2001). Considering that Ashcroft follows his chapter on habitation with one on horizontality, in which he argues, against his previous point, that habitation is "a process of outwardness" (p. 205), it is surprising that he does not recognize the limits of his spatial classifications. We need to make space, as well as to inhabit and make place.

58. Oliver Marc, Psychology of the House, trans. Jessie Wood (London: Thames and Hudson, 1977), 23-24.

59. Caroline Ifeka, "Domestic Space as Ideology in Goa, India," Contributions to Indian Sociology, 21, no. 2 (1987): 308. Korosec-Serfaty, "Experience and Use of the Dwelling," 78.

60. Frances Armstrong, "Gender and Miniaturization: Games of Littleness in Nineteenth-Century Fiction," English Studies in Canada, 36, no. 4 (1990): 405, 413.

61. Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (1984) (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 46, 54.

62. Marcus, Apartment Stories, 180, 198.

63. Vikram Chandra, Red Earth and Pouring Rain (1995) (London: Faber, 2000); Vijay Singh, Whirlpool of Shadows (London: Jonathan Cape, 1992).

64. Hulme, The Bone People, 36.

65. Ibid.

66. See Korosec-Serfaty, "Experience and Use of the Dwelling," 71.

67. Tuan, Space and Place, 138.

68. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (1964), trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon, 1994), 85.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100114003