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Domesticity and Magic Realist Texts

Domesticity and Magic Realist Texts

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Published by Mehmid Ashik
Domesticity and Magic Realist salman rushdie midnight children
Domesticity and Magic Realist salman rushdie midnight children

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Published by: Mehmid Ashik on Jul 10, 2013
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03/21/2014

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260
frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2
Domesticity in Magical-RealistPostcolonial Fiction
Reversals of Representation in Salman Rushdie’s
Midnight’s Children
sara upstone
Anne McClintock’s assertion that “imperialism cannot be understood with-out a theory o domestic space” illustrates contemporary critical awarenessthat colonialism cannot be considered only in terms o “public” structures,such as the nation or city, but must also be debated in terms o its construc-tion through the private lives o both colonizer and colonized.
1
Against theanthropological tradition’s repetition o the patriarchal division o public andprivate spheres—treating the house as a “sel-contained world,” the globe splitbetween an inside o emotional dialogues and an outside o political negotia-tions, “intimacy and exposure, o private lie and public space”—colonial dis-course analysis ocuses requently on the home as a site o power contestation.
2
 “[C]onnected to, and perhaps stemming rom, the principles o spatiality,” asBill Ashcrot has noted, “. . . the idea o enclosure, or property, has dominatedcolonizers’ views o place.”
3
Postcolonial critics connect the home to politicalstruggle: “a site o resistance” with “a radical political dimension.”
4
Not only does such a home distance itsel rom representations in geography, spatialtheory, and conventional anthropology, it is at the same time distinguishedrom colonial representations o the home.In this paper, my ocus is on the postcolonial novel and how this novel’srepresentation o domestic space, refecting the concerns outlined above,addresses the preexisting relationship between domesticity and colonialism.I use Salman Rushdie’s
 Midnight’s Children
as a ction indicative o postcolo-nial authors’ engagement with issues o domestic space and its colonial impli-cations.
5
Combining close reading o Rushdie’s text and more overarchingtheoretical discussion, I want to suggest that at the center o the postcolonialnovel’s ocus on the home is the desire to unravel and undermine processescentral to the colonial home, asking or the idea o “home” to be examined notmetaphorically, as I will suggest is key to the colonial home, but, instead, liter-ally. In such a distinction are two opposing representations o domestic space:
 
261
Upstone: Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction
the dwelling o the postcolonial novel, and the home as a orce o coloniza-tion. In the dwelling o the postcolonial novel, this latter metaphorical “colo-nial home” is an unspoken intertext. At the center o the postcolonial literary treatment o domesticity, thereore, is a reversal o representation, in whichthe home is no longer presented in denial o its political status to construct acolonial ideal but is instead explicitly political. Throughout the paper, I willsuggest the implications that this reversal has, not only or colonial discourse,but also or associated concepts o colonial and postcolonial gender politics.Finally, through a reading o the home’s personal spaces, I will suggest that it isthe domestic space that, in the postcolonial novel, in act embodies the subver-sion o colonial order.
colonial and postcolonial domesticity
In colonial discourse, the home can be seen as a structure both prominentand overlooked: prominent because o ideological investment in the homein both fction and nonfction that, at the height o colonialism, saw it take acentral place in political and literary discourse; overlooked precisely becauseo the motivation behind this prevalence, meaning the house never really rep-resented what it was but rather acted metaphorically or the colonial proj-ect itsel—an exemplifcation o Homi Bhabha’s argument that the nation ismaintained by metaphorical and metonymic strategies.
6
Such unction is sup-ported by Alison Blunt, or whom domestic imagery was a crucial actor inencouraging support or action against Indian mutiny where “the domesticimages o ‘houses,’ ‘wardrobes’ and ‘cravats’ appear to stand or British rule inIndia.”
7
The home becomes a microcosm o the colony; even increased use o particular household items is intimately entwined with colonial expansion,what McClintock calls “the mass marketing o empire as an organized systemo images and attitudes”:Both the cult o domesticity and the new imperialism ound in soap anexemplary mediating orm. The emergent middle class values—monog-amy (“clean” sex, which has value), industrial capital (“clean” money,which has value), Christianity (“being washed in the blood o the lamb”),class control (“cleansing the great unwashed”) and the imperial civilizingmission (“washing and clothing the savage”)—could all be marvelously embodied in a single household commodity.
8
In this reading o colonial domestic discourse, acquisition o territory and itsassociation with violence are replaced with the establishment o home, and—rather than violence—an association with the natural and timeless processes
 
262
frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2
o settlement. In keeping with this, the political role o the home—thoughever-present—is obscured. A harmonious ideal is invoked, as “the values andbehaviour inculcated in the home were considered crucial to the ormationand maintenance o national identity, a necessary protection against less pre-dictable social and economic changes.”
9
Using the home to stand or the colo-ny, the colonial nation’s discourse o naturalness is propagated.Such an ideal, however, is all part o the ction. This has been exposed inthe writing o Sigmund Freud, whose discussion o “The Uncanny” (“
DasUnheimliche 
”) captures that what is “homely” is always “unhomely.” Theexplosion o “uncanny” events both rightening and disturbing are a result o the repression o turmoil in the service o a desire to present a vision o naturalorder.
10
This is urther emphasized in the work o Sharon Marcus, or whomnineteenth-century metropolitan homes were, despite seemingly solid bound-aries, already “fuid spaces.”
11
Domestic order, denying the colonial exploita-tion and tension inherent in colonial settlement, was rigorously enorced inthe colonies themselves. In his study o colonial space in German South-WestArica, J. K. Noyes oers an account o the fuid spaces underlying colonialsettlement and the stratication o these spaces through imperial discourses.Importantly, the domestic space is not exempt rom this control. Observationo indigenous citizens’ homes by their employers and indoctrination into nor-malized domestic practices through a discourse o moral concern was com-monplace: “the dwellings are to be constructed in a specic way, because they are to be used in a specic way [. . . to enable] a strategy o surveillance andclassication.”
12
 Here what happens inside homes plays its part: orderly, clean, and well-keptdwellings serve to maintain the colony’s order on the scale o the individualamily. At least in English colonies and neocolonial America, the home ol-lowed Victorian trends in domestic practice. Nineteenth-century domestic-ity may have been an illusion but, as Antoinette Burton emphasizes, it wasnevertheless—indeed perhaps even more so because o this—a powerul orce,and one inherently tied to colonies.
13
Not only was the colony described inhousehold terms, but the household, in all its grandeur, was a microcosm orthe wealth o empire and its maintenance as “the Victorian middle-class homebecame a space or the display o imperial spectacle . . . while the colonies . . .became a theater or exhibiting the Victorian cult o domesticity that neededconstant and scrupulous policing.” The spatialized hierarchies o the colonialhome seem to enorce such suggestion, “domestic space . . . mapped as a hier-archy o specialized and distinct boundaries,” in the same way that the colony is divided into territories; both divisions are heavily enorced, both boundariesnaturalized by documents—architectural plans or national maps.
14
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