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Sara Upstone

Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Volume 28, Numbers 1 and

2, 2007, pp. 260-284 (Article)
DOI: 10.1353/fro.2007.0036

For additional information about this article

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Domesticity in Magical-Realist
Postcolonial Fiction
Reversals of Representation in Salman Rushdies Midnights Children

sara upstone

Anne McClintocks 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 traditions repetition of the patriarchal division of public and
private spherestreating 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 spacecolonial 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 novels
representation of domestic space, reflecting the concerns outlined above,
addresses the preexisting relationship between domesticity and colonialism.
I use Salman Rushdies Midnights Children as a fiction indicative of postcolonial authors engagement with issues of domestic space and its colonial implications.5 Combining close reading of Rushdies text and more overarching
theoretical discussion, I want to suggest that at the center of the postcolonial
novels 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:
260 frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2

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 homes 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 itselfan exemplification of Homi Bhabhas 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 valuesmonogamy (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 violencean association with the natural and timeless processes
Upstone: Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction

of settlement. In keeping with this, the political role of the homethough

ever-presentis 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 nations 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
Here what happens inside homes plays its part: orderly, clean, and well-kept
dwellings serve to maintain the colonys 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
neverthelessindeed perhaps even more so because of thisa 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 documentsarchitectural plans or national maps.14 That it is
262 frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2

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
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 Midnights Children, one might
draw upon Keri Hulmes The Bone People, Arundhati Roys The God of Small
Things, Ben Okris Famished Road Trilogy, Wilson Harriss Da Silva da Silvas
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 disordereach within its own
unique postcolonial context, contexts that cover the Caribbean, the United
States, Africa, and Australasiaas well as reaffirming the connection to Indian
postcolonial literature.17 In Hulmes 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 positionas 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 homes spiral staircase interrogates linearity and order with the
promise that you cant 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 novels conclusion, Kerewin builds a very different sort of
Upstone: Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction

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 Kerewins 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 atoms 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 Harriss Da Silva da Silvas
Cultivated Wilderness, a colonial home in Londons Holland Park is re-visioned
by its immigrant owner. Transforming the domestic space into an artists
studio, what the central character da Silva paints is a refusal to deny the homes
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 novels 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 Im 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
264 frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2

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 andfrom a postcolonial point of viewimmensely damaging. The usage supports Nathaniel
Mackeys discussion of imagery in relation to Wilson Harris: Such recourse to
metaphor betrays an estrangement, a distance, that the metaphorthe word
is derived from a verb meaning to carry overseeks 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 Rushdies Midnights 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, Saleems destinies indissolubly chained to
those of my country (9). Equally, in relation to Morrisons Beloved we recognize the implied authors 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: Beloveds central location of 124 Bluestone Road may
be read as metaphor for the slave ship. The two spaces are seemingly unconUpstone: Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction

nected, 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 houses meaning and the slave community. As the implied history of the house covers the same time-span as Beloveds 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
andbecause metonymy (in contrast to the colonial metaphor) is context
bound and therefore exposes specific cultural values, prejudices, and limitationscounters 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 awakeningnot 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 Armstrongs argument that nineteenth-century fictions 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 novels 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 Nineteenthcentury 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 orderto overwrite chaosso females are responsible for echoing
this in the home and providing refuge from the perceived turmoil of the mar266 frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2

ket place.34 Firmly establishing the metaphorical connection, in the colonies

competent home management was part of a wifes 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 sicle, 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 nations homes, to buy pots from any large European
shop, and to buy and keep cows because of poor local standards of herdraising.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 area 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 novels 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 womens
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 todays 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 homes
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
Upstone: Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction

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 novels
use of domesticity as an anti-imperial setting. While gender differences are
indicated, remaking and re-visioning the homere-instilling its political
status as a challenge to the colonial discourse of domesticitylargely 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 representationaway from the service of colonial discoursemeans that the homes 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 authorMidnights Children by Salman Rushdieoffers
one specific way into the complexities of postcolonial literary reversals of colonial domesticity.
reversing the overwriting
The choice of Salman Rushdies Midnights Children to exemplify this process
is motivated by the authors 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 novels 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 Midnights 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 Rushdies 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
268 frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2

thing that was lost39a metaphor of fallibility and failure that resonates with
Mackeys discussion of Harris. Salman Rushdies Midnights Children is centered on the remembrance of domestic structures as a flawed corrective to the
loss and instability of colonial dislocation. Rushdies 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:
Ghanis house, the house of Saleems 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 Saleems 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, Rushdies 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 Saleems 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 homes infiltration by political concerns. In such a
way, Saleems 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. Rushdies homes are immersed in the chaos that colonial
discourse of the home overwrites. They are spaces of violent disorder with
Upstone: Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction

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 narrators 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 Spivaks 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 narrators 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 wasnt a system of self-defence at
all, but a means of defence against her self.) (4041).
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 novels critique often subsumes
270 frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2

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 McClintocks 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 spacetheir 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
Midnights Children thus presents a unified experience of oppression that
reflects this complex interaction, in which the domestic is for both male and
femalein unique waysa 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 grandfathers 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 magicians 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 scalewhere
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 Roys The God of Small Things, racism against crosscultural relationships is not escaped from in the Ayemenem House, but rather
Upstone: Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction

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 Methwolds sale of his home to the Sinai family, an empire in miniature that comes to represent the perpetuation of imperialism after independence.47 Methwolds estate is a perfect example of the colonial ordering of territory on a domestic level, geometry and symmetry in four identical houses
. . . conquerors 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). Methwolds 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 Saleems 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 novels 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 homes
political status is made explicit. In its bleakness, Rushdie constructs a postcolonial metaphor that raises explicitly the realization of the colonial metaphors
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
idealnot 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
272 frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2

of home, this is not its whole. For the postcolonial writing of the domestic is
not interested simply in negation but rather, in Bhabhas 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 Roys The God of Small Things, for example, the homes
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 Morrisons 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 Indias 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 Historythe capitalized, official formwith 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 novels 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
Upstone: Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction

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 deterritorializationsignifying removal of fixed boundaries
and the renewal of the abstractoffers 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 activitiesOrnamentation, 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 Azizs 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 homes most powerful figures
274 frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2

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 imperiouslymeaning, according
to the Oxford English Dictionary, supreme or absolute rule, imperially
denotes that it is Reverend Mothers own personal appropriation of colonial
rule. In situations where women cannot simply reject their role in the home,
Rushdies 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:
Rushdies fragmented, chaotic presentation is not the mark of the migrants
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 Khans
concealment under my familys 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 connotationsmost notably in the use of womens domestic work as appropriation,
and in the questioning of Indian nationalist patriarchyMidnights 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.
Upstone: Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction

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 spacesthe spaces of the house that visitors never
enterparadoxically 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 interiorizationcontainment, enclosure, covering, wrapping, repression,
silence, sequestrationproduce 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 establishmentand therefore protectedspaces of the domestic interior.
Midnights Children immediately foregrounds the positive importance of
the spaces within the home in an opening chapter that introduces us to an

276 frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2

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 Saleems 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 novels 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 narrators privileging of
them and to multiple meaningsSaleems 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 Marquezstyle dnouement, Saleems 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 Roys well-known repetition of the pickles motif but also Vikram Chandras use of magical ladoos in
Red Earth and Pouring Rain and the magical kababs of Vijay Singhs 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 novels resignation, witness to the questions . . . dreams
(461) that remain. In the wake of colonial appropriation of other personal
spacestesticles 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
Upstone: Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction

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 Kerewins 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 Kerewins tower. Like the
spiral staircase, it is a mark of the possibility latent in Kerewins lifeobscure
and only to be revealed with the disruption offered by Simons entry into her
life.65 Like Saleems 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 Saleems
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
278 frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2

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
Saleems awakeninghis transformation into an untuned radio (163) for the
children of midnightand 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, Saleems masculinity is not an issue in this use of the home. Saleems
appropriation of the bathroom occurs at no expense to the homes 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 Saleems psychic connection to the Midnights
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 personaland perhaps most
stereotypically femalespaces. 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 womens perspectives as conUpstone: Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction

cerns 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
roles 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 inversionstheir 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 structureRushdie 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 complexitythe very
nature of its confusionmake 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 homes 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 Midnights 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

280 frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2

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),
5. Salman Rushdie, Midnights 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), 29194.
7. Alison Blunt, Embodying War: British Women and Domestic Defilement in the
Indian Mutiny, 18578, 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 (19171919): An
Infantile Neurosis and Other Works, ed. James Strachey (London: Vintage, 2001), 21752.
11. Marcus, Apartment Stories, 3.
12. J. K. Noyes, Colonial Space: Spatiality in the Discourse of German South West Africa
18841915 (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 LawrenceZuniga (Oxford: Berg, 1999), 10.
16. R. M. George, The Politics of Home: Postcolonial Relocations and TwentiethCentury 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); Okris 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 Silvas Cultivated Wilderness and Genesis of the Clowns (London: Faber, 1977);
Pauline Melville, Shape-shifter (London: The Womens 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)

Upstone: Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction


18. Hulme, The Bone People, 7.

19. Ibid., 107.
20. Ibid., 32, 76.
21. Ibid., 4423.
22. Ibid., 273.
23. Harris, Da Silva da Silvas Cultivated Wilderness, 65, 43, 52, 77.
24. R. M. George, The Politics of Home: Postcolonial Relocations and TwentiethCentury 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 Morrisons 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, 2324 (emphasis added).
31. Claudia Tate, Domestic Allegories of Political Desire: The Black Heroines 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 19001940, in The Incorporated Wife, ed.
Hilary Callan and Shirley Ardener (London: Croom Helm, 1984), 195.
36. R. Temple Wright, Baker and CookA 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 Grewals discussion of Shame
Salman Rushdie: Marginality, Women and Shame, Genders 3 (Fall 1998), 2448. 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
Midnights Children, Grimus, and The Moors Last Sigh (see pp. 88 and 136). The position

282 frontiers/2007/vol. 28, nos. 1 & 2

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 Spivaks
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: Rushdies Feminized Artistry and Ambivalent Feminism, in
Critical Essays on Salman Rushdie, ed. Keith Booker (New York: G. K. Hall, 1999), 1649,
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 Spivaks 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, 5455.
44. Ronald Segal, The Black Diaspora: Five Centuries of the Black Experience Outside
Africa (New York: Noonday, 1995), 59. See Blunt, Embodying War, 4078, and also
Jo-Ann Wallace, A Class Apart: Josephine Butler and Regulated Prostitution in
British India, 18881893, 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 Dehli: 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.

Upstone: Domesticity in Magical-Realist Postcolonial Fiction


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), 2324.
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.

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