Alessandra Marino

Modernism and Indian Citizenship: Mahasweta Devi Rewrites the Political Subject

  • Abstract

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Keywords: modernisation, India, citizenship, subaltern

The rise of the aesthetic language of modernism in India was intimately related to the early anticolonial struggle and the birth of the nation. Referring to the transition towards the postcolonial state, in Habitations of Modernity (2002) Dipesh Chakrabarty draws a direct link between modernity, politicality and citizenship. Such triangulation, echoing Western political theory, is at the core of this article: reading Mahasweta Devi's creative writing against Chakrabarty's work, I question the possibility of seeing citizenship as the passage to modernity. Devi's short stories reveal how the acquisition of citizenship did not allow adivasis (indigenous people) to access the promise of 'development' that modernity signified during nationalism. Devi's acute realism denounces the liberal ideal of the citizen as a colonial construct and strips the postcolonial nation of its modern attribution.

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