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Lying on the Postcolonial Couch

The Idea of Indifference

2002
Author:

Rukmini Bhaya Nair

Lying on the Postcolonial Couch

Exposes the complicity of language and its uses in the colonial project

Nair's book gives postcolonialism a decent burial and looks forward to ‘a new language of community.’ It exposes the ‘numbing rituals of colonial and postcolonial indifference’ with a light touch, pausing on postmodern theories on the way. It comments on canonical texts as well as obscure poetry written by colonial officials. It offers testimony from the author's pedagogy as well as her poetry. There are also many incidental riches in the pages of this work of experimental criticism. In the wake of 9-11-01, I found the tabulation of Indian students's stereotypes of the United States particularly instructive.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University

A revealing look into the long afterlife of colonial conquest, Lying on the Postcolonial Couch offers an original, overarching concept that informs—and helps to explain—the workings of postcoloniality. This concept, "indifference," is a play on the key critical term "difference." Indifference is a cognitive stance invented during the colonial period for the purpose of organizing the complex domain of the Indian subcontinent, one that created its own brand of poetics. Considering postcoloniality as a symptomatic condition, this book proposes a cure involving a return to buried memories of colonial trauma before the phenomenon itself succumbs to the absolute indifference of the slowly gathering amnesia of the new millennium.

Rukmini Bhaya Nair traces a paper trail beginning in 1757 with the Battle of Plassey, winding through the contentious Mutiny of 1857, and ending with Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses predicament. Along this trail, she uncovers hidden residues of feeling, from guilt and mistrust to wonder and pleasure, and analyzes the linguistic pillars that hold up the institution of bureaucratic indifference that she exposes.

Lying on the Postcolonial Couch

Rukmini Bhaya Nair is professor of English and linguistics in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

Lying on the Postcolonial Couch

Nair's book gives postcolonialism a decent burial and looks forward to ‘a new language of community.’ It exposes the ‘numbing rituals of colonial and postcolonial indifference’ with a light touch, pausing on postmodern theories on the way. It comments on canonical texts as well as obscure poetry written by colonial officials. It offers testimony from the author's pedagogy as well as her poetry. There are also many incidental riches in the pages of this work of experimental criticism. In the wake of 9-11-01, I found the tabulation of Indian students's stereotypes of the United States particularly instructive.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University

An accomplished poet, a philosopher of language, cultural historian, and literary critic of great skill, Rukmini Nair has wonderfully wide-ranging interests and an altogether unusual intellectual intensity and energy. Lying on the Postcolonial Couch has at its core a powerful account of indifference, but it will leave none of its readers indifferent to its rare intelligence and range.

Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard University

Under Nair's guidance we move effortlessly from textual analyses in which literature is approached as a symptom of social evolution, to historical frescoes, heavy with the drama of actuality, and to more philosophical considerations connecting the testimonies of the actors of history, and the seductive logic of the author.

Michael Riffaterre, Columbia University

Lying on the Postcolonial Couch is highly informative from a number of critically popular and essentially geolinguistic perspectives.

Geolinguistics