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Rewriting Gendered Spaces within the Nation in:

A Clear Light of Day and No Telephone to Heaven [authors or not?]


Topic sentences and thesis must all go together and be specific
To write is not only to speak for ones place in the world. It is also to make ones own place and narrative, to
tell the story of oneself, to create an identity (Boehmer, 94)
In her text, Stories of Women: Gender and Narrative in the Postcolonial Nation, Elleke Boehmer writes
from a transnational perspective to demonstrate both the necessity and the problem of anti-colonial nationalism.
She critiques the gender-specific structures within the postcolonial nation that emulate the Manichean binaries
of colonial ideology and impede the realization of national liberation. According to Manichean logic, colonial
power is characterized as disciplined, assertive, rational, superior, and masculine thereby constituting legitimate
and true power. In contrast, the colonized native is negated as disorderly, lawless, irrational, inferior, and
feminine, thus, defined by a lack or void. Thus, systems of power and knowledge are instituted through the
construct of a gender binary.
Ashcroft et als discussion of place illuminates the ways that gender feeds into Manichaeism and
configures national spaces and relations in the postcolonial nation. A pre-colonial sense of place is experienced
as being connected to ones own being for the ways that place is rooted in a cultural history, folklore, and
language (Ashcroft et al, 177). They explain how colonization creates a sense of dislocation and disidentity by
disrupting the precolonial meaning of place in a number of ways in order to restructure identities and social
relations. One way this is accomplished is by physically dislocating people from their place for the purpose of
enclosing it to create property or commodity. A sense of place is also conceptually dislocated by the modern and
dualistic severing of time from space creating a notion of an abstract, ahistorical, and empty space. Finally,
place is disrupted is by the imposition of colonial language. Since the vocabulary of colonial language is rooted
in the myth of an empty space bereft of time, native history and legends that are crucial in describing and
authentically experiencing place are alienated from their locales. The formation of a timespace dichotomy
posits the concept of modern time as universal and masculine while space is physically enclosed and defined as
a negation of meaning or history thereby gendered feminine. These gendered dualities set the stage upon which
social reality is enacted and national identity is constructed.
Boehmer explains that national identity is entwined with textuality through official languages, definitive
histories, and cultural traditions. Accordingly, male nationalists of the emergent nation inherit the gendered
values of colonial dominance and preserve them in consolidating their own power through national authorship.
Nationalist narrative thus remains masculinist and continues to displace and dispossess women of the nation.
Boehmer advocates that male-centered national narrative can be textually subverted as postcolonial female
authors recover personal agency by writing themselves into national narratives. Accordingly, in the novels: A
Clear Light of Day and No Telephone to Heaven, Anita Desai and Michelle Cliff (respectively) engage with the
use spatial metaphors to interrogate and rewrite gendered spaces within the nation. In doing so, they employ
concepts of place to reconcile the oppositional dualities of colonial ideology and create hybrid spaces of selfrepresentation and determination. SOMETHING ABOUT HISTORY?

Anita Desais novel A Clear Light of Day employs the principles of affiliation, a process of identification
through culture in creating a complex portrait of post-colonial India during the partition between India and
Pakistan in 1947. Desai uses the splitting of the Das family to represent the larger societal and political struggles
of the postcolonial nation-state. She focuses on the female characters, particularly Bim, to reconcile the
gendered spaces created or exacerbated by the Manichaeism of colonial ideology.
BHARAT MATA Bims character is complex in the ways that it troubles the dichotomized gender roles
of the nation. Bim is equated [parallel with the land must go here as well as the nation-women tropebharat
mata but she remains unwed and wants knowledge]hybrid: gender ambiguity? She occupies a space
associated with traditional self-sacrifishe will never leave her family but then comnplicates it with knowledhe
and will also will also never get married. Bharat mata
Though Bim has nurturing qualities associate her with domesticity and the national trope of the Bharat
Mata (Mother India), she deviates from solely a maternal or feminine identity by simultaneously occupying
[this could segway into discussion on feminine spaces of domesticity] moves through domestic spaces as a
nurturer in the home masculine spaces of knowledge and politics. [TS: uses these spaces to rehistorisize?
gender] For example, Bim participates in a political discussion and counters the neocolonial attitudes of native
elites. Bims brother-in-law and Indian Ambassador for America, Bakul, is questioned on how he responds to
American interrogations regarding the corruption of Indian officials to which he replies:
What I feel is my duty, my vocation, when I am abroad, is to be my countrys ambassador. All
of us are, in varying degrees, ambassadors. I refuse to talk about famine or drought or caste wars
or political disputes. I refuse I refuse to discuss such things. [] I choose to show them and
inform them only of the best, the finest [:] The Taj Mahalthe Bhagavad GitaIndian
philosophymusicartthe great, immortal values of ancient India. But why talk of local
politics, party disputes, election malpractices, Nehru, his daughter, his grandsonsuch matters
as soon will pass into oblivion? These arent important when compared with India, eternal
India. (emphasis added, 35)
SKEWS DOMESTIC AND POLITICAL Bakuls represents a nativist view of India and native culture as an
abstract idea consisting of immortal images and artifacts lifted from their contexts. By informing the west of
eternal India, he essentializes India as an unchanging ahistorical place and perpetuates colonial myths of an
empty space. In doing so, he exoticizes native culture which for western consumption and exploitation thereby
mobilizing neocolonial relations between America and India. Bim contextualizes Bakuls narrative responding,
Yes, it does help to live abroad if you feel that way [] If you lived here, and particularly if you served the
Government here, I think you would be obliged to notice such things: you would see their importance
(emphasis added, 37). Bim points out the willful ignorance, indeed escapist attitude, required to entertain
Bakuls position. She also indicates that Bakuls perspective is rooted in his allegiance to the American
government, which establishes him as a comprador or native elite who misidentifies with colonial power and is
not representative of his native people (Ashcroft et al, 61). Bim continues, In all the comfort and luxury of the
embassy, it must be much easier, very easy to concentrate on the Taj, or the Emperor Akbar. Over here Im
afraid you would be too busy queuing up for your rations and juggling with your budget, making ends meet
(emphasis added, 37). By juxtaposing the comforts and luxuries of working for the embassy to the everyday
struggles of Indian people living in poverty, Bim alludes to the economically exploitive, neocolonial
relationship with ex-colonial powers that enables an extravagant lifestyle. In this way, she exposes Bakuls
mentality as being inherently contradictory and dehumanizing. Furthermore, by refuting myths of native

essentialism and an ahistorical space. Bim reconciles the Manichean duality colonial ideology. Gendered
spaces: of political and private spaces and moves through masculine. Bim mocks Bakuls authority.
RESTORES HISTORY/ TIMESPACE Bim continues to dismantle the colonial narrative of Bakuls
dialogue by restoring a sense of history in reconciling binaries of time and space disrupted by colonial
interference. One way she does this is by her role as a history teacher. Bims history lessons take place in the
Das house in Old Delhi. This setting is important because the splitting of Delhi into new and old counterparts is
a result of British colonialism. Accordingly, Old Delhi is described as a dull, uninviting provincial museum
where nothing changes and the neighborhood a great cemetery, every house a tomb (21, 5). Therefore, there is
a sense of stagnancy and unlife to Old Delhi. In contrast New Delhi is the colonial and national capital which
later grew to subsume Old Delhi. It is where things happen and contains the lively and energetic qualities that
Old Delhi lacks (5). Bim registers this colonial relation to Old Delhis decay as she explains snapping her
fingers, the British built New Delhi and moved everything out. Here we are left rocking on the backwaters,
getting duller and greyer (5). Thus, the two cities represent the Manichean duality that associates the colonial
capital as new, progressive, and lively and has caused Old Delhi to become static, unchanging, and lifeless.
Bim transforms the static space of the Das house and Old Delhi into a dynamic and inviting classroom
that fills the house with the laughter and vibrancy of a brightly colored bunch of young girls (18). The
imagery of these girls paired with descriptions of parrots in guava trees revitalizes the home, and by extension
Old Delhi. Seeing her students get distracted by an ice cream vendor during the lecture, Bim refers to her
students as babies a description that juxtaposes with the deathly qualities that describe the home and
neighborhood and injects a sense of hope and future. Accordingly, Bims lectures also are a mixing of the past,
present, and future spaces. Set in the old Das house in the present time, they not only contain the history of the
nation and the house but simultaneously contain the future of India, the students. In this way, Bim not skews
political and domestic spaces, but also reconciles compartmentalized and indeed dichotomized by colonial
power. Place or history of a place, its memory and language links time and space
HISTORISIZE LAND Bim continues to skew the binaries of time and space by reclaiming the legends of the
land and paying homage to the sacred Jumna River. Bims sister Tara tells her that she wonders how they played
in the river as kids referring to it as drab, dust and mud and adds that its hardly a riverits nothing, just
nothing (24). Bim corrects Tara revealing the layers of history and meaning that the river holds saying that it is,
On whose banks Krishna played his flute and Radha danced? [] Its where my ashes will be thrown after Im
dead and burnt [] it is where Mira-masis (Aunt) ashes were thrown [] its where we played as children
(24). This relating of Hindu gods and texts, the self, and ancestors to the river establishes place as a site of
cultural and personal identity formation. This view of being tied to the land or in some sense being owned by
the land undermines the colonial logic of commodification that views land as property (Ashcroft, 179-180).
Furthermore, it restores a sense of place in a space rendered empty.
APPROPRIATION [language or hybridity can be inserted here] 54-55 Hindu college English lit; Byronic
hero : romantic hero figure 165 poetry her house
177 english literature and urdu poetry in iqbals verse abrogates the standard as universal human values.
Desai is performing an afiliative treatment of canonical English literature. Listening to iqbals poetry evokes
mea of raja, TS eliot, understands the family bonds that link her to raja and tara. So colonialism makes a case
for literature as having a transformative power. Arts healing ability
Talk about hybridity

This historical and cultural significance of place is epitomized at the end of the novel when Bim looks
upon her home from the outside. She recognizes the history of their house as a palimpsest giving them soil in
which to send down their roots, food to make them grow and spread, reach out to new experiences and new
lives, but always drawing from the same soil, the same secret darkness. That soil contained all time, past and
future, in it (182). This moment is important as Bim reconciles her familys displacement and alienation and
articulates a complex post-colonial positionality of her home and familial relationships. By extension she also
reconciles the national diaspora of which the Das family is an emblem. This striking metaphor transforms the
Das house from a tomb or cemetery into a tree that simultaneously branches out to bear future life whose roots
mesh into the soil containing their past. Thus, Bim restores the sense of time and history to the colonial creation
of an empty, alienated space exemplified by the house, the Das family Diaspora, and the nation for which it is a
microcosm.
Overall Desai appropriates traditional tropes of the Bharat Mata to broaden the female identity as she
textually asserts female selfhood in a national framework. Thus, she transform male-centered national narrative
and revises Manichean binaries of gender and place. By revising the female identity Desai also revises the
national identity as one that does not exist as Manichean compartments but rather as a complex reality that is
constantly negotiated and rooted in history and place.

1) Intro
a. In the novel No Telephone to Heaven Michelle Cliff similarly recuperates national consciousness
through a female character and revises woman-as-nation tropes. In doing so she conjures a
cultural and historical, national consciousness that survives physical displacement amidst
neocolonial or capitalist globalization. Accordingly, the novel maps the diasporas of Clare
Savage through the route of the neocolonial global expansion from America, the new imperial
power, England, the former colonizers, and ultimately returning to Jamaica, her homeland. Cliff
focuses on X to reconcile gendered spaces of dualities
2) Linked with the land like Bim
a. Clare body is equated with the Jamaicas national body in the way that Clare and Jamaica have
been dispossessed and left barren by the colonial relations. When Clare is in conversation with a
revolutionary soldier, he informs Clare of the contaminated water from western industries that
leaches into the land. [] [and] cover[s] [people] with a fine dust that invades them creating
an [use the entire quote if it flows betterpaper should be longer anyway] infected nation that
gives rise to birth defects and brain damage (195). At another point a shopkeeper who
remembered Clare as a child also remarks on the infected condition of the nation remarking that
Jamaica is a place with No Vaccine. But plenty-plenty polio (187) indicating that the
devastating economic and social problems have left the nation diseased. Clares body is linked
to her ancestral homeland in that she, too, has suffered the sterility and damage from as a result
of colonial conquest. Clare is rendered sterile by a raging infection in her womb (169) as a
result of her partner, Bobbys, exposure to the warfare chemical found in a drum with an orange
stripe or Agent Orange (156) during the Vietnam War. In this way, despite Clares physical
displacement, the traces of colonial conquest that are inscribed on her body forever link her to
her homeland.
3) refutes fathers self effeacement
a. example of father speaking with an acceont?
b. colonial ambivalence and lack of a history to place herself, mimicry
4) history of the land
a. Clares search for identity cannot be achieved without a sense of place and history. Clare
registers this in school when she articulates Aristotles definition of place in the physics [:] Each
thing exists in place. Each thing is described by place (Cliff, 117). Thus the novel can be read as
a pursuit to historicize the self. How does Clare repossess her history?
b. How does she restore the sense of history that was previously erased?
5) repossesses history of language, folklore, and trickster figures
a. Language: the novel begins with a vocabulary lesson on the history of the term ruinate. . [talk
about the importance of textuality (Ashcroft)] It starts with a vocabulary lesson on the Jamaican
term ruinate referring to a sort of reclaiming of the land by the jungle and natural resources or
a lapse of tilled land back into bush (Cliff, 1). Though this ruination of the land devastates
Clares grandmothers carefully planned flowers (8) it also marks a return to the pre-colonial
condition of the land that combats the colonial ideology that calls for an economic justification
for land, which underlies the western concept of property (Ashcroft, 180). It therefore undoes
the demarcations of the colonial notion of property and ownership of the land which are

associated with colonial frontier ideology of the savage and civilized (179-180). This organic
condition of the land reinstates the past into the present as well as the future thereby restoring the
indigenous sense of the time and history that was rendered into an empty space by colonial
ideology and representation (179). [Music and history and connection with land.] Leveling the
ruinated land the revolutionaries swing their blades in unison, sometimes singing songs they
remembered from the grandmothers and grandfathers who had swung their own blades once in
the canefields (Cliff, 10). In this way, the ruination develops a therapeutic sense of history and
community as the Jamaicans revive the history of colonialism and conquest through their
parents slave songs [but this time they are for commemorating and healing the wound of
colonial erasure of their history.
i. Ashcroft talks about the importance of language in defining place
b. borders of languageABROGATION and sexuality
6) fights as a revolutionaryfemale resistence with Hariet
7) conclusion:
a. In Jamaica Clare relearns the true history of her people and restores the sense of cultural history
that was previously denied to her in the US and England. This cultural history is essential for
Clares process of identity formation as it is the context within which a pre-colonial and
indigenous sense of place and by extension the self is embedded (Ashcroft, 177).