South Asia: Table of Contents
Organizer and Chair: Parama Roy, University of California, Riverside
Discussant: Alan Tansman, Georgetown University
It is not repetition or regurgitation of narratives that marks difference; rather, this panel argues, ruptures in the standard master narrative rearrange the ways in which we conceptualize the world. Such upheavals in the ways we look, examine, and remember, each paper suggests, muddies the difference between genresautobiography/history, cookbooks/memoirs, and American Westerns/"Indian" film genres.
Looking at Sara Suleris Meatless Days and Madhur Jaffreys A Taste of India, Parama Roy suggests that the memory of "home" in each text is evoked only by dissolving the difference between autobiography and cookbook, and finally drawing them closer through feminized national-diasporic affiliations. Sandhya Shettys reading of Anandibai Joshis biographies argues that these texts have to be incorporated as "case histories" into the discourses of imperial medicine. Anandis letters and memoirs of her travels to America provide us unique insights into the specifically transnational character of the gendered medical-scientific network of the nineteenth century. While notions of femininity frame the first two papers, Lalitha Gopalan turns to Hindi and Tamil "action" films to consider how articulations of masculinity in these films is tied to class and caste antagonisms. Genre formations allow us a point of entry into the various relationships between the two regional film industries, national and transnational film genres, and cinema, the state, and questions of gendering.
Above all, the panel seeks to demonstrate the ways in which South Asian questions and subjects are significantly routed, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, not simply through imperial Britain, but through America.
Lalitha Gopalan, Georgetown University
This paper looks at a number of recent films in Tamil and Hindi cinema which focus on aggressive social antagonisms played out in the periphery of the national geographical space. The dominant action in these filmscontestations over caste, class, and regional identities in J. P. Duttas Kshatriya (1992) and Batwara (1989), Bharatans Thevar Magan (1992) and Bharathi Rajas Seemayile (1993)revolves around the persistence of feudal relationships in remote parts of Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, far removed from the democratic forces of postcolonial India. The central concern of the paper lies not only in unravelling the particular links between each of these volatile social antagonisms, but also to foreground their links to representations of masculinity.
The relationship among the state, masculinity, and violence is only one of the modes of address in these films. The intertwining of "frontier" landscapes in the mise-en-scene with aggressive masculinity recalls the genre of American Westerns as they have been developed by John Ford. Addressing the Fordian universe, these Indian films, too, deploy the "frontier" to heighten social antagonisms, but unlike the idyllic representations of the American frontier, they seek to historicize this landscape by foregrounding the intersection between colonial and feudal modes of control that continue to inform the postcolonial state apparatus. This unique riposte with its focus on dissonances in secular democracy produced through pugnacious histories of class-caste differences breathes fresh air into an American genre that is now nearly extinct in its traditional form. In other words, I argue that the most engaging examples of the "Western" are found in Indian cinema and not in Hollywood.
Sandhya Shetty, University of New Hampshire
The core issue of this paper is how a reader interested in the imperial history of medicine might intervene in the recorded memoirs and memories of Anandibai Joshithe case history of the "first Brahmin woman doctor." As the genre of the case history suggests, pathology/medicine and history/biography have a cunning relationship. This paper will use the multiple registers of the "case history" to lever its study of the first Brahmin woman dying to be a doctor in British India. If the principle that "discovery" focuses too narrowly on the main event while the real stuff is happening around it holds, then the value of these multiple biographies of the "first woman doctor" seemingly unconcerned with the central story of Anandibai as doctor must be reimagined. My paper attempts to explore how these memoirs and life story texts (Caroline Dall, Life of Dr. Anandibai Joshee , Pundita Ramabai, The High-Caste Hindu Woman , Kashibai Kanitkar, Anandibai Joshi Yanche Charitra va Patre , and S. J. Joshi, Anandi Gopal ) may be read as part of the historical archives of colonial Indian medicine.
Anandis case prompts a consideration that the problematic of medical modernity and imperialism must be located within a transnational context that bypasses the colonial state and its avowed role in the institutionalization of modern medicines disciplinary apparatus. My paper will thus argue for and explore the place of "America" in the study of empire and medicine in late nineteenth-century India.
Parama Roy, University of California, Riverside
"Expatriates," says Sara Suleri in Meatless Days, "are adamant, entirely passionate about such matters as the eating habits of the motherland." Suleris novel articulates the precise and haunting ways in which (gendered) national/regional identities are, as it were, tested (sometimes disturbingly) upon the tongue. This essay examines the evocation and management of gendered memory and "Indian" identities in conditions of migration and diaspora; in particular, it investigates the ways in which food and cooking have become, in several filmic and published texts, the favoured optic to broach questions of national-diasporic filiation and affiliation and their economics of taste and consumption. It does this through a focus on the publishing and filmic career of Madhur Jaffrey, conceivably the greatest popular authority on Indian culinary arts in the United States and England; and in doing this, it seeksamong other thingsto render fuzzy the generic boundaries between recipes and autobiography, so that even if it is not quite possible to read Meatless Days as a cookbook, we might learn to classify A Taste of India as an autobiographical fiction. It elaborates the intimacy among practices of reading, eating, cooking, and being eaten that the cookbooks enact. Finally, it stresses the intertextuality of culinary and the filmic imagination for any consideration of Jaffreys gastropoetics, examining Shakespeare Wallah for its investment in the semiotic pliancy and range of the gastronomic image.