Representation of Women in Shama Futehally’s Tara Lane

Literature as discipline necessarily involves representation, and the twentieth century has witnessed a spurt of new literatures. This new trend questions the elitism and exclusiveness of literature so as to represent the voice of the formerly oppressed ‘Other.’ The inaudible and marginalized voice is brought to the forefront so that the earlier erasure and deliberate hegemonic mindset is subverted. The subaltern discourse inspired by the scholarship of Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Eric Stokes in England was adopted by Ranajit Guha and his peer group consisting primarily of historians as a narrative strategy to formulate a new narrative of the Indian history. The concept of “Subalterns” was first referred by Italian political activist Antonio Gramsci in “Notes on Italian History” which later appeared as a part of his seminal text Prison Notebooks. He used the term specifically to refer to “workers and peasants” who had been suffering under hegemonic domination of a ruling class that denied them the basic rights of participation in the making of local history and culture as equal individuals in the nation. He strongly felt that the citizens/subalterns must be united as a social, cultural and political force with the awareness of its distinct consciousness. The subalterns have no independent space from where to articulate their voice because hegemony conditions them to believe in the dominant values. “Gramsci believed that the intellectual has the responsibility to search out subaltern initiative and class consciousness and effective political action” (Roy 16).

Epistemologically the term “subaltern” is a British word which means someone of inferior rank. The term signifies those groups in society who are dominated by the hegemony of the ruling classes. The subaltern discourse revisits the historical past which completely sidelined or ignored the subaltern representation. The dominant power structure controls the concepts of national identity, social reform and developmental parameters and the subaltern discourse seeks to reconsider and reexamine it with a fresh perspective. The suppression of subaltern experiences into silence and absolute devaluation in national historiography is being contested and attention is being drawn towards the reconstruction of it. In contemporary times, especially in Indian context, the subalterns are the poor, the dalits, and the tribals, and their study thus has become a point of reference for the social historians, political scientists, anthropologists, policy makers and researchers.

Rekha Sharma

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