i had to do a report in class a couple of weeks ago- here are my notes- i kind of just read this whole thing out to the class, which is why i have a lot of strange little asides in there... i liked this report enough to consider turning it into a longer paper- the topic is so dense that i feel i have a lot of room to explore, find a niche within it...
Benita Parry states over and over again in this article that there is a certain kind of resistance that is not resistance at all: "an agenda which disdains the objective of restoring the colonized as subject of its own history does so on the grounds that a simple inversion perpetuates the colonizer/colonized opposition within the terms defined by colonial discourse, remaining complicit with its assumptions by retaining undifferentiated identity categories, and failing to contest the conventions of that system of knowledge it supposedly challenges."
Instead, she calls for the kind of resistance that simply sidesteps the colonial discourse altogether; THAT is resistance.
She says it well in the following passage: "a recent discussion of nativism condenses many of the current censures of cultural nationalism for its complicity with the terms of colonialism’s discourse, with its claims to ancestral purity and inscriptions of monolithic notions of identity cited as evidence of the failure to divest itself of the specific institutional determinations of the west. [ however there is a] profound political significance of the decolonized writing themselves as subjects of a literature of their own." (I'm sure that the empowerment that comes from writing themselves is the first step to resistance- even if they end up subscribing to the same colonial discourse, their movement is not insignificant.)
"[however] in exposing the operation of a nativist topology- inside/outside, indigene/alien, western/traditional- it installs a topology of its own, where the colonizer is dynamic donor and the colonized is docile recipient, where the west initiates and the native imitates. Thus while the reciprocity of the colonial relationship is stressed, all power remains with western discourse."
By using this reversal technique, in which the colonized "turns the tables", so to speak, they are doing exactly what the colonizer did; or more accurately, they are appropriating the discourse that the colonizer also used. it is what she calls a reverse ethnocentrism. And I think it's interesting that nativism is a negative movement, in that it stems from negative sentiment, but for all its support of rejection it buys into the very system it is supposedly resisting. In fact, that is what I took to be her main focus- or at least her most interesting point- whether the way colonized people assert themselves or their nationality is not, in fact, simply a reassertion of the discourse of colonialism.
She does repeat herself a lot in this article, (which is why I repeat myself a lot in this report!!!) but what she is saying directly relates to another of her articles, "materiality and mystification in a passage to India." This article seems to be an application of her resistance theories to a specific text, and because it stays pretty close to the text, and actually makes her abstractions seem a little more concrete or grounded, it's much easier to read. (at least for me!) I took it as an illustration of what she is saying in Resistance Theory.
She writes, "praise for a passage to India as a poised and sympathetic account of the sub continent's landscape, history, and culture which Indian critics of older generations had offered, has since been repudiated by their descendants as 'emanating from a colonized consciousness.' (which is exactly what parry says is an unsuccessful method of resistance.)
To actually be such a novel would be to not overlook that "amongst this novel's many indias is one whose topography evades colonialism's physical invasion, and whose cognitive modes elude incorporation within normative western explanatory systems. Were a case for the novel's radicalism to be made, this would need to rest on the recalcitrance of this 'india', and not on its manifestly inadequate critique of a colonial encounter."
And I just want to add here that to consider such things as the topography of the land or the peoples' ways of thinking is obvious upon reading, but it’s a perspective I did not have until I read that passage... It is easy to critique what someone writes, but to think of an angle that they have not considered is a lot more compelling... I really enjoy coming upon simple statements like that one, that sort of illuminate the dark corners.
She says, "the reputation of a passage to India as conventional in form, language, and attested value has inhibited discussion on an emergent modernism that is inseparable from the novel’s failure to reach the destination intimated in its title. (I thought that was interesting since we're talking a lot in Modern Novel about the characteristics of modernism- I had not thought of the fact that to never really reach India in this novel is the kind of reaching for that non-empirical "something" that modernism is all about and that we've been talking about so much…) Said has remarked that for him the most interesting thing about the book is the use of India to 'represent material that according to the canons of the novel form cannot in fact be represented- vastness, incomprehensible creeds, secret motions, histories and social forms'. Again, it's as we’ve discussed in class- that something is very much worth reaching for, but it cannot quite be described in words or explained...
I really liked said's comment- it's interesting to think that there are many sides of India that forster could never have captured, and it is their existence that is a kind of resistance in itself. It is as though recognizing India as non-empirical or mystical is the stepping out of a colonial discourse that Parry calls for. Perhaps she is saying that although forster does try to conjure for the reader india's differences, he somehow caters to the west regardless. he doesn't write of these differences as "deviations from western norms of historical development, aesthetics, civil society, and sexuality." They are still inscribed within a certain line of thought.