Sara Suleri

Third World Woman:
from "Woman Skin Deep"
The Rhetoric of India
  • The rhetoric of otherness (strict binarism)
  • Criticism of S. Rushdie's Shame
  • Pakistani nationalism 
  • Meatless Days: Course notes
    General reviews &  Relevant Links
  • "Woman Skin Deep: Feminism and the Postcolonial Condition." Critical Inquiry 18 (Summer 1992): 756-769.
  • Third World Woman

  • "There are no women in the third world." -1. In law, women can not bear testimony.

    "Woman Skin Deep: Feminism and the Postcolonial Condition." Critical Inquiry 18 (Summer 1992): 756-769.

    I.  There is a trend of "anti-intellectualism" in the debate of multiculturalism in the U.S. academia
    II. the article's focus: feminism and postcolonialism, or "postcolonial woman"

      p. 758-59 "The coupling of postcolonial with woman...almost inevitably leads to the simplicities that underlie unthinking celebration of oppression, elevating the racially female voice into a metaphor for "the good." Metaphoricity; the status of the other
    III.  feminism's lived experience--realism made objective truth on theoretic level--too limited and subjective: 
      p. 762 To privilege the racial body in the absence of historical context is indeed to generate an idiom that tends to waver with impressionistic haste between abstractions of postcoloniality and the anecdotal literalism. ... too dangerous a term for an idiom that seeks to raise identity to the power of theory."
    Spivak  "if one looks at the history of post-Enlightenment theory, the major problem has been the problem of autobiography: how subjective structure can, in fact, give objective truth." -the person who knows
      e. g. Trinh Min-ha (p. 761 "Grandma's story") and bell hooks (p. 764; 765 opposes Third-World Women to Black women)
    IV. "realism" in postcolonial condition--e.g. The Hudood Ordinances in Pakistan (pp. 766- )
    Hadd (limit) and Tazir (punish)

    Zina (adultery) rape defined as "one where a man or a woman have illicit sex knowing that they are not validly married to each other."pp. 767-68

    p. 768 "I cite these alternative realisms and constructions of identity in order to reiterate the problem endemic to postcolonial feminist criticism. It is not the terrors of Islam that have unleashed the Hudood Ordinances on Pakistan, but more probably the U.S. government's economic and ideological support of a military regime during that bloody but eminently forgotten decade marked by the "liberation" of Afghanistan.

    Conclusion: Hadd'the limit'is precisely the realism against which our lived experience can serve as a metaphor, and against which we must continue to write.

    The Rhetoric of India Chicago: U. of Chicago P, 1992.
    The Rhetoric of English India 
     Sara Suleri's The Rhetoric of English India is a powerful challenge to the obsession with otherness that marks the current study of colonial discourse. Where other scholars tend to observe a strict separation between works by Western and  non-Western writers, and between ruling and subject races, 
    Suleri reconstructs a diverse Anglo-India narrative in which English and Indian idioms inevitably collude. The author focuses on the paradigmatic moments in the multiple stories generated by British colonization of the Indian subcontinent.    By studying a wide range of materials, from the writings of Burke to the travel logs of nineteenth-century women such as  Fanny Parks and Harriet Tytler to the fiction of Kipling,  Forster, Naipaul, and Rushdie, Suleri deftly reveals the complicity that always operates in these stories. Her study succeeds not only in challenging the standard chronology of  imperial history; it fundamentally recasts contemporary discourse on the theories of cultural empowerment.  The University of Chicago Press 
    from Sara Suleri Goodyear Homepage
      Main argument: Current study of colonialism, and even post-colonial literature, are marked by an obsession with otherness.
    1. p. 1 "Even as the other is privileged in all its pluralities, in all its alternative histories, its concept-function remain too embedded in a theoretical duality of margin to center ultimately to allow the cultural decentering that such critical attention surely desires.
    2. p. 4  break down the binarism -"To study the rhetoric of the British Raj in both its colonial and postcolonial manifestations is therefore to attempt to break down the incipient schizophrenia of a critical discourse that seeks to represent domination and subordination as though the two were mutually exclusive terms.
    3. example of otherness: India read as "intransigent," or India as unreadable., to protect the myth of colonial authority. P. 7
    p. 4 In colonial encounter, a disembodied nation of cultural exchange merges "love" with "fear and loathing," thus creating a historical context where nationalism is synonymous with terror.
    1. 183 As Stanley Wolpert's biography demonstrates, the sheer unlikeliness of Jinnah's rise to power in the Muslim League such an overdetermined relation between national movements and religion …}In the context of political mythmaking in Pakistan, Bhutto's need to serve as a truant to that country's originary myth…}is a compelling narrative that no novel about the latter ruler can afford to ignore.
    184 After twelve years of military rule, Pakistan was hungry for a flamboyant, civil ruler; Bhutto was both fetish and scapegoat for this desire.

    Questions for Meatless Days 
    1. What kind of national history is presented? 
    2. Does it avoid "realism" on the one hand and easy allegorization on the other?
    3. How are women related to nation? 
    4. Why are there no women in the third world?
    Meatless Days

    1. "There are no women in the third world."

    4. the relations between the public (nation) and the private (women)?

    1. "There are no women in the third world." -1. In law, women can not bear testimony.

    The genealogy of this family:
    Dadi--p. 3 religious 
    the goal p. 5 
    a recognizable loneliness 6 
    more good in women 7 
    smelling death 8 
    father--a rebellious son 7; later devout Muslim 
    Welsh mother--killed 
    Ifat -run away to get married , killed in a car accident  
    Irfan'born in England, serious, refuses food  
      4. the relations between the public (nation) and the private (women)? the middle years--Dadi's loneliness

    Bhutto's regime--trying times: Dadi' complaint about being lifted by Shahib (1971)'Dadi's conflagration

    Zia's regime -Dadi forgets to pray