At the Crossroads of Culture and Literature
Ed. Suchorita Chattopadhyay & Debashree Dattaray
New Delhi: Primus Books. 2016
Pp 191, Rs 1495
At the crossroads of rivers
The varied nuances of cultural mosaics are difficult to quantify in definite terms when we stand at the crossroad of culture(s), ethics and literatures from several sources and categories. Cultural diversity is also promoted by the Montreal Declaration of 2007, and by the European Union. The idea of a global multicultural heritage covers several thoughts, irrespective of different cultural positions. Apart from languages, diversity can also include religious, demographic, vertical crossing over of ethos and social contexts. It’s the world of visibility—literature as the by product of moments and resistance. One of the major indexes of postcolonial literary texts is the celebration of the local. Subaltern voices are heard, flat and commanding. Literature in English, as English is considered to be the code of power and prospect, is coming up from varied geographical and political places. The centre is questioned. The History is interrogated. All these lead to the maxim of big boss to equal brothers. Under these changing circumstances Suchorita Chattopadhyay and Debashree Dattaray have come out with a brilliant book, At the Crossroads of Culture and Literature. The book gives us a comprehensive socio-political and literary study of the material and context of the indigenous communities of the South Asian diaspora in North America and India. The scope of the book, the issues raised in the essays, the parameters for alternative identities, the ethical stances and the intercultural dialogue hinted at several points give new insights into marginal studies in the present context.
Swagata Bhattacharya’s essay, “‘Neither Here nor There’: Fractured Identities and Hybrid Canadians” throws light on some seminal issues related to new Immigration Act, Hyphenated Canadians and towards the identity-confusions to appropriation. There are fuzzy corridors: a baggage at our back and the nature of belonging in a given social milieu. The crisis of thought gets augmented in the case of double migration. The concept of home gets fresh robes.
Who are the saviours of the land? Who are the settlers? Postcolonial critics engage us with arguments and counter models. Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm explores some rare truth in the essay, “First People’s Literature in Canada.” The essay starts with a timely debate: “The land doesn’t belong to us; we belong to the land.” People are known by the land. The power of word is like the power of God. Individual words are the image of a community. The essay explores how the power of words can transform lives. They echo from infinity. Politics is an unavoidable reality in all aspects of First People’s lives.
Debashree Dattaray’s well researched essay points at marginalised aesthetics. Writers and activists have been toiling hard to prepare an aesthetics for the Aborigines, Dalits, Maoris and so on. It has become a responsibility on our back. The essay addresses the Okanagan identity and an individual omniscience. Narrative types and prototypes are taken care of. Okanagan spoken in Okanagan River Basin and the Columbia River Basin in pre-colonial times in Canada and the United States is an interesting indicator for ‘self power’. Language plays an important role in identity politics. Possible, no postcolonial discourse can be defined as a model without reference to re-placing or contextualised variety of language.
Sayantan Dasgupta deals with displaced home in the context of how the parameters are textualised by a Toronto based writer, Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta, in a wonderful reversal of making the political into the personal. When we read a text, do we always make a pre reading to the textual context? Our pre text orientation, a cultural immersion, if talks about decolonising methodologies, helps.
Nilanjana Deb’s in-depth essay explores aborigine women’s works through the lenses of epistemic differences, indigenous feminism, intellectual sovereignty, land right litigation for the aborigines and history as their part of resistance. She concludes by saying, “The text world created by the daughters of Geezhigoquae is inclusive, and the centre of its knowledge is the land and the community itself.” We must admit the fact that many aboriginal artworks tell about the connection between community and their land. Immigrant space is explored in a variety of ways: resistance, nostalgia, belonging, assimilation and marginalisation.
All fourteen essays in the book excite our grey matter and compel us to think even beyond the essays. Bibliography at the end adds value to this amazing book. Prospective readers are bound to be benefited a lot. A writer is a global citizen these days, with varied experiences and ideologies. We cannot deny the intermingling of thoughts, contexts and concepts of these writers, which make them unique. They are “aware selves” who can think beyond a definite territory and cultural position, irrespective of their class, caste, ethnicity and belonging.
No doubt, readers will not remain indifferent after encountering ideas, arguments and literary discourse in this well edited book. Happy reading!!