Identity in the Anglo-Indian Novel: "The Passing Figure" and Performance
In the following thesis, two interrelated arguments are offered: firstly, a re-appropriation of the passing figure from an African-American context to the Anglo-Indian context is suggested, which it is argued, will allow new methods for the study of the hybrid figure in British literature to develop. Secondly, the thesis works to critique the relationship between poststructuralism and postcolonialism, suggesting a move away from a discourse concerned with anti-reality and its linguistic-theoretical focus to a framework with stronger roots in the study of postcoloniality as a real, lived condition experienced by a large number of people. The above arguments are realized through a reading of Anglo-Indian literature which closely aligns both the displaced postcolonial figure and the passing figure through a shared ability to perform multiple identities. In adopting the passing figure, Anglo-Indian literature illustrates the rejection of in culture forms of rigid and constraining essentialisms and the commitment to modernist and contemporary cultural discourses of identity construction in the hybrid figure of postcolonial works. Such cultural discourses of identity presuppose the intervention of performativity in the negotiation of multiple selves. Both the hybrid postcolonial figure and the passing figure display an adoption of performance in identity construction. In a theoretical reflection of the multiplicity offered by the passing figure, a number of diverse critical approaches to these Anglo-Indian texts are introduced. Specifically, the aim is to suggest alternative theoretical approaches to the hegemonic poststructuralist critical view. I will argue that the reliance upon poststructuralist theory can be detrimental to the full exploration of the postcolonial identity, due largely to the tendency to privilege textual fee-play over experiential analysis. I am proposing a modification to the relationship between deconstruction and postcolonialism, whereby certain selected deconstructive techniques are appropriated alongside more existentialist concerns that reflect the real, lived conditions of postcolonial environments. In relocating textual critique within an approach more concerned with the real-life experience of multiplicity, this study advocates a continuing relevance of a more existentialist mode of postcolonialism, as exemplified by Sartre and Fanon, and other adjacent theorists. An example of this is that popular and contemporary authors such as Naipaul, Rushdie, Kureishi and Malkani are read in light of “dialogical self theory”, R.D. Laing’s “false-self system”, Fish’s “interpretive communities” thesis and Goffman’s concept of “front”. Dialogical self theory and the false-self system ensure a firm underpinning of the internal psychological structure of the passing figure’s psyche, establishing a discourse of postcolonialism that is centred on the real experience of multiplicity. The following work on interpretive communities and front allow for the connection of the internal construction of self to the wider social environment through the relocation of the passing figure’s identity in relation to the interpretations of the audience.