Sohn 2013 Transgressions

Title Information

Author: Sukjoo Sohn

Title: Strategic Transgressions and Agency in Postcolonial Indian Literature in English

Subtitle: Rohinton Mistry, Arundhati Roy, and Salman Rushdie

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of Sydney

Year: 2013

Pages: 246pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | Indian History | Representations: Literature

Full Text

Link: Sydney eScholarship Repository [Free Access]

Additional Information



»Transgression as a mode of resistance and transformation is significant yet largely untheorized in postcolonial literature. This dissertation is concerned with theoretical and textual practices by which transgression can be studied as a locus of agency and difference toward the possibility of fostering moments and spaces of transformation. To that end, it explores various enabling counter-hegemonic modes of strategy and tactic with a focus on the body in the texts of Rohinton Mistry, Arundhati Roy, and Salman Rushdie.
Transgression does not simply give rise to the capacity of resistance to transform the dominant structure. Rather than dwelling on a mere sequence or repeat of events, this dissertation focuses on critical points of grounding for a new beginning as well as powerful metaphorical effects of practice, which defy essentialist discourses and raise possibilities of an alternative discursive space. Drawing upon a range of textual examples, the study critically examines not only the workings of prevailing norms but also the ways in which transgressive desire and practice enable marginalized characters to become ‘bodies that matter’ rather than being banished to the ‘abject zone.’
This dissertation reflects a complex intertwining of postcolonial, sexuality and gender, feminist, and cultural studies vis-à-vis transgression and agency. Therefore, the arguments made in this study represent an array of ideas drawn from various disciplines and discourses, especially from theorists such as Michel Foucault, Homi Bhabha, Judith Butler, Gayatri Spivak, Edward Said, Bill Ashcroft, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Jacques Lacan. This hybrid approach puts essentialist discourses—mediated by colonial history and postcolonial reality—under scrutiny to rethink the question of power and agency in exploring the possibility of subaltern others’ transformation into subjects of their own history and experience in specific contexts.
By arguing the importance of the strategic use of essentialism based on everyday practice, I also emphasize the need to problematize the hegemonic concept of history so as to trace reterritorialization and repossession on the part of the silenced or invisible who live on borrowed time in minimal space. The highlight of this research is to explore how the established boundaries are expanded, redefined and redrawn in the circulatory, recursive structure of transgression and protest, opening the way for transforming oppression or abjection into agency. With this critical lens in mind, I heed the dynamics of similarity and difference in the narrative as a framework of postcolonial critique to provide a new reading of postcolonial texts.« [Source: ]


  Abstract (p. 2)
  Acknowledgements (p. 4)
  Introduction (p. 6)
  Chapter I - Perverts and Perversions (p. 43)
    Abject Body (p. 44)
    Incest (p. 72)
    Pederasty (p. 84)
  Chapter II - Women and Subversions (p. 101)
    Cracking Patriarchy & Imperialism (p. 106)
    Black Magic (p. 124)
    Crossing Boundaries (p. 131)
    Vulture, Vampire, Cannibal (p. 147)
  Chapter III - Youth and Rebellion (p. 160)
    Speaking Back & Silence (p. 163)
    Madness (p. 178)
    Accidental Family (p. 183)
    Sexual Game (p. 189)
    Suicide & Rebirth of Community (p. 199)
  Conclusion (p. 218)
  Bibliography (p. 234)

Added: December 21, 2013 | Last updated: December 21, 2013