Subjectivities, memories, loss of pigskin bags, silver spittoons and the partition of India

Abstract: The Partition of India was a traumatic event whose repercussions continue to impact on South Asian subjectivities in complex ways that scholarship on that event and its representations has recently begun to illuminate. This paper offers two methodological propositions, both broadly indebted to scholarship on the representation of the Holocaust, to those investigating narrative representations of Partition. First, it suggests that all investigations into the event of Partition should proceed from a radical awareness of subject position. Second, it argues that, in the absence of public rituals and spaces of mourning sanctioned by the nation-state, Partition narratives present alternative, albeit contested sites for such mourning. It then applies these propositions to Midnight's Children , Book One. While the symbols of the pigskin bag and the silver spittoon deployed therein enable us to trace the interrelations between minority subjectivities, collective memory, and cultural loss, the trope of fragmentation provides us with a formal index to the consequent fracturing of the narrative capacities of representation.

Ananya Jahanara Kabir
Taylor and Francis Online