Revolutionary Non-Violence: Gandhi in Postcolonial and Subaltern Discourse

Abstract: As the supreme leader of the Indian national movement for freedom, the success of which in 1947 set off a whole wave of decolonization in the rest of the British Empire, M. K. Gandhi may be thought to have a claim to be regarded as the Father of the Postcolonial. However, the founding figures of postcolonial discourse have hardly taken any note of him, and there is a deafening silence on Gandhi in the various readers, encyclopedias and companions on the subject. My argument is that this is so mainly because Gandhi, as an unwavering believer in non-violence or ahimsa, succeeded in liberating India without at all adhering to the Marxist model of a violent and bloody revolution such as championed notably by Frantz Fanon and uniformly valorized in the postcolonial and subaltern studies discourses. The views taken of Gandhi's precept and practice of ahimsa by Leela Gandhi, Robert Young and Shahid Amin are examined in particular, as well as the attempt to characterize Gandhi as practising discursive violence himself. In conclusion, the difficulty of practising non-violence is underlined, as is also Gandhi's affirmation of ahimsa and truth as the supreme human values.

Harish Trivedi
Taylor and Francis Online