Academic journal article International Fiction Review

The Paradox of Globalization as an "Untotalizable Totality" in Salman Rushdie's the Ground beneath Her Feet

Academic journal article International Fiction Review

The Paradox of Globalization as an "Untotalizable Totality" in Salman Rushdie's the Ground beneath Her Feet

Article excerpt

In his 1999 novel The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie explores the shifting cultural ground upon which identifies, nations, and empires are built. In its evocation of music as a "globalized cultural phenomenon,"(1) Rushdie's novel is at once a celebration of a fluid, hybrid vision of contemporary life and a darker portrait of the fragmented, divisive nature of contemporary politics. As such, the novel illustrates what could be called the paradox of globalization: while as an ongoing process globalization signals a literal and symbolic opening up of the world to the heterogeneous cultures and identifies that comprise it, globalization also brings with it hegemonic economic and cultural practices against which national and cultural entities must form their own sites of resistance.

This study examines Rushdie's latest novel in terms of its articulation of the paradox of globalization. I will take Fredric Jameson's provisional definition of globalization as "an untotalizable totality"(2) as my starting point, because it closely mirrors Rushdie's evocation of globalization as a phenomenon that cannot be underestimated as a tool for political and economic domination or as an impetus for greater cultural diversification. I will also contextualize Rushdie's novel within other theoretical and cultural perspectives regarding the effects of globalization on a global and local scale. To this end, I hope to offer a discussion of globalization that does justice to Rushdie's nuanced, multifaceted critique of globalizing processes in The Ground Beneath Her Feet. By considering globalization as an ongoing process with implications as far-reaching as they are numerous, I must point out the shortcomings of Rushdie's own particularly cosmopolitan discourse, one which often tends to overemphasize globally shared cultural references, such as those found in pop culture, in an otherwise linguistically, culturally, and economically stratified and diverse world.

Oscillating between India, Britain, the United States, and Mexico, The Ground Beneath Her Feet is indicative of Rushdie's step into a more global fictional terrain, one that is nonetheless grounded in an ongoing narrative of postcolonial identity. Even though Rushdie speaks of his latest work as his first "American novel ... because rock `n' roll is a thing that came from America,"(3) The Ground Beneath Her Feet finds its inception in his previous works, and specifically includes characters and themes from Midnight's Children (1981), The Satanic Verses (1988), and The Moor's Last Sigh (1995).(4) To some extent, The Ground Beneath Her Feet is another chapter in the continuing saga of postcolonial India, a saga that begins with Midnight's Children's Saleem Sinai, the split consciousness of a new body politic.(5) Upon finding the body politic of a decolonized India too fragmented, Sinai eventually invests his hope for national unity in his son, Aadam, by the end of Midnight's Children. Sinai's hope is then deferred across the narrative framework of The Satanic Verses, a novel in which emigration, the fate of numerous decolonized states, renders national unity and postcolonial autonomy an ever-evasive dream. Aadam makes a return appearance in The Moor's Last Sigh, a novel concerned with the extreme outbreaks of sectarian violence plaguing contemporary India. Here, Aadam (now Adam) no longer symbolizes the hope for a plural, secular, and united nation. Instead, he becomes the symbol of an overblown and sinister expansion into the global market: his "elephantine" ears are akin to "Star TV satellite dishes," his call to unity is a mere front for "developing" citizens in the interest of "optimis[ing] manpower utilisation."(6) Representing the infiltration of the "outside" world in new, nefarious forms of cultural capital, Aadam is globalization personified; or, in Rushdie's pun on "random access memory," he is "the battering RAM"(7) of a technocratic takeover. As such, he is merely the counterpart to the other, internal "battering Ram": the Hindu fundamentalist discourse of the RamRajyaist organization. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.