Imagining Kashmir: Emplotment and Colonialism

By Patrick Colm Hogan | Go to book overview

1 Understanding Kashmir
Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown

Anticolonial nationalism is almost always bound up with a myth. In this myth, European powers are the colonizers and (largely) non-European countries are, simply, colonized. Thus, colonialism ends once the non-European countries throw off the political rule and escape the economic exploitation of the European countries. A successful break with European domination, then, successfully ends colonialism. This is the myth of postcolonial emancipation.1 Of course, every one acknowledges that European domination may continue after nominal in dependence of the colony. The point is not that anticolonial nationalists deny neocolonialism. The point is that there is often a tacit presumption that colonialism is confined to Europe and emancipation from Europe (and by extension, the United States) equals emancipation from colonialism. But, in fact, after successfully creating a new nation, a former colony is all too likely to establish its own colonies, its own forms of domination over regions or over minority populations. This postcolonial colonialism may be more local when compared with the global reach of the Eu ropean powers. But it need not be any less brutal.

Salman Rushdie has been sensitive to this point for many years. In his 1980 novel Midnight’s Children he depicted the horrors of West Pakistani colonialism in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). In Shalimar the Clown, he takes up Indian control of Kashmir. But, in its depth of analysis, Shalimar goes well beyond that earlier treatment of postcolonial colonialism. Shalimar begins to suggest that colonialism is always complex, recurrent, multiple. It is found reiteratively, at level after level, like the old story from the American South of the slave owner who beat his wife; the wife in her turn abused the foreman; the foreman in his turn beat the slave; the slave in his turn flayed the horse.2

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