Examination Thesis, 2008
17 Pages, Grade: 2,3
2. (Market) economy
3. Culture (and economy)
4. (Modern) diaspora
6. Anglophone ("Indiaphil?") – (post) colonial identities
8. Works cited
In this essay I want to show how globalization and colonialism are phenomenons which cannot be looked at separately when speaking about India`s history and present. Roy`s book does not only reveal the impact of globalization and colonialism on India and its people but the interconnection between these processes. I will give examples of how globalization and colonialism are linked and how that is shown in Arudhati Roy`s novel “The God of Small Things” (1997). This is a semi-autobiographical book which includes examples that draw the authors politial beliefs and understanding of how India has been shaped and is still shaped by globalism and colonialist policies. (Roy: “Is globalisation (sic) about the eradication of world poverty or is it a mutant variety of colonialism, remote controlled and digitally operated?“ For this I will look at India`s economy, India`s role as an exotic Other and the novel`s own position within the global market of literature, the Indian Diaspora, examples for othering, self-othering and inbetweennes, at how and why caste and colonialist ideals still have major impacts on the construction of identity in times of globalization. I cannot give a profound analysis of India`s colonial history and position within the context of globalism, but it will provide backround information and an insight into selected issues that have shaped and still shape India and the Indian society. The major aim of this essay is to show that “India`s colonial histories cannot be ignored”.
When the British East India Company (EIC) was incorporated in 1600 this happened for purely commercial purposes. It later became an instrument of colonial rule and power, an “agent of British Imperialism”. The linkage with the global market had been build up long before India`s Independence in 1947, long before the term globalization was first used in social science in the 1960s and in economic contexts from the 1980s on, laying the ground for future global trade. “As late as 1935-39, food, drink, tobacco and raw materials constituated 68.5 per cent of India`s export while manufactured goods were 64.4. of her import.” A network of railways, telegraphs and roads was built to provide the infrastructure needed for a large-scale trade and new trade routes between Asia and Britain. The EIC`s aim was to gain the monopoly in the trade with Asia. The most important example for that is the tea trade. Although tea was imported exclusively from China for a long time India became the world`s largest producer of tea. . In the nineteenth century widespread cultivation of tea in India began, leading to the imports of Indian tea into Britain overtaking the imports of Chinese tea., grown and harvested on a large scale, became a cash crop demanded by the British market. “England wanted to assure the constant supply of tea which otherwise could not be produced in the non-temperate zones of the home country. The history of tea since then has also been the history of capitalism the world over”.
In the novel reference is made to the tea production in Assam, where the commercialization of Indian tea began. Baba has a “lonely tea estate job in Assam”. This estate is run by an English manager, “Mr. Hollick”. Several of the tea picker`s wives and female tea-pickers have already been sexually exploited by him., “[a]lready there where a number of ragged, lightskinned children” when “Mr. Hollick suggested that Ammu be sent to his bungalow to be `looked after`”. This alludes to the long history of exploitation of the Indian tea-pickers and Indian people in general by the British. “British planters uprooted the forefathers of Assam’s 600,000 tea-pickers from their villages far away in Orissa and Bihar, making the workers uniquely reliant on their employers for welfare. ‘That culture hasn’t changed [.] (…) ‘The manager is still looked at like a father figure.` ”
In colonial times, “however, commercialization of agriculture did not lead to capitalist farming or improving technology. Its chief results was better soil, available water and other resources were diverted from food to commercial crops.” Still today so-called cash crops like tea and rubber are major export goods.
Several references can be found in the novel. Kari Saipu`s house, “the old colonial bungalow” of “the Englishman who had 'gone native'” is placed in the middle of a wide rubber estate. It is abandoned when the main characters Rahel and Estha are children (in the 1960s) but even today Kerala, where the main part of the story unfolds “accounts for 92.1 per cent of the country’s over 8.5 lakh tonnes rubber production.”
Under British Rule India`s agricultural policies were adjusted to satisfy the needs of the Empire. Years after India`s independence these policies still shape India`s agricultural sector: “Cardamom Kings, Coffee Counts and Rubber Barons – old boarding school buddies – came down from their lonely, far flung estates and sipped chilled beer at the Sailing Club. They raised their glasses. `A rose by any other name…` they said, and sniggered to hide their rising panic.” In the novel this happens in 1967.
These titles are heriditary and passed from parents to children, which has the effect that nobility is usually bound to particular families over a long period of time. In other words, it is suggested here that what is called globalization is nothing else but (neo-)colonialism, that the name may have changed but the power mechanism have remained the same. Further evidence is given by the fact that these Cardamom Kings, Coffee Counts and Rubber Barons, these landlords, are old boarding school buddies. In the days of Empire, Britons in India often sent their children back to the mother land or to local British boarding schools that were established in India to ensure that their children were educated in British culture. Indians of higher ranks could also sent their children to these schools with the effect that these children felt more British than Indian. Those former boarding school pupils then helped the British to establish, extend and maintain their colonial power in India. Whether these Kings, Barons and Counts in the novel are British or Indian natives is of no relevance. The important aspect is that the old colonial structures and mechanism remained quite dominant after India`s independendence.
In times of globalization, India`s agricultural sector underwent further serious changes. Canals and dams were bulit, riverbeds were changed and “agricultural production in India was greatly boosted (…) by the development of new high-yield varieties and the application of large amounts of fertilizer which had the unfortunate effect of often damaging the environment.” These causes and their effects are seen by Rahel “years later. [W]hen Rahel returned to the river, it greeted her with a ghastly skull`s smile, with holes were teeth had been, and a limp hand raised from a hospital bed. (…) Downriver a saltwater barrage had been built, in exchange for votes from the paddy-farmer lobby. (…) So now they had two harvests a year instead of one. More rice for the prive of a river.” These causes are not only local but global in character. Estha “walked along the banks of the river that smelled of shit, and pesticides bought with World Bank loans. Most of the fish had died. The ones that had survived suffered from fin-rot and had broken out in boils.” The changes in India`s agricultural sector to a more market-oriented approach have been and are still highly supported by the World Bank, the WTO and multinational firms. The damaging ecological and social effects have been and still are widely critized. Under the smokescreen of liberalization of trade very few global players control the market. The author indicates that these are imperial structures and processes which are not new, but familiar. A further evidence for that is the Shakespeare quote “A rose by any other name”. This is a quote from the play “Romeo and Juliet”: the Balcony Scene (Act 2, Scene 2):
“What`s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call`d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without a title.”
What has to be considered when looking at the effects of globalization as well as colonialization is that “India (…) [has been ans still is] sending as well as receiving culture.”
„(...) globalization is not a simple unidirectional movement or flow from the powerful to the weak, from the central to the peripheral, because globalism is transcultural in the same way that imperialism itself has been.”
Colonialism and globalization are not one-sided phenomenons. Though the history of British rule in India is also a history of violence and oppression, Indians were not merely passive victims of oppression, although Chacko does not share this standpoint. He tells the twins, that their grandfather`s mind “had been brought into a state which made him feel like the English.” This is stressed and simultaneously unmasked as untrue by the use of italics and the following tale about Kari Saipu, “the Englishman wo had gone native.` Who spoke Malayalam and wore mundus.” The creation of an Indian elite was not simply an imposition of cultural norms and values. They were not just subjects but agents of change.
 Roy, Arundhati, The God of Small Things (Flamingo, London: 1997).
 Mullany, Julie, Arundhati Roy`s The God of Small Things: a Reader`s guide (continuum, London/New York: 2005), p. 15.
 Mullany, Julie, p. 15.
 Chandra, Bipan / Murkherjee, Mridula / Murkherjee, Aditya , India after Independence.1947-2000 (Penguin Books, London: 2000), p. 9-10.
 Roy, Arundhati (1997), p. 9.
 Roy, Arundhati (1997), p. 41.
 Roy, Arundhati (1997), p. 42.
 Roy, Arundhati (1997), p. 42., although: Baba`s familiy once belonged to the elite: p. 39.
 http://www.spectator.co.uk/print/the-magazine/business/811041/fading-memories-of-the-raj-in-the- tea-gardens-of-assam.thtml.
 Chandra, Bipan / Murkherjee, Mridula / Murkherjee, Aditya (2000), p. 12.
 Roy, Arundhati (1997), p. 126.
 Roy, Arundhati, (1997), p. 52.
 Roy, Arundhati (1997), p. 69.
 Roy, Arundhati (1997), p. 124.
 for further information on the pollution of the Meenacheel go to: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2004/07/07/stories/2004070701761900.htm.
 Roy, Arundhati (1997), p. 13.
 Schücking, Prof. Dr. L.L. (editor), Romeo and Juliet, in : William Shakespeare. Complete Edition. English and German, Vol. II (Weltbild, Augsburg: 1995), p. 208.
 Mullany, Julie (2005), p. 53.
 Mullany, Julie (2005), p. 15.
 Roy, Arundhati (1997), p. 52.
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