“Counter Me!” Female Bodies as Sites of Resistance in the Three Stories of Postcolonial Author Mahasweta Devi
The postcolonial Indian author and activist Mahasweta Devi (1926–2016) depicts the oppression of marginalized women who are indigenous and are of lower castes in the following three stories: Draupadi (1978), Rudali (1993), and Douloti the Bountiful (1993). In this thesis, I argue that each of the female protagonists resist the torture inflicted on them by the patriarchal society by using their bodies as sites of resistance. They retrieve their agencies by defying the exploitation of gender, class, and caste. Draupadi is a story of an indigenous woman named Draupadi (Dopdi), who subverts the humiliation of gang rape by refusing to accept victimhood and by throwing the shame back upon the perpetrators. Rudali is a story of a funeral wailer named Sanichari who, despite terrible obstacles, gains agency by turning her grief into a performative profession. Douloti the Bountiful is a story of a bonded laborer who dies as a sex slave at the age of twenty-seven, forcing the nation to generate a conversation on the rights of bonded laborers. Moreover, her marginalized life and death debunk the national myth of independence and raise the question about why the nation builders entirely excluded her from the body politic. The three stories explain how Devi centers the subaltern female body, which is always found as the Other, the neglected, the one which always lies at the margin. Devi has captured the complexity of the gendered resistance by portraying the different ways these women react to the violence and torture inflicted on them. Devi’s resistance, through her literary works, is an endeavor to counter the influence of religious and political hegemony which has spread its malicious tentacles in the form of class discrimination, caste ostracism, and violence. The guiding principle of my theory rests upon the questions as to how the three stories position the female bodies at the margin of a discourse of a decolonized nation, how Devi’s stories narrate the protagonists’ feminist ideology and to what effect, and how Devi’s protagonists bring to the fore the mockery of nation-building led by the mainstream patriarchs who silenced and suppressed the gendered subalterns from the postcolonial national conversation.
Choudhury, Purdue University.
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