Many of us today experience identity crisis because even though we are brown, our imagination is highly influenced by the west. Let’s trace the history of our hybridness.
The history of India’s colonial past is an integral part of its identity. By the first half of the 18th century, English trade with India was an important part of its economy. However, the British East India Company soon started to wage war on Indian rulers and in 1757, after the Battle of Plassey, they had strong political and economic hold on the Indian sub-continent. In 1858, the rule over this region got transferred from the Company to the British Crown in the person of Queen Victoria, thereby beginning the long rule of the British Raj in India. The introduction of English education in India by the English Education Act, 1835 can be credited to Thomas Babington Macaulay, though the necessary order on the subject was issued by Lord William Bentinck, the then Governor-General of India. One of the main reasons for teaching the English language to their colonial subjects was to exercise cultural hegemony and create a class of educated Indians who could help them in administrating their rule over them. Seventy-one years after our independence from the British, we continue to be a part of the Commonwealth. English Language and Literature is an intrinsic part of our Indian Education System and the Western Civilization has a strong hold on our lives. This paper aims at studying the psyche of the Postcolonial Hybrid and the way in which the West influences our imaginative and creative self and our perception of society and how till date it has a certain power over us.
The ancestry of postcolonial criticism can be traced to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, published in 1961, and voicing what might be called ‘cultural resistance’ to France’s African empire. Cultural resistance is the broad use of arts, literature, and traditional practices to challenge or fight unjust or oppressive systems and/or power holders within the context of nonviolent actions, campaigns and movements. At its core, cultural resistance is a way of reclaiming our humanity, and celebrating our work as individuals and communities. This concept is applicable to the Indian context. During the struggle for independence, the Swadeshi movement called for the boycott of all British goods and the revival of local industries. It was a call to go back to traditional ways of living and remembering our glorious past, thereby, weakening British economy and strengthening Indian nationalism. The Independence Movement saw a flourish of art and culture in the local flavours. Songs and poems composed by eminent people like Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Sarojini Naidu at that time became political and artistic fronts of India. After Independence, local arts and artists continued to grow and the Indian Film and Music Industry boomed with growth and glory.
However, it is not as if India completely went back to its pre-colonial ways after independence. British, and more broadly speaking, Western art and culture never stopped being a part of Indian society.Indians had been going to universities like Oxford and Cambridge to study since colonial times, leading to academic and cultural exchanges. Cornelia Sorabji, the first Indian national to study at a British University and Srinivasa Ramanujan, a famous mathematician were some of these prominent scholars. During the British Raj, many Indian texts got translated into English and vice versa. Gitanjaliby Rabindranath Tagore, for instance was translated into English by William Butler Yeats. He even gave a preface to it and in 1913, Tagore became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Artists like Amrita Sher-Gil introduced western styles like Avant-garde to Indian art thereby, creating an Indo-western form of expression. India always had a huge market for western literature, art, movies and music and after the Indian economic crisis of 1991, a new policy of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization, the LPG model got introduced by the government which led to a freer global trade policy. With new foreign investments came a new surge of foreign publishing houses and telecast networks, making access to western culture much easier than before. Today, post industrialization and globalization, in an age of the internet we can download western books, movies and music in an instant. This makes access to western culture and influences much easier. All of these influences since the time of the British Raj has created a class of Indian postcolonial hybrids whose identities trespasses its geographical boundaries.
Feature Image Credits: University of Nottingham