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Volume 9, Issue 2, Spring 2019

Namita Goswami
Pages 20-44

Amongst Letters I Am the Vowel A
Spivak, “Draupadi,” and Anagogizing the Political

This essay conducts a comparative reading of Gayatri Spivak’s discussion of the Hindu epic Mahabharata and Mahasweta Devi’s story “Draupadi.” While scholars have examined Devi’s tribal protagonist Draupadi in conjunction with the high Hindu goddess Draupadi of the epic, I suggest that the former’s viswarupadarshana (revelation of form) should be read in contrast to the role of the Mahabharata’s Hindu God Krishna. This comparison shows the feminist and postcolonial import of Devi’s story, as it demonstrates the continuity of caste-based tribal exploitation from antiquity to globalization. Along with this critique of tribal women’s subalternity in the national imaginary, Devi’s story stages a terrifying singularity that disrupts the sociopolitical logic of gender. Draupadi occupies the position of the subject of knowledge to invert the Indo-Aryan (mythology based) ontograph. By unraveling the “she” that must be perpetually murdered for (this kind of) historicity to take root, Draupadi pours (back) into an encounter between agent and subaltern the affectivity ideologically excised for an illusion to be seen as truth and, hence, as history.

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