Hunger and Postcolonial Writing explores contemporary postcolonial fiction and life-writing from various geo-political contexts.
The focus of this work is hunger; individuated in the self-imposed starvation of the hunger protester, and on a mass scale in the form of famine and food insecurity. It considers the hungry colonial and postcolonial body, examines its textual forms and historical trajectories, and situates it within the food security context of imperialism and its legacies. This book is the first monograph-length study of hunger within a postcolonial/world literary context. Its transcolonial focus produces comparative readings across postcolonial writings, facilitating productive analyses of the operations of imperialism and its aftereffects across heterogenous zones of colonialism. This project reads hunger as defined by the social, cultural, historical, and economic engagements produced by colonial and postcolonial encounters. Examining the starving colonialized body through Cartesian models of somatic subjectivity, and considering how this body is mediated by post-Enlightenment discourses of Modernity and progress, this work interrogates the contradictions produced by the starving colonial body as it is positioned between the possibility of radical protest and prescriptive colonial discourse.
This book will be of interest to Gastrocritical and Postcolonial scholars and students, and to Food scholars more broadly.
Table of Contents
1.Introduction: (Post)colonialism, Hunger, and the Body. 2.(Post)colonial Foodways, Transhistorical Hungers, and the Global Alimentary in Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss. 3.The Text, Starving Body, and JM Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K. 4.Anorexic Fictions and Starving Histories in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions. 5.Traumatic National Hungers and the Starving Irish Body: Bobby Sands’ 1981 Hunger Strike
Muzna Rahman is English lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK.
"In Hunger and Postcolonial Writing, Muzna Rahman has produced a book that thoughtfully thinks through the nuances of hunger within postcolonial writing. In an ambitious study that carefully examines hunger strikes and forms of food abnegation, Rahman makes a compelling case for understanding how famine, hunger and food security are forms of inequity produced by the uneven experience of imperialism. With compelling readings of work by JM Coetzee, Bobby Sands, Tsitsi Dangarembga and Kiran Desai, Rahman asks us to think about how forms of hunger can be powerful ways to remind us of the rhetorical and cultural power located in both eating and not eating. Through all this, Rahman's nuanced and careful readings of these texts reminds us that when hunger is agential, it can invigorate our understanding of how inequity works." Anita Mannur, Associate Professor of English, Miami University, Ohio, USA
"Making an important intervention into food studies, affect theory, and postcoloniality, Muzna Rahman provides alimentary readings of postcolonial texts. With complexity she explores famines and starvation, as well as hunger protests. Rahman casts light on the postcolonial dynamics where (not) eating becomes an assertive quality that highlights abundance or restriction in a world of grossly unequal economics. Close attention to the physicality of protest allows her analysis to hold together body and mind, nature and culture. Rahman also argues for the co-existence of embodiment alongside the cultural construction of taste. Taken together, her incisive chapters on Kiran Desai, J. M. Coetzee, Tstitsi Dangarembga, and Bobby Sands are worth savouring for the intellectual nourishment they bring." Claire Chambers, Professor of Global Literature, University of York, UK.
"Muzna Rahman’s Hunger and Postcolonial Writing is an important and timely addition to the recently burgeoning area of Postcolonial Food Studies. Using an interdisciplinary approach and taking as her focus a range of Anglophone postcolonial texts from Zimbabwe, India, South Africa and Northern Ireland, Rahman goes beyond existing critical analyses of these texts to mount a series of nuanced and strikingly original readings in which the contested figure of the deliberately starving body or hunger striker is central. She shows how our understanding of this recurring trope in her chosen texts is itself constructed through colonial experience and colonial discourse and also, how a range of writers mobilize this trope to suggest important ways in which the postcolonial body can be read as a site of protest, resistance and agency. Rahman argues that such starving bodies are not merely the passive crossing points of language, culture and history. Nor are they simply the biopolitical embodiment of subjects facing starvation, famine (significantly, defined in distinctive ways), lack of food entitlement and precarity of different kinds, although this is certainly important and she gives considerable space to this area of concern. Instead, Rahman argues, the starving body in these texts is often the locus of trauma both individual and communal, the contact zone of different narrativizations and discursive formations in which language and the body are always closely linked but, importantly, in which not all histories can be told, or at least articulated through language. As such, she argues, they can be read as the disruptive centres which, in their ‘multiple truths,’ force us beyond theories based in dualities such as nature-culture, the ‘closed body’ versus the ‘open body’, the dyadic relationship of colonizer-colonized and, of course, the Cartesian duality of mind-body. This latter example is one which haunts western cultures, its colonial and formerly colonial spaces in some complicated and nuanced ways and Rahman does an excellent job of demonstrating how this is just one of many binaries which a critical interrogation of the body and its possibilities can undo - discursively, politically and affectively. The final chapter is particularly original and compelling, as Rahman shows how IRA ‘hunger-striker’ Bobby Sands, imprisoned by the British in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and early 1980s, mobilised both his starving body and his prison writing as forms of protest against the conditions of his incarceration. In so doing, Rahman argues, he consciously returned to the binaries of the popular Irish nationalisms that sedimented after the Great Famine, thereby opening up to re-scrutiny the occluded and traumatic ‘truth’ of Ireland’s colonial past and forcing a confrontation with its semi-colonial present. Bodies and language – and the semiotics of both - are at the heart of Rahman’s analysis as she skilfully shows how, in William Faulkner’s words, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."" Dr Sarah Lawson Welsh is Associate Professor and Reader in English and Postcolonial Literatures at York St John University, UK.