Queering Caste: A Study of R. Raj Rao’s Selected Fictions
Ms Srijita Saha, Assistant Professor of English, Jhargram Raj College, Jhargram, West
“There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses,” postulates Foucault in The History of Sexuality. Foucault indicates that power in its several manifestations creates varieties of discourses each serving to silence those on whom power exerts itself. Therefore, it can be deduced that there are numerous circles within a circle each having a centre and a margin of its own. In such structures of disaggregated margins, or margins of margins, there are surrogate centres of power that create a topology of subjects split into concentric circles; the close the subjects are to the centres of power, the more included they are within its structure. Though centre and margin are expected to set up a binary, margin can also be made of binaries. Victims are victims all over the map, but victims can further victimize their kindred. Stereotyped as effeminate, promiscuous and sterile, gays are oppressed and ghettoized by the collective forces of patriarchy and heterosexuality. On the other hand, slammed as the lowest of the low, Dalits are coerced and marginalized by the upper caste society. Therefore, both are socially stigmatized; both are the victims of untouchability—the former sexual and the latter creedal. In both cases, lowness comes by birth and can hardly be cast off by death. Caste as the bulwark of Indian society, that has survived despite several transformations has been much written about, discussed about but we had hitherto been in need of a viewpoint to prove that queer could be straightened out as a heterodox caste, a new varna beyond Brahmanical heteropatriarchy’s anatomy of belief. However, class intrudes between these Shudras and “sexual Shudras.” Rich closet-gays are always reluctant to forego their class privileges and their underprivileged Dalit consorts never feel satisfied with nibbling on the former’s abundance. Hence to dislodge the wealthy gay’s assumed superiority entrenched over centuries, to acquire the equality enshrined in the Constitution, violent conflicts become inevitable. Strolling on the crossroads of naked desire and sexual commerce when a sexually marginalized homosexual and a socially marginalized Dalit, the representatives of two different rungs of social hierarchy, come across to entertain each other in their netherworld, it will be worth discernable how these “sexual Shudras” behave in the name of “banned love.” Do the closet-gay and his Dalit partner remain faithful to each other? Do they pounce upon each other like power-hungry wolves? Do their shifting positionalities in the echelon make others dumbfounded? Do their centre/margin power struggles stretch interminably like the postmodernist rhetoric of certaintylessness? Or do they cunningly negotiate the hegemony by striking a politics of survival satisfying mutual needs? Maintaining Queer theory, heteronormativity (as propounded by Lisa Duggan), theories of the caste system and Foucault’s doctrine of power, this paper attempts to expose how queer in the process of extending as a new caste is obstructed by the allied constraints of class and caste through a reading of R. Raj Rao’s two novels—The Boyfriend, Lady Lolita’s Lover and some other short stories. This paper tries to analyze why this particular theme emerges as a suppressed leitmotif in R. Raj Rao’s literary oeuvre. In the process of answering these riddles, this paper will narrow down its focus on how the abstruse wiles of sexual masquerade being intricately coupled with the quicksand of class and caste, critique the constructed idea of a homogenized post-colonial India.
Key Terms: queer, caste, class, power, centre, margin, overlapping circles, certainty, uncertainty, certaintylessness.