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Tripathy, Lopamudra (2003) Literature and the Politics of Identity in Orissa 1920 -1960. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028869

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Abstract

The aim of this study is to understand how literature reflects and contributes to the politics of identity. This study is not a history of Oriya literature, nor does it deal with the process of gradual crystallization of Oriya political identity. This research is based on the assumption that creative literature projects a collective identity of a people and sustains a dominant discourse on the society that it writes about. Further, it supports the assumption that a narrative, apart from performing the symbolic act of creating and reproducing social cohesion, is a specific mechanism through which the collective consciousness of a society often represses its historical contradictions. Since this work is based on literary sources, it discussed the processes through which creative writers make sense of the world around them and represent this world to their readership. The evolution of the identity of a region is rarely a linear development, or the subject of a simple, homogeneous construction. Any invocation of identity is fraught with internal tensions and contestations. Different groups of people within the same region often question the validity of a particular construction of their identity, claiming that it represents only one aspect of reality and not others. But the theme of identity is constantly invoked in the context of a nation's formation, to emphasise national and cultural differences with other nations. In the context of a modem nation, this construction of identity is deeply involved in the interpretations of the nation's past. The first chapter of this thesis discussed the political conditions under which the Oriya speaking tracts of the British empire demanded unification, leading to the emergence of Orissa as a separate province in 1936. This was the first time when the Oriya people felt the need to articulate an identity of a modem kind. This chapter is divided into three sections which discuss the coming of modernity to Orissa and the social transformations that followed. It also analyses the colonial missionary and Bengali discourses on the nature of Oriya society, and the first stages of the Oriya constructions of the self. The second chapter discusses literary writing and articulation of Oriya by a group of writers closely associated with the national movement from 1920 onwards. They articulated new meanings that helped constitute a picture of Oriyaness. Their emphasis was on raising an all-India consciousness among the Oriyas but the symbols of mobilisation were strictly Oriya. The third chapters discusses the slow disenchantment of Oriya writers with the coming of modernity, and the consequent rise of a discourse that was nostalgic about the Oriya past. Identity was closely linked to the questions of social morality in this phase. Matters and aspects of everyday lives - like the nature of the traditional social formation, social relations among different groups, the joint family, the image of women - were the given a new status as 'tradition' and presented as crucial to an Oriya identity. This chapter deals with the literary expression of the frustration that various social groups, rural Oriyas, tribal or women experienced with the coining of change. It discusses an identity crisis of Oriya society reflected in literature of the decades following the twenties. The fourth chapter discusses the connection of Left writing with the problem of identity formation. What was described as 'quintessentially Oriya' was questioned and rejected by leftist intellectuals. Radical literature created a set of 'alternative' Oriya heroes, and provided an alternative reading of what was valuable in society and its historical past. Deeply critical of the earlier construction of Oriyaness, the leftwing writers questioned the validity of the elitist construction of the Oriya self In the cultural self-construction of Oriya identity, the figure of Jagannath, the deity of the temple at Puri, has always enjoyed a special place. The fifth chapter turns to a discussion of Jagannath as the 'national god' of Orissa and its centrality to any reading of Oriyaness. The chapter analyses the changing relations between modernity and religion. It seeks to show the historical process by which a traditional religious symbol retained its cultural significance in a modem definition of a society's identity.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028869
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:03
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/28869

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