The grass is always sexier on the other side.

There is one particular paragraph that I find a little bizarre in this week’s Stoler reading, the gist of which can be summarized in two sentences:

Although novels and memoirs position European women as categorically absent from the sexual fantasies of European men, these very men imagined their women to be desired and seductive figures to others. Within this frame, European women needed protection from the ‘primitive’ sexual urges aroused by the sight of them. (58)

The idea of the sight of the European woman arousing the “primitive” colonized reminded me of Doris Lessing’s novel I read years ago, entitled The Grass is Singing, where an all too plain married white woman in living on a farm with her husband in Africa enters into a bizarre sexual affair with her slave. If memory serves me correctly, there’s one point in the beginning of the text where the narrator says something along the lines of “Mary just could not get along with the natives.” From what I remember, the African slave makes the first move to modify the strict mistress-servant relationship when Mary faints or suddenly feels weak and is put to bed by Moses, the slave. From that point on, Moses addresses her in a dangerously familiar, slightly controlling tone, seemingly exploiting Mary’s weakness as a woman.

However, I really don’t understand how exactly this sort of standard comes about: what is the appeal in imposing this image of sexual predation of native men on European women? Admittedly from the texts I’ve read (Lessing’s The Grass is Singing included) the rape or predatory relationship between colonized men and colonist women is about imposing control in some way on the colonist, even if only through the percieved weakest link.

I suppose this raises a few questions about whether the colonist men had this fantasy about their women exciting sexual urges in the “primitive” colonized because of this control.

India As Battlefield

Fanon may have over-generalized in his representation of the colonized world as “a world divided in two”, but it does premise the major themes of violence and warfare in Forster’s A Passage to India – at the heart of which is a clash between two fundamentally different cultures, those of East and West.

Battlelines are clearly defined early in the novel by the Anglo-Indian’s imposed restriction on the entry of Indians into the Chandrapore Club. Mr. Turton’s proposed Bridge Party, which he explained to Adela to be “a party to bridge the gulf between East and West”, as we know did little of that sort if not to further highlight the segregation and divide with the Indian guests standing idly at one side of the tennis lawn and the English at the other. In fact, reflecting on the Bridge Party after reading Fanon’s essay, the event could be seen as a warfare strategy. Fanon writes that “the proximity and frequent, direct intervention by the police and military ensure the colonized are kept under close scrutiny, and contained by rifle butts and napalm” (4). In the absence of the military and fire arms in the novel, superficial social events and its limited interaction functions as well as a means of keeping ‘the other’ or the enemy, if you will, in close proximity and under surveillance. (Keep your friends close but your enemies even closer, as the cliché saying goes).

But of course there are individuals who defy Fanon’s over-generalized characterization of the colonist and colonized by resisting collectivist temptation. A rebel of sorts, Fielding ventures to cross these battlelines to prevent further acts of vicious and unjustified violence from occurring. Fielding plays an integral role in the orchestration of Aziz’s defense,  gathering evidence to dispel suppositions of Aziz’s guilt. He is able to see past the superficial categories of race and nationality and defend Aziz for what he truly is – an innocent, upright, and virtuous human being. But alas, “despite the success of his pacification, in spite of [the colonist’s] appropriation, the colonist always remains a foreigner” (5). Fanon’s binary opposition of the identities of the colonist versus the colonized seem to have resonance in the novel’s affirmation of the impossibility of friendship between Aziz and Fielding at its close.