Is the hierarchy of language everything?

There is a clear hierarchy of languages revealed in Fanon’s ‘Black Skin, White Masks’. When he tells of the Antilleans’ desire to learn French French (as if there was a definitive dialect), even as Senagalese try to speak like native Antilleans, the hierarchy becomes really stark and not a little funny. Sad, perhaps, but funny nonetheless.

But this hierarchy is not about the beauty of language alone, but more to do with power — what it connotes, with regards to one’s origins. This is why Germans or Russians who speak bad French, while maybe derided, still are given respect: it’s because their country, be it military might, culture, are respected. Not so for the Africans.

But where does that leave us? Language, as Fanon talks about, is alienating all around, for the colonised individual, whether he speaks French French or creole. Fanon himself seems to have no solution, for he ends the essay elliptically…

The hierarchy remains, today. The languages I would like to learn, in order, is this: French,  Spanish, Italian. Why not Malay, or Vietnamese? Not simply because the former are more exotic, or immediately useful in my Singaporean context, that’s for sure. And we assess people on their proficiency in English for sure: and why else does the British accent hold such awe for us?

But I want to suggest that in some ways, all isn’t as Fanon sees it — it’s not ALL about national or ethnic identity. If we see linguistic prowess as a skill, it should not be surprising that people are impressed by skilful users of language. And some skills are just naturally more sought after, even if they are not pragmatically useful; for example, piano-playing, ballet, archery, oh, and, golf? This hierarchy of desirability obtains from another mode of value-giving, I think. The first two might be considered artistic (thus ‘good’) and the latter, well, I honestly, don’t know!

A note on Colonial Language(s)

Fanon’s central argument, in my opinion, is quite ubiquitously accepted: that “language is power because words construct reality” (Bill Ashcroft). As he puts it, “the Negro wants to speak French because it is the key that can open doors which were still barred to him fifty years ago” (38).

What I do not agree with, however, is this: To speak a language is to take on a world, a culture. The Antilles Negro who wants to be white will be the whiter as he gains greater mastery of the cultural tool that language is. (38) There is an ambiguity in the words “take on” and the subject to which this verb-phrase refers to.

To me, speaking a language does not necessarily assimilate / acculturate its speaker into the world or culture in which it belongs. In fact, I would argue that one can become even more distanced from that ‘world’ by the awareness of the power imbued in a colonial language that was (is?) used to subjugate its colonized subjects.

We can surely see this in Portrait, where Stephen realizes that the word ‘tundish’ he thought belonged to his native language is actually English: “The language in which we are speaking is his (the English dean’s) before it is mine” (146). Arguably, therefore, this might be the reason why Fanon immediately qualifies the subject in the second sentence – it is those who “wants to be white” who “will be the whiter”, and not just any one who “gains greater mastery of the cultural tool that language is”.

Mastery of a language need not (only) be aggrandizing it, surely?

I speak, therefore I am

Fanon’s article examines the inferiority complex of the black man by highlighting the role of expression in the creation of an individual’s identity. By speaking the language of the white man and “[renouncing] his blackness”, the black man believes that he is able to “come closer to being a real human being” (Fanon, p. 18). This reveals the internalization of the racial hierarchy that positions the white man above the black man that results in the loss of the cultural heritage of the native.

It would seem, then, that the problem is this: In the Antilles, as in Brittany, there is a dialect and there is the French language. But this is false, for the Bretons do     not consider themselves inferior to the French people. The Bretons have not been     civilized by the white man. (Fanon, p. 28)

A ‘dialect’ seems to be a substandard means of expression that is associated with the ‘inferior’ native, as compared to a ‘language’. In this case, the native is expected to be less able to converse in the language of the colonizers because he is not sophisticated enough. This recalls Chateerjee’s article on the rule of colonial difference where imperialism and the civilizing mission is justified by the rulers establishing an inherent difference between the rulers and the ruled. Through this Manichean division of white man and native, the white man naturally establishes himself as superior and civilized, and the native as inferior and uncivilized. Fanon posits that this is internalized by both white man and native through the use of language. In speaking to the black man in pidgin-nigger, a language that the white man presumes is suitable for the inferior native, the white man is automatically “classifying [the black man], imprisoning him, primitivizing him, decivilizing him” (Fanon, p. 32). The simplification of language by the white man when speaking to the black man creates and reproduces the myth of white superiority, and the identity of the black man as inferior; this despite the inability to “accept as scientifically proven the theory that the black man is inherently inferior to the white, or that he comes from a different stock” (Fanon, p. 30). The Negro is then reduced to an archetype, “the eternal victim of an essence, of an appearance for which he is not responsible” (Fanon, p. 35). Drawing again on the rule of colonial difference, the Negro who expresses himself properly threatens the binary division between white man and black man because if language creates identity, speaking like the white man bridges this division.

I then realized that the novels that we have been reading are written by the white man (although they may be outsiders in colonial society), whether they are anti-imperialists or not, and that native expression has been confined or reduced to simple, broken English (no doubt because English is an adopted language for the natives), and I wonder if this perpetuates the inferiority complex of the colonized and the encourages the condescension of the colonizer.

The roles played in Empire

As I was reading Fanon’s article, I realized that the colonial enterprise only worked as well as it did was because both sides (colonized and colonizer) acknowledged their respective roles and performed them accordingly, especially when it comes to upholding the rules of language. It is only through the modernist writings that we have encountered during this module that we can see the cracks in empire as a result of either side being reluctant to play this role. In Fanon’s article, he mentions that “But we can already state that to talk pidgin-nigger is to express this thought: ‘You’d better keep your place.'” (84) Thus, there is a conscious effort to talk down to the natives as a result of the need to uphold these performative colonial roles and the  natives have to respond according to how they are expected to respond. It is when they refuse to respond as such, or even try to speak like the colonizer that there is trouble.

Moreover, the paradox of wanting to speak like the colonizer/the white man is the fact that while the colonized are described as uncivilized because of their inability to grasp the language of the colonizer, when they finally are able to grasp the language and perhaps can even speak the language better than the colonizers themselves, they are told to stay in their place, as seen in the example in Burmese Days that Charlene pointed out below.

Also as a sidenote, the point that Fanon made about “the Europeans [having] a fixed concept of the Negro and there is nothing more exasperating than to be asked: ‘How long have you been in France? You speak French so well'” (35) is still quite prevalent in today’s society in terms of how Europeans have a fixed concept of the Other, i.e people from Asia etc. I personally encountered this when I was on exchange in Glasgow last year. I had a consultation with one of my history professors regarding my essay and she commented on how my mastery of the English language was excellent in my essay and how  she was so astonished because I probably spoke Mandarin where I came from. Of course, it was awkward that I had to clarify that firstly, I did not speak Mandarin at all and secondly that English was the official language used in Singapore. But the point is that even after all these years, the European fixed concept of the Other still holds true. Moreover, the fact that she assumed that I could speak Mandarin reminds me of how the colonizers used to disregard the different cultures, and by extension languages, that existed in Africa and instead assumed that everyone spoke the same language as a means of  dehumanizing the Africans further by resisting to acknowledge the multi-farious and complex nature of their culture. But ultimately, it is obvious that language played a significant role in keeping both the colonized and colonizer in their respective places.

language and mimicry

To speak a language is to take on a world, a culture. The Antilles Negro who wants to be white will be the whiter as he gains greater mastery of the cultural tool that language is. Rather more than a year ago in Lyon, I remember, in a lecture I had drawn a parallel between the Negro and European poetry, and a French acquaintance told me enthusiastically, ‘At the bottom you are a white man.’ The fact that I had been able to investigate so interesting a problem through the white man’s language gave me honorary citizenship” (38).

This extract to me really summarises what the article is all about. it is about the appropriation of a language that is foreign in an attempt to be something that one cannot (Liz explained this really well in her post). And what really troubles me is the fact that the Antilles Negroes still persist in wanting to speak French because they see it as “the key that can open doors which were still barred to his fifty years ago” (38). They wish to be seen as equals to their European counterparts but this cannot ever be achieved because no matter how good their French is, as it is only seen as a good imitation of an original. It is like a layman trying to sing Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” in Singapore Idol. It will never ever be able to measure up to the original version and what will you get? lots of backlash from the judges about poor song choice and a possible boot from the show. Anecdote aside, the Antilles Negroes will always be “measured up to the culture” (39) and even if their “gift of eloquence… leaves any European breathless” (39), their ‘achievement’ will be met with praise laced with condescension, oh he was a “great black poet,” or here’s a “black man who handles the french language as no white man can” (39). Race always comes to the fore and it just seems to me to be another pat on the back on the colonizer’s part.

But this is not to mean that they should stop speaking French, because mimicry as suggested by Homi Bhabha could also disclose the ambivalence of colonial discourse and disrupt its authority in creating a kind of “double vision.” This double vision is the “inappropriate” repetition of partial presences of the colonial subject that subverts the “appropriate objects of a colonialist chain of command, authorized versions of otherness”(87).

You can’t be anything but colonized

Of interest to me in Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man is a particular scene where Dedalus holds a conversation with Davin. Dedalus refuses to learn Irish (219), and is criticized for that. Davin implies that by refusing to accept the Irish language, he is somehow not “Irish” (219). At the same time, Davin also suggests that if Dedalus had stuck to supporting English, he would not be criticized either. Davin says, “One time I hear you talk against English literature. Now you talk against Irish informers” (219). It’s almost as if Davin is insisting Dedalus should choose a side, and be either pro-English or pro-Irish. I think Dedalus implies that by forcing him to choose reinforces the binary of colonizer and colonized as he insists of flying by those nets of “nationality, language, religion” (220).

What this highlights is I think something Fanon talks about in “The Negro and Language”, that the mindsets of the colonized has become entrapped in the discourse of the colonizer such that the colonized can only envision himself in respect to the colonizer. To be pro-English means to accept being colonized, to be pro-Irish appears equivalent to being anti-English, which is to reject being colonized. Either way, it appears that Davin can only see himself as an Irish in respect to the British. Whether by accepting colonization or rejecting colonization, he can only see himself as colonized. This becomes restricting as there is then no identity outside that of being colonized.

esse quam videri: Fanon the modernist arguing for truth.

In reading Fanon’s article on “The Negro and Language”, I was particularly fascinated by the discussion on the use of pidgin to communicate with the Negro, the complete disregard and indeed dismissal of any possibility that the Negro may in fact be more than capable of understanding “adult” French, and not actually require a simpler form of language in order to communicate. Further, I loved Fanon’s argument that colonial discourse has been so internalised that one is unconscious about one’s condescension, and indeed as simplistic an argument as this seems, it is this kind of reflexivity that perhaps we need even now, in overcoming prejudice that undercuts even the most well-intended interactions.

Yet, Fanon’s most scathing criticism is not for the ignorant / condescending white man, but for the Westernised Negro, the native who upon returning can almost immediately be identified as “European” (hence, black skin, white masks). His greatest contention is not merely that colonialism has told the native figure he should be _____, or that he is _____, but that the native comes to believe this is true. And in believing in his inferiority, the native attempts to overcome it by being like the white man. Fanon argues this is in itself impossible, for even with a white mask, black skin is still black skin (one thinks of Michael Jackson but that is beside the point).

What Fanon stands for, at the end of the day, and what is reiterated throughout the book, then, is the concept of esse quam videri, or to BE, rather than appear to be. There is a desire for truthfulness in one’s identity that Fanon is calling out for. No shame in being “native”, only in pretending to be white when it is an impossibility. And briefly, then, Fanon fulfills the Modernist ideal of pursuing truth, and rejecting past “truths”.

Note-taking for the Second Part of Class (Week 4)

Why does Fanon’s discussion use binaries?

 Fanon discusses colonization in terms of binaries should be read within the context of Hegelian dialectics. According to Hegel, there is a thesis and an anti-thesis which are in opposition. Eventually, the thesis and anti-thesis will combine to form the synthesis, a process called sublation. This synthesis is supposed to be a form of progress.

 At the same time, such binaries really did exist in colonized lands. For example, the colonizer and the colonized are distinguished as “citizens” and “subjects” respectively. In that sense, the colonized do not have the same rights as the colonizer, as being “subjects”, the Social Contract does not apply to them. The arms of the government, the police, the army and the Law thus were obliged, by the Social Contract, to protect the colonizers (citizens), but not the colonized (subjects). The police, army and the Law thus quite literally compartmentalize the colonized lands by dividing it into two, the land of the colonizer and the land of the colonized. 

 Why does Fanon call for violence?

 Fanon’s call for violence stems from two general ideas.

 Firstly, there is the idea that the colonizer inflicts incredible violence on the native, but that act of violence is covered up. The idea of the Social Contract in terms of the “civilizing mission” is all well and good, but whether it was applied needs to be questioned. Instead of teaching the “barbaric natives” civilization (rationality, for example), the colonizers seemed instead to have taught them violence and to teach them to internalize an image of themselves as “inferior” and “barbaric”. For example, in A Passage to India, the natives often try to change their habits and manners to satisfy the colonizer’s values of what is proper, which illustrates that they have internalized the colonizer’s idea of what is “good” and what is “bad”. This is an act of violence because the colonized have internalized an image of themselves set by people (the colonizers) who do not have their best interests at heart. At the same time, actual violence is acted out upon the colonized. Aziz, for example, was arrested for a crime he did not commit. Significantly, the moment Aziz is arrested, his voice is no longer heard (quite literally) within the text. That could be an example of the colonizer’s violence against the colonized being covered up.

 Secondly, Marx’s ideas of a “class struggle”, strongly influenced by Hegelian dialectics, suggest that change can only be made through violence. This could explain Fanon’s dissatisfaction with the new class of “colonized intellectuals”. Essentially, the colonized intellectuals have internalized the values of the colonizer, and will try to resolve issues between the colonizer and the colonized peacefully. Thus whatever “new” system they form will merely be a replication of the colonizer’s system. There will thus be no change and no progress.

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.

Fanon and violence

While I disagree on Fanon’s insistence on categorizing the colonial world as Manichaestic, I agree with his claim that decolonization is a programme of complete disorder. Any process that seeks to remove a previous system in its entirety and to start anew with another system, especially in the case of decolonization in Southeast Asia where the system that was introduced is one that is not only new but has not been proven to work, would definitely cause disorder. His claim that decolonization is a programme of complete disorder brought me back to the last section (Temples) of A Passage to India where Forster documents a festival where there is complete disorder, and noticably there are not any Anglo-Indian characters in this section. Perhaps Forster was also already aware of the violence that was to come with decolonization.

Also, I feel that while violence is never a good way towards striving for a resolution, I feel that decolonization was a necessary violent process. After the violence that had been inflicted upon the natives during the process of colonization, I feel the only way to start completely anew is through violence as a ‘cleansing’ process. As such, even though the violence that decolonization brought about was viewed as only another example of native barbarism and as such seemed to only proved that they weren’t ready to be free from the colonialists, I feel that it was a way that the natives could come out of the period of history which was marked with violence.

Violences in Fanon

I found Fanon’s On Violence particularly striking and in fact, disturbing. Fanon writes of the colonized and colonists as two polarised and homogenous groups or masses, and expounds on the violence that both groups enact. When I was reading his descriptions on the actions of the white colonisers on the native colonised, a few points struck me. Firstly, that Fanon has no problem with discussing colonialism and decolonisation in terms of a clear-cut binary of wary colonizer and envious colonised, and secondly, that in his own discussion of the violence done upon the colonised by the colonizers, Fanon himself also enacts a sort of violence upon them.

Frankly, I was quite disturbed by the way Fanon reduced and simplified the experience(s) of colonialism and decolonisation in to clear cut black and white binaries. The wary ‘colonist’ and the envious ‘colonized, both strictly at odds with one another. Fanon seems to ignore that the experience of colonialism was different in each country—yes, it can be argued that being colonised was at the root an act of violence, and the natives were, in all cases, ‘invaded’ by the white men. Yet, Fanon dismisses the different ways people—both colonialists and colonised—thought about colonialism and being colonised, and the nuances in the colonial experience and process. Granted, Fanon was writing from his own perspective and experiences, but I feel that his simplification of the issue not only makes a meaningful discussion of colonialism difficult, but is also in itself an act of violence on the colonised, and also the colonisers.

Fanon’s description of the colonized really disturbed me, especially the way he ‘condensed’ the various individuals who were colonised into a single figure—“the colonized subject”, a single, unremarkable “him”. This struck me most as the ‘violence’ in the text, not the actions of the colonizers.

On “On Violence”

Fanon emphasises many times that the colonised dream not of taking the coloniser’s place: ‘Not of becoming a colonist, but replacing him.’ (16)

That too me was really significant, because I feel like the nuance of that difference eludes me — so the native doesn’t want to BECOME a coloniser, but wants to simply take the latter’s place. What does that mean, really?

When you take someone’s place, do you not take over the function of that person? Do you not step into the position of power that person had, thereby wielding that power?

It’s got me thinking — does Fanon really mean to say that the native wants to step into that position, wield that power but importantly NOT ‘oppress’, well, themselves? It seems like a moot point to me.

But another more important point to me is that Fanon in “On Violence” seems to me to reveal how the native-with-power will simply be oppressing/committing injustices on other groups of people.

Fanon writes as if nationalist aims were of supreme importance – ‘in their part of the world slogans of national liberation should come first’ (22) – and enacts that in this article: there is nary a mention of gender inequalities or  subtle-but-important ethnic differences, as if the colonised were a monolithic whole.

Thus when he writes of how ‘Truth is what protects the “natives” and undoes the foreigners’ (14), I find myself a  little worried. Whose truth is it? That of the nationalist, but soon-to-be-fascist?

Abandoning binaries, embracing perspectives

While I was thinking about the divisions between colonists/colonized or West/East, it struck me how humans have this need for easy categorizations. Fanon says “It is the colonist who fabricated… the colonized subject” (2). The image of the colonized is created in opposition to the colonist. “The ruling species is first and foremost the outsider from elsewhere, different from the indigenous population, ‘the others’” (Fanon 5), establishing the difference in race, status, and other attributes between the colonist and the colonized. We are all too familiar with classifying Indians/East as rural, primitive, uncivilized, and superstitious, in comparison to the English/West as cultured, educated and rational. It is precisely such binary modes of thinking that creates a static, stereotyped image, which I think Forster tries not to fall into in A Passage To India.

Godbole is a fine example of a character that doesn’t fall into neat categories. “His whole appearance suggested harmony, as if he had reconciled the products of East and West” (65). If we look at the significant Marabar Caves, it is viewed by the English as a “muddle”, dangerous and disorienting. What the English see as a chaotic muddle, however, the Indians view as a beautiful, spiritual mystery. Just as “good and evil are different, as their names imply… they are both of them aspects of [the] Lord” (167), once again suggesting it is a matter of perspective. I think Forster propounds adopting an unconventional approach to reading the novel and reading people: learning to embrace different perspectives, realizing there is no one truth, just as India can be “a hundred Indias” (13). Only when we are open to other perspectives, will we be able to get a more all-encompassing view of the Truth, or the ‘real’ India.

The cylcle of violence

Franz Fanon’s article ‘On Violence’ highlights the division between the colonized and the colonist that is physically manifested in the difference between their respective residential areas. Fanon depicts a ‘compartmentalized world’ of division between the two groups; the colonists quarters defined by excesses, space and luxuries while the colonized’s sector is characterized by lack, filth and overcrowding. The disparity between the two groups result in the latter’s desire to reclaim their land.  This is likewise illustrated in A Passage to India. The beginning of the novel highlights the apparent inequality by juxtaposing the privileged residences of the English with the filth of the Ganges. In addition, the injustices suffered by Aziz at the hands of the English leads him to think about an India without the English. ‘Clear out, all you Turtons and Burtons… India shall be a nation! No foreigners of any sort!’ There is a desire for decolonization that is not without hints of violence.

Fanon states that colonialization involves violence in two ways; the taking of territories is often a bloody one and the maintenance of hierarchies of power involves threats of violence from those in power. Decolonization also involves violence towards the colonists that is effective when the colonized are united. Aziz’s desire for the purdah to fall down suggests the dissolution of religious difference to be rid of the English. The cycle of violence then reproduces itself like the imagery of the widening gyres in W.B. Yeats’ ‘Second Coming’ where history seems to reproduce itself. The violence that has been imposed by the colonist results in the hurts and anger of the colonized, and this anger is channelled back via violence towards the colonists. I think that is it interesting that while independence may seem to be the end of violence between the two groups, capitalism continues to subject the former colonized to the colonist. The prosperity of Western nations is dependent on the consumers in the former colonies. After all, MacDonald’s, Starbucks and Disneyland are fast taking over the world.

In Opposite Corners: Colonist vs Colonized in Fanon and Forster

In the beginning of Fanon’s chapter “On Violence,” he states that:

…[t]he colonist is right when he says he “knows” them. It is the colonist who fabricated and continues to fabricate the colonized subject. The colonist derives his validity, i.e., his wealth, from the colonial system.

The entire idea of “fabricating” the colonized subject made me think of Said’s Orientalism, and the tendency of the colonist to make the colonized appear simultaneously exotic and uncivilized. Said argues that the colonist projects their “dark” side onto the colonized–attributing cruelty, stupidity, laziness, lack of hygeine etc to the “hysterical masses”–while exemplifying themselves as the polar opposite of the colonized. As Fanon puts it, “to illustrate the totalitarian nature of colonial exploitation, the colonist turns the colonized into a kind of quintessence of evil.”

Nonetheless, Fanon appears to be writing from this Eurocentric standpoint, positing the colonial world as a “compartmentalized” and ordered world and the decolonization process as a process of violence caused by years of envy and anger on part of the colonized people. His description of the “native” sector as disreputable, famished, and prostate suggests that his sympathies lie with the colonists.

In addition to using Said’s binaristic language to describe the colonist and colonized, Fanon makes an interesting decision in acknowledging the colonist as the foreigner, but still labeling the colonized, “the others,” emphasizing that the indigenous population is marginalized, and therefore inferior to to the colonists.

With regards to Forster’s Passage, Fanon’s illustration of the relationship between the colonist and the colonized, specifically the “colonized intellectual,” and his definitions of the “foreign” and “native” sectors facilitate insight into the interactions between and the opinions held by the “foreign” and “native” characters in the text.

Geopolitics in “A Passage to India

“The Wretched of the Earth” reading gave me several insights. One of which is that violence is inflicted on the colonial subject through the use of space. “In colonial regions, the proximity and frequent, direct intervention by the police and the military ensure the colonized are kept under close scrutiny” (4). Thus not only is Foucault’s idea of surveillance utilized in that the colonizers constantly invade the native space but that the spaces in which the native and the colonizer inhabit are placed in stark contrast. The colonist forms enclaves “where the streets are clean and smooth”, a “belly permanently full of good things” (4) while the native quarters is a “disreputable place inhabited by disreputable people” (4).

We see this use of space playing out in “A Passage to India” as the club symbolizes a place for the British elites to play tennis, have bridge parties and foster an identity of English-ness. The Indians are prohibited from entering this space as Aziz demonstrates by watching only from the gate. Meanwhile, Aziz’s home is one where the heat permeates and where flies are aplenty so much so that Hassan is called to drive them away.

Fanon suggests that this binaristic opposition of spaces breeds envy in the native and they want to overthrow the colonizers and take their place. The bridge party for example, is draped under the pretense that the British invited the ‘real’ Indians so as to bridge the gap but in between sips of their iced lemon tea, the British are sneering them, and this event only seeks to enforce the superiority of their race. This is also seen in the courthouse where commoners sit on the dust outside the court while Adela and her supporters were given seats on the platform signaling a position of authority (208). Thus the tensions between the races are not only evident through their physical interactions with one another but this is also manifested through the geographical landscape and the Forster’s use of space.

Truth sets the native free, or does it?

I will look at a quote from Fanon’s article: “Truth is what protects the “natives” and undoes the foreigners” (14). This problematizes modernism as a form of decolonialization because it rejects naming absolute Truth, perhaps not so much because there isn’t any but because they feel humans lack the means of communicating it. For example, the caves always echo back “boun”, no matter what you say, which I think, illustrates the inadequacies of language.   


So, if “Truth” is what sets the native free, by refusing to bring the “Truth” to light, does Forster continue to keep the colonized “penned in”? For example, by refusing to reveal the truth about Adela’s attack, Forster makes Adela’s naming of Aziz as her attacker an ambivalent gesture. If she named Aziz as her attacker because she was assaulted by an Indian, and in the darkness had mistaken the Indian for Aziz, it reinforces the colonial mentality of the “absolute evil” of the colonized. If Adela had not been attacked, her naming of an Indian as an attacker could then be read as the colonial impulse to label the natives as “absolute evil”, as she had projected a shapeless, terrifying situation into the form of an Indian. However, I think that it is arguable that instead of penning in the native, the refusal to reveal the Truth might give readers the room to form their opinions on what happened, and thus force them to review their reasons for choosing to take a particular perspective.