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.

Thoughts on Race and Superiority

While reading Passage to India, one aspect that caught my eye was Forster’s treatment of race and the practice of racialization. It becomes obvious that the idea of race comes to taint the view and attitude of what each group of people have towards others. Racialization is, in the text, characterized to be a misconception and as a result, a cause of much tension between the different ‘races’. But I think race becomes a conviction of which these people hedge to in order to find some certainty to cope with the flux and changes around them. For instance, even when Aziz was dressed in European costumes and speaks English, Ronny, who was probably intimidated by him previously, refuses to see him as an equal. Immediately jumping on Aziz’s skin colour which categorizes him to be an Indian – categorized to be fundamentally slack (75), and this is when Ronny does not even know Aziz or work with him.

Naturally, this act of categorizing people along racial lines is not limited to the English as it is clear that everyone is complicit. The elusiveness of race is extensively discussed in the text. This is especially highlighted in Forster’s mockery of a ‘White’ man through Fieldings, who called his own race, “pinko-gray” (57). The colour of skin is in reality just a colour, but has become connotated with superiority, however, as we would have come to realize after many events in the text – it is something that is baseless and illusionary.