Editorial: The Heritage of Memory/ Postmemory
‘Postmemory’ is a concept which has been current since the 1990s and it has been used evocatively in history, psychology and literary studies to refer to the relationship that binds the ‘generation after’ to the trauma of an earlier generation. The trauma may be personal, cultural, individual or collective; it moves beyond the generation that suffers in the form of narratives, stories, images, dreams, art forms into subsequent generations, forming a kind of collective consciousness which turns at some point into a heritage. Not merely inheritance, but Heritage – something that needs to be preserved and constantly re-examined in the light of more contemporary events.
That the Partition experience has grown into the South Asian consciousness is not surprising because as this new book edited by Amritjit Singh, Nalini Iyer and Rahul K Gairola, Revisiting India’s Partition: New Essays on Memory, Culture and Politics reiterates, the past is never the past; it inheres in the present and is a doorway into the future. Our focus on this book brings to light the various new insights that Partition Studies has provided into the nature of collective trauma, memory and healing. Along with it Kamayani Kumar’s essay on visual representations of Partition shows how representatives of Partition have moved beyond history and literature, finding manifestation in other visual art forms.
Postmemory means much more than just trauma, though. The Conversation of Nirendranath Chakraborty with Aju Mukhopadhayay takes the reader into the mind of the 90+ year old poet, whose memories of a lifetime spent in literature are in danger of being irretrievably lost. The unconventional format, combining actual interview with narrative, tries to capture not only the words of the poet but also the ambience of the meeting with him. This urgency for documentation is felt by Rajni Tilak, when she laments in her Conversation with Anjali Singh that the Dalit woman’s voice has been suppressed not only by patriarchy but even by mainstream women writers who are feminists. These voices must not be muted, because when something has been silenced, it takes a great deal of courage and will to break though the Silenced.
Rooting our literary texts in ideas and theoretical parameters adds to their inexhaustible wealth. Feminism is a much vaunted term, much maligned, much venerated, much abused. When the terminology of a certain disciple becomes static, it is time to rediscover it and to understand the dynamism which led to the rise of certain concepts. In the white noise that surrounds feminism – from populist notions to erudition which, though necessary, also makes ideas inaccessible, the basic arguments and concerns can get lost. That is why it is refreshing to have Kamla Bhasin remind us, in a succinct essay, about what patriarchy is all about. Culled from her lecture by Shilpi Das, we finally had to get the essay ‘straightened out’ by Kamlaji herself so that the representation would be true to her way of looking at women, men and their relations in personal life and in society. Locating texts in their respective contexts is central to the other essays we present – Aditya Kumar Panda on the determinants of translation, Madhvi Lata’s look at identity and identity crisis in Girish Karnad’s Nag Mandala and Rachana Pandey’s perception that men are not just empowered because of their masculinity, but may, in fact, be fettered by it. Feminism, it appears, cannot ignore this aspect, if it has to be a game changer in gender issues.
It is always a pleasure when one of our Contributing Editors writes something for Muse India. Dileep Jhaveri’s introduction to two poets – Bill Wolak from Persia and Gabriel Rosenstock from Ireland – brings to us ‘Hafiz…flowing with tunes of sitar and Gabriel Rosenstock … sounds and scenes and plays and music [of Ireland]’. It is, indeed, like a breath of fresh air, to enter this world of love, marvel and the fantastic, and to reach those depths of human emotion, experience and thought that are the fertile ground of poetry alone:
the sasquatch lies on his back
allowing the day
to paint his mind
no day is ever like another