Daniel Schönbauer (Brühl, Bonn), Introduction: Postcolonial Indian Experiences - Teaching 'the Faces' of a Rising Nation in:

Daniel Schönbauer (Ed.)

Postcolonial Indian Experiences, page 10 - 18

Teaching the Faces of a Rising Nation

1. Edition 2020, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4293-9, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-7205-9,

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
10 Introduction: Postcolonial Indian Experiences - Teaching 'the Faces' of a Rising Nation Daniel Schönbauer (Brühl/Bonn) Introduction: Postcolonial Indian Experiences – Teaching ‘the faces’ of a Rising Nation India has been an Anglophone country of interest in foreign language education for some time (cf. Wandel 2013: 387). There are numerous reasons for teaching India. From the point of view of literary and cultural studies, Ellen Dengel-Janic, for instance, underlines that Indian literature has become an important part of world literature because of its vibrant heterogeneity of conflicted voices (cf. 2007: 150). Likewise, both Joybrato Mukherjee and Oliver von Knebel-Doeberitz (formerly Linder) representing the point of view of the teaching of English as a foreign language (TEFL) have used the metaphors of “the Indian Kaleidoscope” (Mukherjee 2006) and “the Jewel in the Classroom” (Lindner 2010) to illustrate the importance of India for the classroom. In fact, Teaching India by Oliver Lindner (von Knebel-Doeberitz) has been, notwithstanding, the most elaborate theoretically founded publication regarding the teaching of India ever since its publication in 2008. This interest to include India is representative of a common interest of EFL research to widen its focus in favour of appreciating cultures other than ‘mainstream’ British and American literature and culture (Wandel 2006: 87f. / Freitag & Gymnich 2005: 260). Despite these valuable demands to teach India in class, Reinhold Wandel, in 2013, criticised the matter as follows: “German EFL experts and teachers are too far removed from everyday Indian life and therefore lack both knowledge and experience of Indian reality” (396). He exemplifies his criticism by arguing that the teaching of India is often limited to a canon of traditional Indian literature. Following this 11 criticism, a Master of Education seminar at the University of Bonn in the Winter Term 2017/2018 focused on the current state of the arts when it comes to teaching India as a rising postcolonial nation and developed approaches to face the challenges expressed by Reinhold Wandel. Guided by an interest in interconnected major insights of postcolonial literary studies with the teaching of literature and culture, the participants explored the different ‘faces’ of postcolonial India. As a result, the edited volume at hand pursues two major objectives: (1) It provides a collection of articles dealing with different ‘faces’ of Indian postcolonial identity and thereby considers canonical as well as current issues in research on India; (2) The articles do not only seek to provide insight into where we are academically at, but also to be as concrete and critical as possible in terms of paving ways of why and how to approach these ‘faces’ in a literary-based EFL classroom. The present volume is divided into four parts. Following this introduction, Pavan Kumar Malreddy provides a survey on pedagogical perspectives to approach a teaching of the different ‘faces’ of postcolonial India, thereby focusing on structural, internal as well as external/diasporic divisions. In this context, he refers to a variety of texts, clips and images and presents possible suggestions of how to read, watch and teach them in class. The divisions sketched in his article set the base for the following subchapters, which follow a consistent structure: Based on one selected literary text, the articles analyse how these texts represent and (re-)construct postcolonial Indian experience(s) (WHAT?). They take the perspective of postcolonial literary and cultural studies as a base for an analysis from the point of view of teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) (WHY?). Thereby, the articles discuss the chances and challenges when considering reading and teaching the respective text in class. Finally, teaching activities following the constructivist PWP-model open some perspective(s) of how to teach postcolonial Indian literature in class. The following articles are categorised according to the aforementioned divisions or ‘faces’ of postcolonial India: From Empire to Globalisation: Historical Perspectives The first set of articles is related to historical perspectives. Based on the understanding of the term ‘postcolonial’, which means “all of the culture affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day” (Ashcroft et al. 1989: 2), the articles focus on 12 colonial India, the period of partition as well as post-independence India. The first article by Natascha Münnich focuses on the colonial short story “The Rise of Ram Din” by Alice Perrin. In fact, “the genre of the short story was seen as especially well equipped to meet the programmatic demands and tastes of the colonial readership” (Dengel-Janic 2007: 138). Dealing with “The Rise of Ram Din” in class introduces students to a text whose author was one of those Anglo- Indian writers who “considered their works to function as a corrective to idealized and romanticized image of India and colonial life and thus wanted to present an alternative, more truthful image than the one circulating in the mother-country [i.e. Great Britain]” (ibid.). Representing (and thereby criticising) a stereotypical colonial power relation between a master and a servant, the story offers the chance to analyse how (colonial literary) stereotypes are constructed and to become aware of the imbalance of power in colonial India. The most traumatic event of Indian history, however, is the Partition of colonial India into the (Muslim) state of Pakistan and the (Hindu) state of India in 1947. The trauma of Partition, the history of nationalism and the problems of coming to terms have been of relevance in Indian as well as Pakistani literature and culture until today and serve as explanation for the ongoing conflicts between the two nuclear nations (cf. ibid.: 149). One of the most prolific authors reflecting these effects of Partition is Saadat Manto. “The Return” taken from his short story collection Mottled Dawn is the literary text Michelle Skruth analyses in terms of its suitability for the EFL classroom. Since trauma, violence and war are part of human existence, one cannot avoid discussing such sensitive topics in the EFL classroom. In her article, Michelle Skruth argues in favour of analytically teaching such texts since trauma and violence represent the limits of the intercultural paradigm of cultural relativity in terms of asking students to have empathy with (almost) any ‘other’ perspective they face. In the following, this section also considers perspectives of postindependence India. Arundhati Roy is, notwithstanding, one of the most famous representatives of this phase of Indian literature. Her debut novel The God of Small Things reflects a phase in the development of Indian literature marked by “a turn to postmodern techniques, metafiction, cosmopolitanism, and a focus on marginalized groups within Indian society” (ibid.: 143). This, at first glance, seems to be quite a challenge for the classroom. Kevin Kuypers elaborates on this hy- 13 pothesis and discusses to what extent the novel’s aesthetically complex representation of postcolonial Indian experience could be overcome for teaching purposes. Even though his article is the only one in this edited volume concluding that a consideration of the selected text represents too much of a burden to teach in class, he underlines the necessity of a critical analysis of any piece of literature from the point of view of literary and cultural studies as well as EFL teaching prior to methodological considerations. Ever since the beginning of colonial trade relations in the 16th century, India has been shaped by global developments, which accelerated in the 20th century when especially the influence of Western companies drastically changed the country: “India is succeeding in branches which the West and Japan had hitherto regarded as their hegemonic asset, namely the advantage of being on the cutting edge of technological progress” (Lindner 2010: 59). In this context, one oftentimes speaks of the ‘Americanisation of India’. It is, therefore, safe to say that India is one of the most important global players. This ‘economic’ face of Indian postcolonial identity is the focus of Marc Nöthen’s article on India Becoming by Akash Kapur, who introduces the reader to his experiences of the change of the rural India he lived in as a child towards a Western-influenced global India he had to face after his return to India after having studied and worked in the U.S. These experiences represent a useful resource to discuss the effects globalisation has had on the Anglophone postcolonial world. Inside Perspectives: Cultural ‘Faces’ of Present-Day India After having elaborated on historical developments of postcolonial Indian identity, the focus shifts towards ‘inner faces’ of the country. Despite India’s growth of (economic) self-confidence, the country is characterised by religious, social and cultural contradictions (cf. Lindner 2010: 59). It is the aim of the articles in this section to elaborate on the literary representation of these tensions. In this regard, Bollywood is regarded a carrier of Indian culture, and people not only in India, but worldwide are interested Bollywood productions (cf. Krämer 2008: 107). Being increasingly influenced by Western culture, Bollywood, therefore can be regarded as transcultural phenomenon, which is worth introducing in the EFL classroom. English Vinglish, in this context, is a relatively new production which builds on common stereotypes and skilfully deconstructs these aesthetically intertwining Western cinematic elements with typical features of Indi- 14 an Bollywood films because such an approach “can heighten pupils’ awareness of the remarkable ideological implications of film texts that most people dismiss as harmless entertainment” (ibid.: 115). Following this idea(l), Christina Büttgen, Carolin Sampels and Christine Strackbein provide a thoughtful critical reading of selected parts of the film and student-centred activities to actively work with the film in class. When elaborating on the challenges post-independence India must face, literature dealing with the situation of women is inevitable since “the exploration of how women are defined by social, political and economic forces is central to Indian women’s writing in English” (Dengel-Janic 2007: 145). The short story “Mother” by Baburao Bagul does not only criticise gender roles but also hierarchies of family structures. Reading and teaching this short story in class offer students the chance to deal with perspectives, which were not adequately represented in colonial discourse: women and Dalits. Thereby, the story exemplifies the idea of ‘postcolonial feminism’, which is, however, “not only occupied with essentializing and universalizing tendencies in Western feminism, but also addresses options of political activism and the question of who may speak for whom” (Wandel et al. 2007: 215). The analysis of this short story provided by Christina Kattwinkel helps learners to become aware of the necessity to “take local contexts into account without losing sight of the complex global situation in order to avoid undue homogenization” (ibid.). Her article, in fact, is a valuable starting point for further necessary investigation on the state of gender issues in today’s postcolonial world. When asking students about their association(s) towards India, they will most likely stick to stereotypes and limit India to colonial exoticism, post-independence poverty and precarity as well as food, clothes and cinema which especially loom large in the Indian diaspora. This “cliché-ridden (mis-)perception of the subcontinent” (Mukherjee 2006: 143) is a fruitful base for a cultural approach to question and overcome cultural stereotypes. One short story, which fits this context particularly well, is Meher Pestonji’s “Outsider” analysed by Julia Falter, Sophie Gnech and Svenja Harzem. Reflecting the perspective(s) of young adults, the selection of this story is of interest for the classroom in terms of identification with the perspectives provided in the story. Their suggested teaching activities take the students’ interest and lifestyle into consideration and thereby reacts to the criticism put for- 15 ward by Reinhold Wandel arguing that the everyday life of young Indians is hardly considered in class (cf. 2013: 396). India as a Global Community: Diasporic Experiences The final section of this edited volume focuses on Indian diasporic experiences. In fact, the Indian diaspora is one of the world’s largest diasporic communities. Authors such as Salman Rushdie and Jhumpha Lahiri underline Ellen Dengel-Janic’s statement “that authors of the Indian diaspora focus particularly on issues relating to (multiple) identity, transculturality and the difficulties of belonging (2007: 147). This is in accord with the experiences of members of the Indian diaspora in the 21st century. In fact, globalisation and global exchange have resulted in a new understanding of ‘India’ and an overcoming of secondgeneration identity construction(s) based on the binary dichotomy of ‘West’ and ‘East’ or ‘us’ vs. ‘them’. Instead, there is an “intense desire to overcome feelings of aloofness, trauma and loss […] by a longing for reconciliation of what was left behind with what is possible in the present” (Alam 2013: 248). In this regard, the so-called ‘myth of return’ has turned into an appreciation of India as a fluid, transcultural global community, which, in turn, also reflects the reality students will likely have to face in their (future) lives. Nevertheless, dealing with (Indian) diasporic fiction has also been a focal point of criticism. For instance, Reinhold Wandel comes to the ironic conclusion that “India […] seems to be situated somewhere in the outskirts of Leicester or in London’s East End” (2013: 388). He thereby wants to criticise that limiting India to its diaspora results in a neglection of “India proper” (ibid.: 389); thereby also questioning the authenticity of a limitation of postcolonial Indian identity to its diasporic centres. The first two articles focus on short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, one of – if not the – most famous representatives of the American Indian diaspora. As put forward by Laurenz Volkmann, Lahiri’s (short) fiction is of particular interest for the classroom since she herself “not only [reflects] […] processes of identity formation” but also “[serves] a need of both critics and readers for literature or the media to provide aesthetically pleasing images and fictional conceptualizations of […] global identities” (2008: 18). Especially her short story collection Interpreter of Maladies illustrates the dichotomous construction of diasporic identity torn between “a sense of loss” on the one hand and a “sense of gain” (ibid.: 19) on the other hand. Alexander Gaiselmann (“Mrs Sen’s) and Laura Commer & Kira Jil Gray (“When Mr Pirza- 16 da Came to Dine”) illustrate that both the short story as well as the short story collection can be used to critically deal with incidents of cultural misunderstandings and conflicts in class. On top of that, the authors highlight that these stories help to introduce typical problems of the Anglophone postcolonial world in class: questions of belonging, immigrant experiences as well as possible resistance to processes of assimilation (cf. ibid.: 20). After having elaborated on literary examples of the American Indian diaspora, the article by Lennart Krieger elaborates on one novel, which has already found its way into the German EFL classroom: Bali Rai’s (un)arranged marriage. In fact, arranged marriage is a topic students are likely to associate with India because of its stereotypical representation in media and films. Whilst from a Eurocentric perspective this concept is likely to be met with criticism, the concept is rather positively connoted in India itself. Using the novel in class, combining it with other examples of (literary) texts in form of a textual framework and addressing arranged marriage in class, the “students are able to reflect on their own stereotypes and prejudices and to discuss similar situations in their own culture” (Mukherjee 2006: 145). Despite Reinhold Wandel’s criticism of a hidden canon of Indian literature, Salman Rushdie is still one of the dominant authors of Indian literature. Though almost all his novels do not stand the criterion of appropriate length which is manageable for young learners, his short stories collection East/West represents a valuable resource to introduce his very own style of writing and inherent criticism of Indian post-independence identity to the classroom. In this context, Sophie Gnech & Svenja Harzem use the (famous) short story “A Good Advice is Rarer than Rubies” to illustrate that reading and teaching Rushdie in class is, indeed, possible and enriching in terms of making his implicit criticism in the story explicit to the learners. Their activities provide a reasonable approach to not only analytically but also creatively deal with this story. Carolin Bialecki’s article on the autobiography Lion, which has recently been adapted for a film, concludes this section. Introducing such an autobiographical experience in class fulfils a central demand by Reinhold Wandel arguing for “authentic reports, tales recounting exemplary and typical situation, conflicts, real-life experiences, biographical sketched etc. conveyed in vivid and graphic modes” (2013: 395). Since there has hardly been research on the benefits of autobiographical texts, this article provides a precious starting point for fur- 17 ther academic elaboration. In fact, Carolin Bialecki succeeds in providing both a convincing reading of the construction of this specific example of diasporic identity and a sensitive approach to dealing with the cinematic representation of the traumatic experience of an adoptive boy living in Australia after accidentally getting lost in India. Last but not least…. I would like to thank all contributors for their patience during the editorial process and the effort they put in the (re-)writing of their articles. It was an honour to work together with you in the winter term 2017/2018 and I will always positively think back to our common discussions. Next, I thank Sophie Gnech, Svenja Harzem, Milena Niesen, Fabian Richartz, Alina Tary and Sofia Ullah for their invaluable help during the editing process and reading of the manuscript. Without their help, this publication would not have been possible. Finally, I am most grateful to the Department of English, American and Celtic Studies at the University of Bonn for their generous financial support for the publication of this edited volume. November 2019 Bonn/Brühl Daniel Schönbauer Works cited Alam, F. (2013). The Mythos of Return and Recent Indian English Diasporic Fiction. In Krishna Sen & Rituparna Roy (Eds.), Writing India Anew. Indian English Fiction 2000-2010 (pp. 247-257). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Ashcroft, B. & Griffiths, G. & Tiffin, H. (1989). The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures. London and New York: Routledge. Dengel-Janic, E. (2007). South Asia. In Lars Eckstein (Ed.), English Literatures Across the Globe (pp. 133- 157). Paderborn: UTB. Freitag, B. & Gymnich, M. (2005). New English and Postcolonial Literatures im Fremdsprachenunterricht. In Wolfgang Hallet & Ansgar Nünning (Eds.), Neue Ansätze und Konzepte der Literatur- und Kulturdidaktik (pp. 259-276). Trier: WVT. 18 Krämer, L. (2008). Bollywood in the Classroom. Opportunities and Problems of Teaching Popular Indian Cinema. In Oliver Lindner (Ed.), Teaching India (pp. 107-123). Heidelberg: Winter. Lindner, O. (2010). India: The Jewel in the Classroom. In: Maria Eisenmann, Nancy Grimm & Laurenz Volkmann (Eds.), Teaching the New English Cultures & Literatures (pp. 59-72). Heidelberg: Winter. Mukherjee, J. (2006). Unity in Diversity: the Indian Kaleidoscope in the EFL Classroom. In Werner Delanoy & Laurenz Volkmann (Eds.), Cultural Studies in the EFL Classroom (pp. 143-151). Heidelberg: Winter. Neumann, B. (2009). Fictions of Memory im Fremdsprachenunterricht: Literatur- und Kulturdidaktische Perspektiven auf Literarische Inszenierungen von Erinnerung und Identität. In Wolfgang Hallet & Ansgar Nünning (Eds.), Romandidaktik. Theoretische Grundlagen, Methoden, Lektüreanregungen (pp. 353-370). Trier: WVT. Volkmann, L. (2008). Interpreter of Maladies / Interpreter of Cultures. Interand Transcultural Aspects of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Short Stories. In Oliver Lindner (Ed.), Teaching India (pp. 17-34). Heidelberg: Winter. Wandel, R. (2006). Still some way to go…Indian English Narratives in the German EFL-Classroom. In Bern-Peter Lange & Mara Pandurang (Eds.), Mediating Indian Writing in English. German Responses (pp. 86-109). Jaipur: Rawat. Wandel, R. (2013). Teaching India in the German EFL Classroom – Issues and Problems. In Jana Gohrisch & Ellen Grünkemeier (Eds.), Cross/Cultures: Readings in Post-Colonial Literatures and Cultures in English (pp. 387-398). Amsterdam: Rodopi. Wandel, R. & Bartels, A. & Sutter, M. (2007). Women and Postcolonial Literature in the EFL Classroom. In Helene Decke-Cornill & Laurenz Volkmann (Eds.), Gender Studies and Foreign Language Teaching (pp. 209- 226). Tübingen: Narr.

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The 21st century has seen a growing importance of India in foreign language education. Not only has globalisation led to a reshaping of life in India itself, but, on a global scale, the enlarging Indian diaspora has resulted in a spreading and reflection of Indian (diasporic) experiences in economy, literature and (pop)culture. This anthology provides perspectives of how to read and teach these ‘faces’ of postcolonial India. Thereby, it focusses on a variety of literary texts worth implementing in teaching units. The articles take the perspective of literary and cultural studies as base and aim at interconnecting it to major concepts and theories of teaching literature and culture. Finally, it is the aim of this anthology to provide ideas of how to actively teach the different ‘faces’ of postcolonial India in the (advanced) intercultural EFL classroom.