Empowering the Margins: Postmodernism and Minority Discourse
By. Dr. V. P. Anvar Sadhath
Assistant Professor of English
The New College (Autonomous),
The awakening of the voices of the marginalized classes especially the ethnic, racial minorities and other oppressed classes in recent years is to be understood as part of the overall shift of paradigm in cultural discourses that took place with the advent of postmodernism and related developments. The manifest forms of changes in this regard include a number of revolutionary practices initiated by literary and cultural critics and writers in the interest of social change mostly from the third world countries. (The term ‘third world’ is used as “a proper name to a generalised margin”([Spivak 199) and it is to be noted that the general use of the term in the West has ramifications as deep as the old and new varieties of colonialism.
Summarising Charles Jenkins’ idea of postmodernism, Jim Powel argues that Postmodern art and literature “represent the Other and thus present heterogeneity; by looking backward to the past or sideways to local culture” (150). He means to say that there is a new interest in the peripheries or the margins of our culture in the era postmodernism. When marginality became a buzzword in cultural critique, theorists and writers tend to form an unorganised collective, of the cultural products of the marginalized that represent/resist the plight of the subaltern classes, viz., ‘minority discourse’. Paradoxically the term minority discourse is located in the same sphere of western dualistic or binary framework that the so-called minority writers tend to subvert and question. However, as the term acquired currency in the theoretical nomenclature it is used in this paper not to legitimise and give validity to the ‘minor’ disposition of minorities, but to refer to cultural products of marginality. It is also to be noted that the marginality of the minority is constructed by the centre of our culture because the centre wants to draw dividing lines between centre and margins.
Minority discourse provides a platform for the surfacing of the voice of the voiceless classes and it is to be understood as part of a revolutionary praxis in the interest of social change. On the whole it is a subversive act aimed at checking and reacting to the overwhelming antagonism of the majority-controlled social system and power structure. The emergence of minority discourse as a conscious effort from the part of the minorities to herald their irrevocable presence, as mentioned above, coincides with the antiauthoritarian and anti-foundational tendencies of postmodernism.