This article looks at how democracy is figured in Nepali writer Manjushree Thapa's novel The Tutor of History, which I read intertextually with Jacques Derrida's The Politics of Friendship. I begin by examining how Thapa's literary practice disrupts the privileged position of English, which is tied to the notion of South Asia as a postcolonial space. I argue that postcolonialism in this case functions as a catachresis, but that the inadequacy of the category is an enabling rather than disabling feature. Both Thapa and Derrida are preoccupied with the question of whether it is possible to go beyond the familial, fraternalist, and androcentric configuration of politics. Thapa presents the philosophically persuasive case for democracy as dharma—not the claiming of rights but the dispropriative structure of responsibility that sustains collectivities. I demonstrate, however, that a mode of reading attentive to the performance of parabasis in the text reveals that even this powerful message is constantly interrupted by the figure of woman as constitutive outside of democracy—that which makes possible its self-definition and simultaneously throws it into turmoil. Questioning the privileged position given to the family (and kinship in general) as the building block of collectivity, I argue that democracy as a politics of friendship must contend with the uncertainty of fully working out any present or future collectivity.
Bishupal Limbu; Democracy, Perhaps: Collectivity, Kinship, and the Politics of Friendship. Comparative Literature 1 January 2011; 63 (1): 86–110. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-1125304
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