Drawing upon research into Indian property law, this essay offers a new perspective on both the feminist interventions and the aesthetic innovations of Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things. This essay is the first to show how The God of Small Things' feminist critique is established primarily through attacking Indian property law, which has historically excluded women from its purview. Whereas previous criticism has focused on Roy's exploration of female social ostracism, this essay addresses the precarious political, juridical, and economic status of women in the novel. The God of Small Things' feminist legal critique is not only perceptive and timely, but it also offers a crucial insight into the political stakes of the novel's aesthetic form. I use political and legal theory to identify India's property law and juridical economy as “possessive,” or exclusionary, and to explain the contrasting significance of the novel's nonpossessive, relational aesthetics. Through its literary innovations, particularly its recursive narrative structure and metaphors of connection, The God of Small Things reconfigures the legal and political logic authorizing female dispossession. If India's gendered property law has systematically dispossessed women, The God of Small Things works to counter such exclusions by establishing an alternative structural logic. Roy's formal strategies are, I conclude, politically significant, as they delineate the possible form of a nonpossessive, relational juridicopolitical economy.
Possessive Politics and Improper Aesthetics: Property Rights and Female Dispossession in Arundhati Roy's the God of Small Things
rose casey is a PhD candidate in English at Cornell University. Her dissertation, “Aesthetic Impropriety: Reinventing the Polis Postcolonial Literature,” examines how the prevailing logic of political modernity is both signaled and reimagined in the postcolonial novel.
Rose Casey; Possessive Politics and Improper Aesthetics: Property Rights and Female Dispossession in Arundhati Roy's the God of Small Things. Novel 1 November 2015; 48 (3): 381–399. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-3150333
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