To be published in Issue 17/2022 of InterAlia this fall.
Queering the Postcolonial—Desire in Chudamani Raghavan’s Yamini
Indian women’s writing from the mid-twentieth century that doesn’t fit the dominant tropes of resistance in postcolonial and feminist literary critiques have largely been untranslated and undiscussed. Especially neglected are narratives of native queerness, stories of transgressive desire and sexual alterity. In this essay, I explore Yamini’s complex desire in Chudamani Raghavan’s eponymous novella and its potential to complicate feminist and postcolonial discourses on women’s sexuality. Drawing on aspects of queer theory and poststructuralist notions of subjectivity, I examine how Yamini’s asexuality challenges and destabilizes cisheterosexist gender hierarchies and colonization. By examining language and silence in Yamini through the devices of Indian literary criticism and intertextuality, I locate Yamini’s queerness within the subcontinent’s long history of multivocal desire. I build on the precolonial notion that desire is not necessarily located in the body, and suggest that the transgressive desires of Yamini’s mind, the desire of ideas, is also a manifestation of queerness – capable of subverting hegemonic discourses of sexual and psychic normativity.