The Poetics and Politics of Space: A Reading of Mahasweta Devi’s Subaltern Stories

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Within Mahasweta Devi’s creative oeuvre, space emerges as an important narrative-thematic axis. Though this spatial dialectics informs all her stories, as an aesthetic activist prop, it is most salient in her subaltern stories. In these stories, she does not delineate space as a mere background, but utilizes it as a significant normative, ideological and embodying presence, that not only impinges on the lives of her protagonists but, in fact, constitutes and controls the very contours of their psychological, social and political being.
The salience of space as a value loaded presence within principal-subaltern inter-locked existence manifests itself with different foci in her subaltern stories. Read from the vantage point of spatial axis, her stories seem to echo each other in their structural and thematic concerns. They seem to be different takes on the spatio-temporal praxis of similarly placed subaltern subjects to ultimately provide a blueprint for subaltern articulation and emancipation.
For Mahasweta Devi space is not only a value loaded entity, it is also a protean presence. Consequently, the very idea of space keeps on imbibing varied semantic overtones. The resultant semantic accretion renders space into a complex, contradictory and multilayered phenomenon that extends from physical to metaphysical, from psycho-somatic to cultural, and from historical to ideological.
This paper attempts to read Mahasweta Devi’s four subaltern stories – “The Witch,” “Dhouli,” “The Hunt, and “Draupadi” – to understand and analyze her activist poetics at the cross-section of Principal-Subaltern tension along spatial axis. The selection and arrangement of stories understudy is deliberate. Instead of sequencing them in the chronological order of their publication, these are sequenced as to plot the thematic-ideological evolution of activist aesthetics that Mahasweta Devi was apparently attempting through her literary writings.


Keywords: Subaltern, Activist Poetics, Space
Stream: Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Poetics and Politics of Space, The


Dr Rekha Beniwal

Assistant Professor, Department of English, DCRUST, Murthal
Murthal, Haryana, India

REKHA BENIWAL is a Reader in the Department of Management Studies and Humanities, DCR University of Science and Technology, Murthal (Sonipat), Haryana – 131 039.

Ref: A09P0750