Dangerous artisans: Anarchic labour in Michael Ondaatje's the English patient and Anil's ghost and Arundhati Roy's the god of small things

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Abstract

In Michael Ondaatje's novels The English Patient (1992) and Anil's Ghost (2001) and Arundhati Roy's novel The God of Small Things (1997), the figure of the skilled artisan labourer is spiritually elevated. This can be read in the light of Gandhi's Ruskin‐inspired desire for all Indians to master the manual skills leading to self‐sufficiency, which Gandhi developed into a political statement about non‐violent resistance to colonial dominance. This paper argues that the spiritualized manual labour of the skilled artisan enables him to transcend social hierarchies, to the point where he becomes a catalyst for social upheaval. Within the disempowering trends of contemporary manufacturing, the figure of the highly skilled artisan pushes against the processes of globalization. Homi Bhabha's concept of a socially independent “Third Space” helps identify the true responsibilities of these characters.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-55
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Volume40
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2008

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