“We are here to speak the unspeakable”: voicing abjection in Raj Kamal Jha’s Fireproof

Sarah Ilott

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This article considers Raj Kamal Jha’s Fireproof (2007), a novel that received an immediate flurry of attention in newspaper reviews but has eluded critical attention since. The article argues that Jha’s novel, set in Gujarat in the wake of the 2002 communal violence, mobilizes tropes of abjection to a number of ends, using them explicitly to convey personal disgust and self-differentiation and analogously to suggest the political processes of national abjection evident in contemporary India. It then goes on to complicate the way that abjection is presented not only as a dangerous political weapon, but also as a critically productive fictional tool for ensuring that characters are understood in bodily terms, rather than as symbols of religious affiliation. It contends that by portraying characters as abject Jha at once indicates their subalternity and opens up a space to critique the violence of silencing, thereby offering a new way of representing voices locked out of hegemonic discourse. Using Jha’s novel as a fictional example, this article offers new ways into thinking through the associated concerns of postcolonial studies, subalternity, national identification and abjection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)664-674
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2014


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