ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Postmodernism in Raj Gauthaman’s Autofictions


Subramanian Darun - The English and Foreign Languages University, Cultural Studies, Hyderabad, India


35 – Postmodern Narratives of Caste and Indigeneity


“Postmodernism” was a buzzword in the Tamil little magazines in the late 1980s and in the 1990s, when Tamil Dalit literature emerged. The beginnings of postmodern fiction in Tamil, largely under the influence of translations of postmodern theories and Latin-American literature, were immediately undercut by the realist and autobiographical mode of Dalit writing. Postmodernism, initially received substantively as theory, lacked any social space in the Tamil context, thus making even the most radical theories, sterile. However, in the writings of the Dalit writer and critic Raj Gauthaman, postmodernism was, for the first time, ‘endowed with political charge’, and Dalits were the agents who wielded it. (Geetha 2020).

 In this paper, I look at two of Gauthaman’s autofictions, Siluvairaj Sarithiram (Siluvairaj’s History) (2002) and Kalachumai (Burden of Time) (2005) as instantiations of postmodernism’s ‘recontextualization’ and ‘transformation’ within a Tamil Dalit lifeworld (Said, “Travelling Theory”). Both novels use satire, humor, and play to subvert what is ‘normal’, ‘rational’, and ‘commonsensical’ for these categories are always already tainted by caste. I also see how autofiction as a mode allows Gauthaman to imagine an alternative world that relieves him from actual history while retaining a trace of self. I show how these novels bear the impress of his literary criticism in their suspicion toward objective history and grand liberatory politics.