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Reading Between the Lines: Geography and Hybridity in Rudyard Kipling's Kim Sailaja Krishnamurth What the map cuts up, the story cuts across. (Michel de Certeau1) You cannot occupy two places in space simultaneously. That is axiomatic. (Hurree Chunder Mookerjee in Rudyard Kipling's Kim2) Britain's occupation of India was not predominandy driven by military force3 From its origins in the British East India Company, the empire's activities in India tended towards administrative and bureaucratic forms of power. It was a colonization which operated dirough the collection, archive, and administration of information, for which geography was the key. In order for the British to establish India as a colony, it was essential to gather knowledge of the territory. Through the India Survey, a project which was intended to provide ethnographical and cartographical knowledge in minute detail, the British Empire established borders which enclosed the colonial subject and could be defended. Through the Survey, the empire systematically catalogued the identity of colonial India. Rudyard Kipling's Kim is a novel which tells a story of the India Survey. In it, many of the main characters are engaged with the process of mapping India for the purposes of the imperial archive. Kipling, an Englishman, marks out the Indian landscape dirough his Victorian Review (2002)47 S. Krishnamurth writing just as his map-making Hurree Chunder Mookerjee and Kim himself do as they travel across his landscape.4 Through geography, the processes of mapping territory and mapping identity, Kim comes into his identity as a sahib. But something else happens in Kim. It does not operate only as a story about the greatness and utility of the mapping project and the power of the British in India. It is a narrative which chronicles a pilgrimage, and which records details about the contours of the landscape, the people who populate it, the many languages and events which take place in its course. It performs the project of an itinerary, the story of a journey, as much as it describes the archival project of the survey. Bruce Avery's essay "The Subject of Imperial Geography" explores the European history of the visual map, its incorporation into the Victorian archive project, and the way in which it is employed to form the colonial subject. In his analysis, he touches on the trope of the narrative itinerary, but does not fully articulate its role in this subject-formation. The narrative itinerary project which Kim as a novel is engaged in, and which it explores, exposes slippages in the positioning of subject-identities, and creates an in-between space in which the hybrid identities produced by such slippages mediate and transgress the boundaries imposed by the visual map. With the concept of hybridity in mind, reading the novel as a narrative itinerary opens up other questions of the project of colonialism which expose the inability of the mappingproject to adequately perform the task of fixing ethnicity and identity in space. In this narrative of hybridity, the uncanny ability of the characters to move back and forth between borders, languages, and identities suggests that even those engaged with mapping cannot be fixed through it. Such hybrids become the machines of the mapping project, and yet transgress the boundaries of the map. I want to explore these issues via a route which passes first through the history of the relationship between narrative itinerary and the visual map in the production of knowledge in pre-colonial India, and in the Victorian Era. I will then move to the concepts of in-between 48volume 28 number 1 Reading Between the Lines space and hybridity, and the roles that narrative itinerary and visual mapping play in the construction of these concepts. Finally, I want to revisit the landscape oĆ­Kim to explore the possibilities opened by a topographical reading which strategically employs these concepts. Avery suggests that through knowledge of the colonial other, the British Empire recognizes its self(Avery 59). This reading, which employs a Lacanian approach, is useful to understanding the empire's geographical imperative as an attempt to define itself in relation to its subjects. Avery's analysis exposes mapping as a process which allows a privileging of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 47-65
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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