Abstract

As a comment on India after the publication of Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie’s 1995 novel The Moor’s Last Sigh offers a broad-based critique of modern India within the context of economic policy shifts that followed the country’s independence from British rule in 1947. The gradual implementation of neoliberal economic policies in the 1980s and 1990s accompanied India’s emergence as a major player in the global capitalist economy but also led to drastic increases in income inequality, unemployment, and the proliferation of a vast informal sector of exploitable human capital. Rushdie’s novel identifies India’s entrepreneurial and capitalist classes, specifically in Mumbai/Bombay, as complicit in the exacerbation of the class disparity that has led, in many cases, to increased cultural tensions between Hindus and Muslims as well as the growing ubiquity of government corruption and organized crime. The novel offers additional insight into the exploitative logic of Hindu nationalist politics through its parodic depiction of the Shiv Sena party, which derives much of its political clout through its patriarchal, mafia-esque relationship with urban slum dwellers. The Moor’s Last Sigh delineates new and complex forms of oppression and exploitation in postcolonial India that often occur simultaneously along class and cultural lines.

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