Abstract

Abstract:

This essay contends that materialist as well as culturalist views of resistance to particular foods fall short of grasping the significance of this resistance in Anita Desai’s Fasting, Feasting (1999) and V. S. Naipaul’s Half a Life (2001). It argues that a critical focus on postcoloniality is necessary to understand the treatment of food and appetite in these novels. These novels demonstrate how a history of domination has charged Indian material culture with political meaning: they implicitly relate the fates of their protagonists in post-liberation India to Mohandas Gandhi and Indian nationalism’s ambivalence about whether to embrace the meat-eating of the former British colonisers or promote vegetarianism and fasting as elements of national identity. The novels suggest that a semantic over-determination of appetite and consumption transforms the sons’ resistance to the ways of their fathers into an unintended repetition of the positions of coloniser and colonised.

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