- New Postcolonial Dialectics: An Intercultural Comparison of Indian and Nigerian Plays by Sarbani Sen Vengadasalam
In this book, Sarbani Sen Vengadasalam talks about her scholarly investigation on interculturalist philosophy in India and Nigeria before and after their Independence. Her research revolves around the struggle of Indian and Nigerian writers in finding a middle path for achieving a "cultural renaissance" in their respective countries by highlighting the role of interculturalism which neither denies tradition nor rejects western culture. Therefore, as a case study in her book, she presents the theatrical plays written by Rabindranath Tagore (Red Oleanders, 1925), Wole Soyinka (The Lion and Jewel, 1959 and The Road, 1965), and Badal Sircar (Procession, 1983) to examine the efficacy of interculturalism as a critical tool for achieving social amelioration in India and Nigeria at different phases of "culture encounter" during colonial and post-colonial periods. In the initial part of the book, the author states her objective is to cross-examine the above mentioned Indian and Nigerian intercultural plays separately and against each other to verify that "interculturalism as a comparative framework, could be a solution to the problems of comparative theories" (p. 47) and can be used to compare literature and portray social issues on the stage. As a reader of this book, I would agree that the author accomplishes her desired objective because her "investigation on four different intercultural plays confirms" (p. 215) that intercultural analysis could [End Page 590] be used to compare cross-cultural literature as well as act as a bridge for achieving cultural renaissance.
The first chapter, "Colonial Encounter and the Intercultural Dialectic," illuminates the history of colonialism in India and Nigeria. The author explains how culture plays a vital role in determining the identity and character of human beings. She further states that "culture is the ethos of the nation, the character of a country and the spirit of people" (p. 2). After making her reader understand the importance of culture and its role in preserving the integrity of a community, she points out that first thing colonizers did while occupying a superior position in India and Nigeria was to inflict "cultural trauma" and create a "cultural cringe" among the colonized people so that they could be oppressed with their thought process controlled by British government.
Vengadasalam is at her best in the first chapter while explaining the role of myths created by colonizers to destroy native culture in India and Nigeria and the creation of an elite class of Indians and Nigerians during the colonial period. As a reader, this part of the book helped me to understand why elites like Tagore during pre-independence and Sircar (and Soyinka both before and after) after independence in India and Nigeria adopted the intercultural model to modernize their societies. I also appreciate the explanation given by the author at the end of the chapter that the "interculturalism model is never outdated" (p. 48), as a result intellectuals like Tagore, Soyinka, and Sircar used intercultural philosophy in their plays.
The second and third chapters are the essence of the book, where the reader sees how British imperialism expanded and denied the native cultures of India and Nigeria during the colonial period. The author illustrates how the colonial government controlled both countries by attacking their culture; the only difference between Indian and Nigerian colonialism was the latter's prior slave history. She further elaborates about nationalist movements that took place in both countries, especially Swadeshi in India and Negritude in Nigeria and how intellectuals like Tagore and Soyinka rejected these movements. Both Tagore and Soyinka believed an east-west synthesis could develop a new pluralistic and a modernized country. Most importantly the detailed analysis of Tagore's Red Oleanders in India and Soyinka's The Lion and Jewel in Nigeria highlights the history of performing arts field during the pre-independence period; such plays presented theatrical shows as a metaphor for social justice and championed intercultural philosophy.
In the next two chapters, the author discusses the issue of neo...