The partition narratives of South Asian authors are testimony to the fact that women of all ethnic and religious backgrounds were the greatest victims of the newly created border between India and Pakistan in 1947. Women’s bodies were abducted, stripped naked, raped, mutilated (their breasts cut off), carved with religious symbols and murdered to be sent in train wagons to the “other” side of the border. Taking Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel Ice Candy Man/Cracking India (1988) as a narrative example of the importance of women’s point of view and as central figures of the violent conflict, we will examine the symbol of the female breasts, following Judith Butler’s and Michel Foucault’s theories on power and governmentality, framed in the rhetoric of Mother India, as the violence inflicted upon women was equivalent to a sacrilege against one’s religion, family and country. Therefore, we will examine the passage of sacks of mutilated breasts as a terrifying testimonio about Partition history fictionally recalled, but also as a metaphor of the border crossing which threatens the stability of the nation. In the light of Julia Kristen’s theory on the abjection, we will interpret the female corpses with mutilated breasts as abjects which blur the limits of a normative society, displaying its fragility. We will conclude by asserting that the novel discussed in this paper can be read as a harsh indictment of both a violent de/colonial process and local misogynist corruption (lessons from History) as well as a weapon of feminist resistance (doing Herstory). Women’s mutilated bodies are uncovered by authors such as Bapsi Sidhwa in order to expose the tragedy and trauma so that the history/body dialectic (a tale of the violation of women’s rights) can be, as a consequence, also uncovered.
Sacks of Mutilated Breasts: Violence and Body Politics in South Asian Partition Literature.
Journal of International Women's Studies, 20(3), 44-50.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol20/iss3/5