Discuss subalternity in Raja Rao's Kanthapura.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If we link the concept of "subalternity" to a broader discourse of studies and analysis, we can see how Rao's novel possesses even more relevance.  Subaltern studies is concerned with history on the mass level, when power comes from the bottom up and how individuals and forces impact this.  We see this in several instances in Rao's work.  The Gandhian movement is subaltern in its own sense in that it sought a broad embrace of Indian identity and challenged any preconceived notion thast limited it.  Gandhi was not advocating for independence enjoyed by the few.  His was not one where entrenched power would be maintained.  Rather, he sought a broad coalition, going against all forms of social stratification.  As this was realized, it became a narrative of what has happening at the lowest of levels, the mass body politic, as opposed to a small section of the social order.  When Moorthy comes to the village, he is immediately rebuked because his ideas are subaltern, seeking to bring change from the bottom up of the social structure, with its demands for eliminating the caste system as well as advocating one's own voice be heard from a political standpoint.  The subaltern nature of the work arises when we see the women assume power in the absence of their men, who have fled to the jungle.  At this point, their challenging of the Status Quo is subaltern in that there is little ruling elite who are in charge.  Rather, historical development and consciousness is seen from the point of view of the masses, where change has become permanent.  Rao's novel does a good job of exploring how subaltern movements can be permanent in that once voice is redeemed, it seldom can go back into silence or marginalization.

gmac90 | Student

well going off of this definition

Subaltern is a term that commonly refers to persons who are socially, politically, and geographically outside of the hegemonic power structure.

The Gandhian movement Moorthy is promoting is subaltern. Because the civil disobedience movement and Indian independence movement is intended to bring down the British hegemony in India.

thus this is a large concept within the book.