Book Review: Orientalism, Terrorism, Indigenism, South Asian Readings in Postcolonialism by Pavan Kumar Malreddy

Reviewed by Sourav Banerjee

Orientalism, Terrorism...


Title: Orientalism, Terrorism, Indigenism, South Asian Readings in Postcolonialism
Author: Pavan Kumar Malreddy
Publisher: SAGE Publications India Private Limited
Pages: 170
Price: INR 795/-

The author of this book is Pavan Kumar Malreddy, a Researcher at the Institute for English and American Studies, Goethe University, Frankfurt. He is famous for his essays in various journals on radical issues affecting the world in the field of race, post-colonialism, terrorism, and indigenous politics. In this book, the author successfully contributes to the detailed aspect and conceptualization of contemporary subjects such as terrorism, orientalism and Dalit Bahujan movements and how the same is received in popular media along with academic literature. The author has taken excerpts from contemporary occurrences with regard to the efflux of postcolonial structure of terrorism and orientalism that has emerged in South Asian countries. The contradiction took place internally between South Asian approaches to post colonialism (Subaltern Studies) and its European counterparts along with the resistance produced by the indigenization of local literary traditions in the work of select South Asian literary figures.

In “Discourses: Orientalism, Terrorism and Popular Culture” the author illustrates how, as if the advent of the cold war and its impact on the world at large was not good enough, the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, famously known as 9/11, altered the landscape of western thought process, infusing notions of terrorism and religious intolerance as serious existential challenges, along with its approach to the Orient. While governmental issues quickly aligned to the changing world requirements, the vocabulary of the worldwide talks slurped up terms up to this point, sneaking in the shadowy interests of the Orient, as seen by the west. At the same time, with the collapse of communism in Europe, dialogues arrived at the decision to terminate ‘privatization’. The attack by ‘Al Qaeda’, headed then by Usama ibn Mohammed ibn Awad Ibn Ladin (popularly known as Osama Bin Laden) on 9/11, gave birth to phobias, suspicion, segregation, and furthermore, a still staggering nativism. It further narrates how the orientalists believed that Arabs are uncivilized and Islam was a religion meant to be followed by terrorists. Muslims in massive numbers propagated Islam and called for stability, unification, the only way for development and hope to sustain on this planet, carrying the slogan of ‘Islam is the solution.’ With the attack of 9/11, ‘Terror from the east’ emerged and the world’s supposedly most powerful nation, the United States of America, found itself in a fragile and vulnerable position as prey to religious extremism. The orientalists brought to light the lesser developed eastern countries to take an upper hand of their might over the rest.

While dealing with “Disjunctures: Humanism and Interdisciplinarity”, the author enlightens us about the progress of orientalism and refers to the same as a representative body of the orient of the east. On a more catching contradiction between Orientalism and Occidentalism, Malreddy mentions Edward W. Said who has contributed largely to the ambiguity in postcolonial theory by praising the subaltern studies scholarship ad infinitum. The author further asserts that postcolonial studies that has been relaxed and turned into disciplinarity is  uneven and unequal globally and is ‘selective, tactful and contriving’. Postcolonialism has a definite influence of disciplinary forums which are foundational and supplemental. An interesting question arises from David Huddart’s contention that ‘postcolonialism has to be interdisciplinary’, and the author subtly argues that if such is the case, will it ‘remain faithful to the representations of the once colonized?’

The book concludes with “Indigenism(s): Cosmopolitan, Rights and Cultural Politics’, where the author discusses bringing nationalism to the forefront by silently taking custody of the popular Indian metaphor – Malgudi: ‘a macrocosm and microcosm’ by R.K. Narayan. In Malgudi Days, the Malgudi man takes centre stage. The author adds: ‘Despite the vernacular diversity, and the cosmopolitan quality with which Malgudi’s central characters are tinctured, the image of Malgudi remains more or less complicit with ethnocentrism, nativism, agrarianism, Hinduism, or nationalism.’ The author depicts how European poets and writers had a romanticized view of the Orientals, making them popular and lovable before European readers. As Ralph Waldo Emerson, a New England preacher, essayist, lecturer, poet, and philosopher joyfully proclaimed, ‘It is only within this century (the 1800’s) that England and America discovered that their nursery tales were old German and Scandinavian stories, and now it appears that they came from India, and are therefore the property of all the nations.’ To place an argument that ‘nationalogue’ is a peripheral site where literary opposition to derived patriotism happens, the author brings into this concluding chapter, Kancha Ilaiah, an academician and Dalit Activist, the author of Why I am not a Hindu? (1996) and Post Hindu India (2009). He shows that Ilaiah’s narrative ‘is an inconsolable genre which hinders institutionalized forces which assimilate in this era of modernization that provides validity with regard to third world collectivity.’

The author received the 2012 Faculty of Humanities award at Chemnitz University of Technology, Toronto, Canada. This book offers a delightful insight in the field of postcolonial literature studies, especially because the spirit of nationalism and indigenism stick to our tongue more easily than anything else. And the scenario of radical extremism or terrorism post 9/11 is any great thinker’s choice. The book leaves with its precautionary sigh, but it is a welcome improvement upon the ‘beginners’ of postcolonial literature, particularly in respect of the new shape that the post 9/11 world has shaped into. The book is immensely useful for courses in postcolonial studies in the South Asian context where postcolonial studies has to address and factor in Dalit studies and understand their nuances, intersections and differences. However, the author fails to bring to light the causes of such radical extremism or terrorism as we may prefer to call, and why in the advent of this globalized world terrorism is rapidly growing. Is technology, media attributing to the rise of terrorism? Why are the educated masses engaging in such radical measures against society?  As a reader, I feel the author should have provided insight into these issues.



Sourav Banerjee always wanted to pursue higher education and become an academician. It motivated him to pursue LLM, which he is currently undergoing from School of Law, KIIT (Deemed to be University) at Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, with specialization in Criminal Law. He is fond of travelling, reading, music, and food.