Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 20-21 (March 1991) p. 67.


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Figures for the 'Unconscious'

D Kumkum Sangari

Completing her postgraduate studies and doctoral dissertation at the Universities of Delhi and Leeds, Kumkum Sangari started teaching literature in Indraprastha College and Delhi University from 1979. Her contribution to literary studies is best exemplified by a widelyacclaimedpaper, 'The Politics of the Possible:

Garcia Marauez and Salmon Rushdie' (Cultural Critique, 7, Fall 1987), published in a first version in Journals of Arts & Ideas (No. 10), where she also published earlier: 'The ChangingText' (Nos. 7-8). She conceived and edited an issue, 'Representations in History' (No. 18), for the Journal.

Her work concerning women's issues include two anthologies co-edited with S. Vaid, Women and Culture (SNDT University, Bombay, 1985) and Recasting Women (Kali, Delhi, 1989). Her theoretical

work, such as her recent monographic study, 'Mirabai and the Political Economy ofBhakti' (Economic and Political Weekly, Bombay, July 1990), proceeds alongside more interventionist writings such as her campaign articles against Sati during the Deorala event in 1987 wid 1w nujfe tvcent fepot't un the 4!lM^ulpUT riots.

Currently on a UGC fellowship at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Delhi, she is working on an extended project titled 'Literatures of Colonialism' where she is investigating the shifting ideological configurations and in particular the interpretative categories of discourse in Indiaand England during the nineteenth century.

She is in the editorial collective of Journal of Arts & Ideas.

This presentation has a double location: the first is my work on the formation of literature in relation to colonialism, the second is an explicit response to the discussion here in the past three or four days about modes of access to indigenous forms, the 'unconscious' as a cultural resource, and the cultural processes which enable the symbolic empowerment or mythicization of the figure of the woman. In some sense the interests and questions of this group have been put together with my own work on the role of earlier literatures in the formation of contemporary culture.

The issue I have chosen to discuss here is the "unconscious' as an area of ascription. Since the unconscious is said to reside in those parts of human consciousness which are either pre-cognitive or least directly available to itself, the logic of designating it consists of making it available by concretizing it in apprehendable forms of subjectivity or material reality, giving it 'substance'; and marking its presence through either representational practices


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