The Voices that Nursed the Massacre – Female War Poets

Who’s for the game, the biggest that’s played,

The red crashing game of a fight?

Who’ll grip and tackle the job unafraid?

And who thinks he’d rather sit tight?

 

Women writers have explored and written on the subject of war alongside men but there is a stark difference because of women’s general lack of firsthand experience in the war. Women were not included in the army in World War I and only a few worked as nurses in hospitals which received injured army officials. Most women writers explored the theme of losing loved ones who went to  war or they assumed a soldier’s perspective to write. They wrote about terror, despair, loss and the harrowing effects of war.

 

Women were left behind in houses to endure, grieve, wait and survive without their brothers, fathers, sons, husbands and lovers. Their experience is different from men’s experience. The constant battle and atmosphere of terror affected their mental health and well-being, and their poetry laments the world’s collective loss.

 

Many of these women were educated which is why they had more mastery over language and technical skills when it came to writing poetry. This gave them an advantage over the men in the army who were uneducated and worked all day. The soldiers wrote poetry that lacked conventional poetic techniques whereas women avoided the critically frowned upon verbal clichés and heroic formula of verse in their writings which were common in male-written war poetry. The sonnet was used by them to express the grief of loss and symbolism and imagery for distinct purposes.

 

The publication of Catherine Reilley’s ‘Scars Upon my Heart’, an anthology which included women’s poetic verse of World War I, was significant in bringing forth women’s sentiments and experiences during the war. The poems in it showed frustration and indignity at not being able to share what the men were experiencing. Women were expected to support the morale of men in the army, but their poetry appeared more feminist and pacifist.

 

Charlotte Mew was one of the war poets whose poems revolved around seasons, particularly spring, which symbolized rebirth, hope and drew attention to the suffering of the war in the present where thousands of lives were lost, by portraying the death of small animals. ‘The Farmer’s Bride’ is the anthology that was published when she was alive, containing only 17 poems. She wrote 68 poems, most of which were short lyrics. She started as a prose writer but turned to poetry later.

 

Other poets like Rebecca West imagined trench life and the experiences of being in a ‘No Man’s land’ while Marian Allen’s sonnets exude loneliness and exclusions. Vera Brittain experienced war, as part of a Voluntary Aid Detachment unit, from home and from the Front. For her, poetry was something that comforted her whenever she read it or wrote it. Her poems were anti-war and feminist and she was admired because of them. Her interest in politics was due to her ambition to learn the effects of war and she hoped that a repetition could be avoided. Jessie Pope wrote light verse, light fiction for children and published three volumes of war poetry. Her writing was humorous.

 

As the war went on and men came to fully realize the harsh realities of war, they began despising the patriotic poems written to motivate them and to urge them to fight . The young women on the other hand did not have a chance to realize this, and the glorification of war shown by the media encouraged them to keep writing the patriotic poems that they were so fond of. Owen and other major male war poets criticized them in some of their poems and the female poets were generally despised.

 

Women’s position in society changed drastically as they were employed, gained economic independence, self-confidence and discovered that they could live their lives differently. This helped them in demanding voting rights  and the ‘suffragette movement’ achieved its aim faster. Their role in munitions factories and in regulating the economy of the country helped them gain political and voting rights. Their poetry had romantic and heroic expressions for the bravery of men and was filled with  disgust and outrage at the war. Women’s poetry revealed a different aspect of war than the direct attack and its consequences, and helped understand the things that shaped the society after the war.

 

But here, where the watchers by lonely hearths from the thrust of an inward sword have more slowly bled,

We shall build the Cenotaph: Victory, winged, with Peace, winged too, at the column’s head.

 

 

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Sexism in Healthcare – How Gender Bias Denies Healthcare Rights and Body Autonomy to Women

In this day and age when gender equality is a major concern in strictly patriarchal societies, anyone who dares to venture in the history of sexism and control at the very roots of societal structures will find themselves amidst severe discrimination in the medical industry. Medicine, as a field, was much more prone to blatant displays of gender bias when compared to other fields of life where the prejudice was more verbal or dealt with complete ostracisation of women.

The brutal Victorian-era practices in the healthcare industry stemmed from basic prejudices about women’s bodies and women’s conduct. Ranging from not trusting women’s narratives, to labeling them as liars who ‘faked’ illnesses to escape domestic responsibilities, medical practitioners have been well known for disregarding women’s recounts of their experiences with different types of ailments. To make matters worse, these women were sent to receive horrible treatments that centered on mutilation and painful regimes. Arising from a direct lack of understanding of women’s bodies and treating them as unequal to man’s stature in society, medical professionals had severe misunderstandings about the reproductive organs present, and the diseases that occurred within them. Moreover, mysoginistic ideas revolving around femininity and womanhood did more harm to those seeking medical attention and proper diagnoses. The portrayal of women as more emotional beings who blow things out of proportion and exaggerate illnesses due to their frailty has done relentless harm to the female population. Since scientific fields were dominated by men, their lack of understanding of women’s bodies and stubborn biasness led them to promote false scientific ‘evidence’ which heightened narratives that promoted emotional aspects in women. Through more research later, sexist scientific research was debunked and rendered useless, but the ideas propagated by them still linger and continue doing harm.

The most intriguing illness that was labeled as being characteristic in women was ‘hysteria’. Having its origins in the Ancient Egyptian medical texts, doctors adopted the belief that the uterus could float away from its natural position and cause problems in the female body. This ‘superstition’ filled the gaps for the lack of knowledge that existed, and a lot of different medical ailments were grouped under one term to make treatment easier. The direct effects of this disease included hallucinations, heightened sexual desires and anxiety, which led to witch hunts across Europe in which women were burnt alive owing to the superstition of a doctor. Sick women were accused of witchcraft and terminated in trials where they were proven guilty.

Another unknown disease was spreading among housewives, and doctors freely prescribed sedatives to control the mysterious sickness. Housewives, being confined in houses for long hours were suffering from definite psychological issues that stemmed from a strict routine and domestic drudgery. Since mental illnesses were not well researched in those days, this disease became an unnamed calamity that was regarded as a fake or useless illness that could be treated with tranquilizers, without caring about the side effects that affected the patients.

Apart from direct physical damage, misdiagnosis from a doctor’s end occurred from the perception that women did not have an idea about what they were experiencing and could not describe their symptoms. This gave a free pass for doctors to ignore the details recounted by women, or silencing them in order to assert their diagnosis and consequently, treatment too. One of the aspects of humanizing healthcare in today’s age is to give immense care to the patient’s verbal recount, and diagnosis depends largely on the descriptions given in order to give fair and correct treatment.

The struggle for sexual and reproductive freedom and access to healthcare rights has been long sought for by women who recognized the lack of medical treatment they received and the horrendous mutilation they suffered at the hands of male practitioners. The fact that medical colleges did not allow women to enroll in their programs, as did other universities, can help us trace the lack of women’s representation in the various fields of society. Since the basic gender role assigned to women was to procreate, satisfy sexual needs and indulge in domestic labor, it is not surprising that women did not reach professionalism early on. More than that, absence of female medical professionals became the reason why women’s bodies and ailments were not well understood and sexism in research prevailed for ages. When medical practices became scientific and professional, traditional practices done by women were ruled out since they did not hold a ‘degree’ and so began the silencing of midwives and their torture at witch hunts.

‘A common rhetorical trope in histories not written by female midwives or their advocates is to portray female midwives as ignorant. For example, in 1962 the then leading American historian of pre-modern midwives, the Yale professor of anatomy, Thomas R. Forbes, claimed that, ‘The midwife, at that time usually an ignorant and incompetent elderly woman, received meager fees, occupied the lowest level of society, and lived a long and probably unhappy life’. The arrival of medical men, with their anatomical knowledge and obstetrical tools, signalled the salvation of women who had for centuries suffered at the hands of ‘ignorant and incompetent elderly wom[e]n’.25 This battle over historical narratives seems to have been pitched most forcefully in the United States, which witnessed the most extreme suppression of midwives as independent practitioners. Little wonder that American feminists of the 1960s and 1970s reacted against the misogynist master narrative with a ‘mistress narrative’ that saw pre-modern midwives as learned in empirical wisdom, authoritative and independent (Monica H. Green – Gendering the History of Women’s Healthcare).’

As the feminist movement rose in its power, the fight for healthcare rights gave way to the establishment of hospitals that catered to women and handled them much more responsibly and correctly than before. Instead of subjecting them to electrocution or other severe traumatic treatments, women’s lives were saved with proper attentive care and beneficial treatments.

It might seem to be a cruel account of the way medical practice has evolved throughout the ages, but sexism has played a huge part in the way women were treated in hospitals. Coupled with this, racism and other societal prejudices have also factored in when it came to research on women’s bodies. One such example can be taken from J. Marion Sims, a 19th century gynecologist who experimented on black slave women without using anesthesia. He claimed that black women did not feel pain and one is left to wonder how much entitlement he possessed to be able to certify which race of women felt pain and which ones did not. He executed inhumane procedures to find out the perfect technique to repair fistulas. It is quite clear that enslaved women could not prevent, let alone consent to these procedures being done on their bodies, which again illustrates the commodification of women’s bodies in male dominant societies. These women were treated as lab rats, without an ounce of care for their wellbeing.

Perhaps, this discussion has found the right track to indulge into one of the biggest crimes committed against women: obstetric violence. And violence it was rightly so. ‘Twilight Sleep’ was one of the most traumatic childbirth processes that were badly handled by the doctors in America. Women were given a glorified picture of having painless births but were given sedatives in high amounts which harmed them and the baby, without lessening any pain during childbirth. Recounts by nurses and women who underwent this brutal process describe horrific details of how the drugs made them psychotic. They would become violent, bang their heads on the wall and claw at their skin. This led to mothers being restrained by ankle and wrist cuffs or put into straight jackets. They were even tied inside their cots, and blinded with towels. Nevertheless, the mental trauma cause by the entire process and the sedatives involved left them grasping for their sanity. The drugs erased the memory of childbirth, which proved to be harmful for the bonding process with the babies. Many women felt no closeness for the child they had given birth to, and children born under this process were directly affected as the drugs passed through the placenta to attack the central nervous systems of the fetus, resulting in breathing problems. It wasn’t until several women died during childbirth, that the practice was decreased.
The alluring prospect of having a painless childbirth had trapped thousands into a practice where women were padded up because of violent thrashing.

“I’ve seen patients with no skin on their wrists from fighting the straps.” (Ladies Home Journal , May 1958).

Mothers experienced detachment from the babies, as they did not remember giving birth to them, just like they did not remember the pain and madness of the entire procedure. This procedure was highly distressing, but the obstetrics profession was riddled with male practitioners, and their contempt for women’s bodies translated into such practices. They considered birth as a ‘pathological process’ and the narrative around it made them write derogatory sentences for women:

‘I have often wondered whether Nature did not deliberately intend women should be used up in the process of reproduction…’ (The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Volume I)

The Ladies Home Journal published women’s and nurses’ stories that exposed the method and details of Twilight Sleep, because of which it became known far and wide. The procedure received criticism, but more importantly, it helped bring the natural childbirth processes executed by midwives who used traditional methods back into the mainstream society. It showed how the institutionalization of birth processes had caused severe harm to women in the 20th century.

Changing tracks, I think it is important to mention Freud here, since mental illnesses were greatly talked about and researched in the modern era. Freud’s practice of psychology, to everybody’s surprise, was also riddled with sexism to the extent that he created imaginary envy and sexual attraction between children and parents. When he dwelled into hysteria, he found out that the women he used free association upon were actually victims of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of their fathers/husbands/male relatives and they suffered from PTSD. He was able to realize the extent of the problem and attempted to resolve their trauma through discussion. The dilemma arose when he understood that he could not reveal the actual cause of the disease because the same men that abused these women were paying for their therapy and he could not risk sabotaging his income. Therefore, he invalidated the experiences of those women, replaced the actual reasons with imaginary fantasies and allied himself with powerful men, resorting to a form of victim blaming. These women eventually ended up going back to the perpetuators of violence and became stuck in an endless loop of violence and therapy. Next time someone tries to dictate that capitalist notions aren’t the cause of discrimination, this account of Freud’s imaginary illnesses would make a good example. It would be useful to read up on Irigaray’s account of how the discipline of psychology is built upon lies, and acts of silencing women’s voices. The disadvantage of not acting honestly with PTSD victims was suffered later by men who returned from wars and displayed symptoms of hysteria, which denied them proper mental care.

The purpose of indulging into this exhaustive and detailed account of sexism in healthcare is to illustrate the main biases that underlie the politics that surround women’s healthcare rights. Proper birth control and abortion rights are still not accessible to women because men express distrust in them when it comes to making choices about their bodies, about conceiving and giving birth or terminating pregnancies. This inherent suspicion about women ‘changing their minds frequently’, not being sane enough to make proper decisions while being pregnant due to emotional effects or just simply taking advantage of abortion to stave off responsibility of raising children is not far from the same prejudice that doctors had before about women faking illnesses. This disdain lies at the heart of these problems, these rules and political struggle. The suffragette movement fought for the right to vote for decades and we can see how women have not backed down in voting and protesting for more access to birth control and abortion rights. Thousands of women lose their lives because they are not trusted to make these decisions and they suffer from severe problems during pregnancy which are simply disregarded as unimportant. Abortion rights have the power to make motherhood, planned parenthood, and safer pregnancies a possibility.

It would be an understatement to say that we have come far in this struggle for equality, but there are many practices that still linger in this system that are directly derived from sexist medical practices. One example is the ‘Daddy/Husband Stitch’ which is present in plain sight, yet women continue being subjected to it without understanding the disadvantage that it causes to them. In societies where a man’s sexual pleasure is given top priority, it is not a surprise that women are given extra stitches in the vagina while repairing tears to make it tighter for added pleasure for male partners. These stitches have painful consequences; women are unable to sit, stand or even move around without feeling immense pain, which just increases the pain already inflicted from normal delivery. To top off the torture, these stitches are added without the consent of women undergoing childbirth and are done when they are unconscious. This clearly proves that medical practitioners are still operating on women according to their own sexist beliefs and do not think about asking for consent before they apply these stitches. These extra stitches are not needed at all, and become the cause of extreme pain during sexual intercourse. Even though many men would never approve of this practice on their wives, they are simply kept in the dark. This exposes how women are blatantly objectified by practitioners, and no one has created any law to rule out this practice. Proper consent should be sought ought while operating on patients and violations should be punishable so as to make the practice obsolete.

Through this report, we can see that there are a lot of lingering practices and underlying biases that still exist, owing to the sexism that is rampant in societies which makes it very important to work actively to end it. What is imperative now is that practitioners become aware, and most importantly accept that these prejudices have existed in this industry. This will only make it easier for them to find ways to make healthcare better and more accessible to people. Acceptance is the key, because denial will only cause us more harm. Once we accept where we went wrong collectively as a society and embrace our flaws, we will be able to fix the faults and progress together. We should take the responsibility of becoming better listeners, of accepting patient’s detailed descriptions, and becoming more compassionate towards them. Medical practitioners are the ones who can make the field more inclusive and beneficial by penalizing and removing disrespectful and harmful practices. In envisioning a future, paint a picture that is more empathetic, and more generous.

References:

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/husband-stitch-is-not-just-myth

The Monetization and Sensationalisation of Rape Cases in Pakistan – Umera Ahmed involved in yet another anti-women telefilm

‘Zainab’ is a name that is bound to send shivers down any person’s spine. The rape and murder of a little girl from Kasur shook the nation, but apparently became yet another story for telefilm writers. The brutal case of the rape of an underage girl proved to be profitable for the opportunist TV channels of Pakistan who are well capable of crossing all limits in order to garner money and ratings.

Umera Ahmed, a well known TV drama writer penned down a telefilm based on Zainab’s case, and the title of the film even used Zainab’s name instead of being fictional. The poster for the telefilm was released by A Plus and it portrayed a child actor wearing the same clothes that Zainab had donned in an old picture. A man is shown grabbing the child’s mouth, with the child’s eyes wide in fear. When one sees the poster, one is shocked with the detailing in the costumes chosen, the grim and bleak background of the poster and the highly exaggerated expressions of both the actors.

Questions are raised in our head. What is meant by this? Is the trauma of a child so cheap that it can be monetized like this? What is the purpose of using the same clothes, what is being symbolised by this? It is very clear from the highly sensationalized poster that the purpose is clear: the rape case gathered attention, and a telefilm on it will turn the same attention into ratings, money and praise. The telefilm will sell like hot dogs. It is the easiest way to open a franchise that sells merchandise from the wounds of every victim in this country. The message is quite clear, we will use your trauma for our personal gains.

One can only imagine how would every rape victim would feel after watching the film, and how triggering it would be? Do we factor in the parents? How will they feel? Many people defended the channel and writer by saying that they are ‘representing’ the case so that they can spread awareness and reduce the amount of rape cases with it.

Is this how awareness is raised? Do we not know the difference between capitalising on a rape case, by profiting from it, or by making a documentary that raises awareness? The freedom to perpetuate any form of art in society should be dealt with responsibly, specially when you are filling your pockets with someone else’s trauma and a nationwide epidemic. Writers do have the license to take on real life events, and depict them but they should not be highly exaggerated or created in a way that triggers memories of other victims and their families.

Umera Ahmed has been known for her novels and dramas, but a critical look at them shows how they are mysoginist and problematic. Ranging from being anti-Ahmedi to glorifying domestic abuse, the writer supports silence and compromise from a woman’s end which is absolutely disempowering for a country like Pakistan that is already steeped in too many problems.

A similar case of sensationalisation was witnessed in the depiction of Qandeel Baloch’s murder in the serial ‘Baaghi’. The very same TV channels who refused to hire her to fulfill her dreams used her name and story to earn money on a large scale.

Zainab’s parents have decided to sue the TV channel, as their consent and permission was not sought after before creating this telefilm. Along with this, we need to report to PEMRA on a larger scale in order to stop this telefilm from being released. It is our responsibility, to stop these channels from trivializing something as serious as rape and focus more on punishing victims instead of playing with their emotions and distracting everyone from the main case.

Published originally on https://jobaathai.pk/zainab-kay-qatil/

Critical Pedagogy for Postcolonial States.

This essay attempts to summarize the argument in Gauri Viswanathan’s essay ‘The Beginnings of English Literary Study in British India’ and shows how it is linked to Gramsei’s concept of cultural hegemony. It also proves how academies in other post-colonial situations have analyzed it and how they propose to deal with this cultural and linguistic colonization. It briefly explain this legacy in the context of Pakistan and how it has impacted the education policy and writings in Pakistan. It focuses on the Old and New Syllabi (B.A Hons and M.A Lit) and critically comments in the light of the essays under consideration.

In Viswanathan’s ‘The Beginnings of English Literary Study in British India’, a comprehensive analysis of the usage of English Literature in propagating colonial power in India is presented, and this power is not by force. Instead, it is by ‘willing subjugation’ of the natives. Viswanathan observes how literary studies have humanistic functions attached to them e.g development of character, aesthetics, ethics etc which are crucial in building sociopolitical control of a community. Literature was used as a cultural ideal and was strengthened owing to institutionalization, fostering ideological content in itself. When the Charter Act was passed in 1813, the major concern was over the education of masses without the use of Bible which would have offended the British and Muslims and would have brought upon protests by the natives. The authorities refused to stick to Orientalism because it was not seen as adequate enough to bring about the moral and ethical change they needed. The introduction of English Literature solved the matter for them, and Macaulay’s interpretation and assertion on the use of English language to refine the taste and knowledge of the natives won over every other argument.

The English Education Act was passed in 1835 and soon, English became a celebrated subject, taught classically. The earliest curriculums taught the English language but their secular nature was a major concern which was not enough to change the moral condition of the natives and posed a threat of revolt from them. The ideas proposed by Charles Grant were used then, and the introduction of Western education with an emphasis on the moral aspect became easier, one which was safe from instilling radical ideas. In this way, an air of universality was created and it was recognized that Christianity was more about Man’s internal condition rather than political agendas.

The uprising of middle classes and their fervor to gain modern studies helped in the creation of many institutions where English Literature was taught. As the process of educating the lower classes was different in the subcontinent (to avoid religious backlash) than in England, social institutions replaced religious ones for the establishment of a social order. The natives were educated under the facade of ‘liberal education’ which was an ideal blend of secularism and religion. The British, in their attempt to secure their material interests, put forward Western knowledge as universal. A ‘structural congruence’ between Christianity and English Literature was proved and asserted, and the literature was put on a pedestal because it was ‘baptized’ by the holy religion. This idea was misused and literature replaced the teaching of Bible. According to Macaulay and Tevelyan, English Literature infused the religious values in it and supplied the best moral values. They were intent, that it would cause the ‘voluntary reading of Bible’ without the Government being blamed of forcing them to read it.

Resistance to government was to be avoided in this way, as the impression of being in control was laid upon the natives. They were made to feel that they decided the curriculum and were only taught what they were willing to. Gauri mentions Gramscei’s theory and cultural hegemony and explains how the colonizer enforced cultural domination by the consent of the people without using any force. This consent is gained by assertion of moral and intellectual aspects, by the grand idea of ‘White Man’s Burden’, that everything the colonizer wants to establish is for the betterment of the people and will improve the condition of the concerned people. Antonio Gramsci defined hegemony as ‘domination by consent’ which the ruling class uses in promoting its own interests. The rulers have a greater say in how the economy of the colonized state is run and their interests are presented as the common interest of the people. The greater good is made the focus of every life, while self-determination is neglected as the native tries to stabilize and advance himself in the social order which is designed by those in power. The thought of the natives are greatly influenced and the colonizer has power to change them. This consent is mainly achieved by influencing the identity of the natives through their own ideology, a huge aspect of which is to convince them that European cultural assumptions are universal and thus the colonized people see themselves at the periphery of the centre. English Literature became a vehicle for imperial authority and the Englishman became a model of universal human values. English Literature, with all its racism, discriminations and prejudices was conveyed to the natives who believed they were enjoying secular texts which did not hurt their religious sentiments.

The colonized people were put under the pressure of striving to achieve what the colonizer had and to come up to their level of morality and intellect. They were made to feel that the vast knowledge and inculcation of values were the reason the British became conquerors of the Earth and were masters of an empire along with several subject states. The idea that they conquered the earth with their knowledge was glorified, something the native would try to achieve. Once this idea was lodged into their minds, they began to learn and probe freely into the literature that presented the achievement of the Englishmen as derived from the knowledge they had.

The texts, however, glossed over the brutal facts of oppression and cruelty. The Englishmen were presented as those who underwent mental labor and produced remarkable thought. This made the natives busy in knowing the ‘surrogate Englishman’ that the colonizers had presented them with, one that was far removed from the colonial brutalities, from the ground reality and was perfect in every sense, giving utmost value to the production of thought. The British were successful in creating a non-transparency that hid their sins, their savagery, and their cruelty behind their moral superiority.

Throughout the years, academies in post-colonial states have reached a point where they have realized the superiority of English Literature and how the departments centralize the subject in relation to other native languages. Ngugi Wa Thiang’o, in his paper titled ‘On the Abolition of the English Department’’ strongly argues over the end of the rule of colonial language in order to defy the imperial legacy. He offers to establish a department which includes the modern languages, the African languages, and the languages of other colonized states and of African literature which is so integral to the country. The colonized nations now have a clear idea how English has settled itself at the centre by its assertion of power and other languages and cultures become extensions of it. Thiang’o strictly emphasizes the need to study the historic continuity of African culture and a change of perspective with which culture and literature are studied. He stresses on the study of languages and linguistics to extract more from literature with a refined understanding and other language like Arabic to be studied as they have an impact on the continent. He gives special importance to the oral tradition which has been a vital part of Africa and its social purpose of reflecting and influencing the society. He suggests that the oral tradition should lead to a multi-disciplinary outlook and to familiarize students by forms of art and literature so that they can experiment with them. The judgment criteria is questioned, the values inculcated by the British and how they can be realigned to bring the African culture at the centre of education. This, in turn, will help in viewing the world from an African perspective and will help the African people to turn upon themselves and explore their own souls.

In other states like Australia, as John Docker observes, there is a growing awareness of the anglocentric assumption which is derived from the colonial and neocolonial experience. The hierarchy of cultural importance and value imposed by the British is very much alive in the Universities across Australia in relation to the teaching of English. There is an inferiority that the neocolonial state experiences under the influence of the metropolitan centre which assimilates itself in University syllabus in the form of a standard that is maintained by the teaching of the classical tradition. It is stressed that metropolitan literature is universal which keeps it at the centre while the literature of the native land is studied as options. The disadvantage of this system is that instead of acquiring critical values, the students apply the standard values learnt from English literature. If the opposite of the situation happens, the ‘Nationalist Fallacy’ is committed as literary values are confused with patriotic ones. Docker observes that the anti-ideological attitude developed in reaction to the Second World War played a major role in shifting focus on universal ideas realized in literature that are above history. This caused a conflict with the post-colonial literatures that were more interests in culture and traditions, and European criticism saw it as being concerned with the cultural and historical questions that European literature had focused on before. Another aspect that the writer focuses on is how the neocolonial culture sees itself as inferior to and in relation to the metropolitan source/colonizer country instead of relating to other colonized neighbors or societies. There is a stark difference in the job requirements and personal interests of the teachers of literature who might be interested in post-colonial literatures but have to teach English literature as a core subject. The English cultural values have been imposed and encouraged to grow, never allowing the native literature to gain similar importance in universities. Natives who internalize anglocentric assumptions and propagate it through their teaching are the ones through which neocolonialism works strongly. The solution proposed talks about bringing post-colonial literature on the fore-front by attacking the anglocentric assumptions so that English literature can be replaced by ‘World literature in English’. Postcolonial literature needs to be studied in a way that it questions the received methods of literary criticism and of University teaching of literature.

In Canada, Arun P. Mukherjee writes, there is negligible connection between scholarly research and pedagogy in the sense that scholarly research falls short of instruction when it comes to the actual experience of teaching literature to a class of undergraduates. There is ‘diametrical opposition’ between the two and the writer proves this by sharing his experience of teaching a postcolonial text and examining the students upon it. The papers handed in by the students were perfect examples of how education had made them neutralize the ‘subversive meanings implicit’ in the text. Mukherjee observes how the students completely overlooked the colonizer and colonized relationship in the story given to them and focused on the universal values implicit in the text such as emotional relationships, how relatable the characters were instead of the colonial situation shown, the politics, class system etc. They students had completely shut themselves off to the colonial implications of the texts while analyzing it which is extremely disturbing and proves how the British plan of universalizing values worked well. The students obliterated the colonial implications and focused on ideological generalizations, believing that all human beings faced such dilemmas. The ambiguities and distasteful facts were glossed over and the binary oppositions of ‘us’ and ‘them’ in which one is always in power were denied. The vocabulary centered on the universal, ignoring the social forces at work. Mukherjee points out how English literature makes usage of the ‘universalist vocabulary’ to hide the true reality. It is a colonial legacy, to eliminate the deliberation on socio-political realities that are alarming and emptying the text out of it which perpetuates trouble for those who are not in power. The agenda of the powerful only facilitates those in power. When texts are analyzed in this way by critics on a larger scale, their function becomes equal to that of a castrator, and naïve students are fooled into believing that all of human history faces the same problems. He concludes, by exploring the questions that literature should raise about the ideology, social class, role of the writers, and propagators of literature while also the role of literature and of the one who teaches it or criticizes it as the propagator of the prevailing social and cultural values.

Neocolonialism is a powerful tool that maintains the power of the colonizer even after the colonized state has gained independence, and protects their interests, securing their ideological control in the very mindset of the natives. There is considerable flexibility for the developing nation but that leeway also functions according to the rules of the imperialist since they have taken over the intellectual power of the people. Philip G. Altbach, in his essay ‘Education and Neocolonialism’ discusses how foreign textbooks and technical advisors continue to ascertain that foreign administrative models and curriculums are implemented and followed. Many institutions strive towards altering these policies, but only to some extent. The foreign models, in essence, ignore the needs and traditions of the local cultures which slow down modernization as it only serves the needs of the colonial powers by limiting educational opportunities. The educational institutions produce bureaucrats, lawyers etc instead of scientists, teachers, or thinkers. The products of such education are devoid of the knowledge of their own language and culture. The elitist policy of Macaulay made sure that they system of a trickle-down effect was used to spread enlightenment to the masses by producing a group of natives who were English in taste. Very few countries made a sharp break with the colonial power because of their enmity and discarded the European languages for its own. In other nations, the process has been slow and difficult due to the lack of resources. There is a huge scientific and educational gap between the colonizer and the colonized nations which makes the process of removing the domination of the West slow and painful, although it can be achieved with proper attention understanding.

In Pakistan, the cultural and linguistic legacy of the British is strong to the extent that it influences every aspect of life. English language is taught as a compulsory course in Pakistani Universities and is the medium of teaching in most schools but the focus is on remedial English instead of literature. The enjoyment of literature as such is not achieved fully even in departments that teach literature with much vigor. There are very less students who have an interest in studying M.A level English Literature. Creative writers are not produced in a large scale in Pakistan because the focus of teaching is on how to read and write English. The techniques of understanding it, molding it and assimilating it into our own expressions is rarely taught in institutions in this country. Notes are provided to students, which hampers creative thinking, as they are more interested in passing the examinations and securing good grades. However, many teachers and students, on a personal level do venture out of the syllabus and explore books other than the prescribed syllabus. They search and read journals that publish literary texts and then they go on to write for these magazines which helps in shaping their literary sensibilities and skills. English is highly valued as a language in Pakistan and is one of the State languages along with being the medium of instruction in English medium schools. The Pakistani government intends and works towards replacing English with Urdu and other local languages which is seen in recent appreciation of the indigenous languages and the celebration of literary texts. There is a growing sense of embracing the local culture and languages and to save them from extinction to guard our heritage. Unlike previously, there is a boom of writers in English from the postcolonial states and they are being read widely.

The formation of a tradition of creative writing is desperately needed in our institutions which can replace the acquisition of knowledge just for getting a degree. New experiments should be done with the existing literature and our departments should focus on the traditions of literatures of their own country. The usage of language and imagery should evolve with time and an experimental approach should be applied to literature and conventions of writing. There is an existing tradition of scholarly writings in Pakistan and many scholarly journals that encourage research in English language and literature. We can gain inspiration and guidance from foreign cultural contexts and revise our methods of teaching and studying. Comparative studies should be encouraged in institutions so that native languages and cultures can be appreciated and not neglected and would encourage writers to make contributions to the writing tradition. One needs to excel and become a good critic in their own language before they venture on to other languages.

The comparison of the old the new syllabi of M.A literature and B.A Hons/M.A (previous) shows how the curriculum was strictly English with the focus on classical tradition and approaches to the study of English as a language. Over the years, the course has come to include other subjects like South Asian Literature in English, Pedagogy, Post-colonial Literature and Criticism, World Literature in Translation and Teaching of English as a Second Language (TESL) which proves the growing awareness in institutions about the place of English language and how it should be taught. South Asian Literature was included in the course to appreciate the budding and creative postcolonial writers in English and to bring them on the forefront so that they could inspire other writers in the department. Pedagogy started being taught with a post-colonial approach which opened the mind of students to the ambiguities of the English tradition and how it has been taught so that they can resolve them and accept their own culture and tradition without being under the influence of the colonial mindset. Post-colonial course teaches the different theories of the field, making the students aware of the reality of the postcolonial states and how to eradicate imperialism from within them and their society by reading the different struggles of African, Palestinian, Indian critics. World Literature in Translation is a course that offers different celebrated texts of a variety of languages and cultures in translation which enables students to increase their knowledge about the traditions that exist, specially their own Urdu, Arabic and Persian tradition by bridging the gap between the language which they cannot understand. Once the text is in English, it becomes easy to understand what the author means to say, and develops interest in the Urdu, Arabic and Persian texts that the students can easily read, comprehend and identify themselves with. TESL is helpful in realizing the place of English as a second language how it can be taught to students of postcolonial states. The responsibility, in the end, lies solely on the teachers to weed out the colonial agendas out of the texts, to make them pop out so that the students can be aware of the ideology and its trap and to equip students with the critical thinking to understand the motives behind these agendas and how to avoid being influenced by them.

 

 

Citations
Altbach, Philip G. “Education and Neocolonialism.” The Postcolonial Studies Reader, Routledge, 2003, pp. 452–456.

Ashcroft, Bill, et al. Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2007.
Ashraf, Syed Ali. “Islamic Principles and Methods in the Teaching of Literatur.” British Journal of Religious Education, vol. 1, no. 2, 1978, pp. 52–61.

Docker, John. “The Neocolonial Assumption in University Teaching of English.” The Postcolonial Studies Reader, Routledge, 2003, pp. 443–446.

Department of English, University of Karachi. Old Course MA (literature and linguistics), B.C.C. & T. Press.

Department of English, University of Karachi. BA (honours) / MA Programme – Revised Syllabus, 2016.

Department of English, University of Karachi. Revised Syllabus – B.A honours and MA Literature, 2006.

Macaulay, Thomas. “Minute on Indian Education.” The Postcolonial Studies Reader, Routledge, 2003, pp. 428–430.

Mukherjee, Arun P. “Ideology in the Classroom: A Case Study in the Teaching of English Literature.” The Postcolonial Studies Reader, Routledge, 2003, pp. 447–451.

Thiong’o, Ngugi Wa. “On the Abolition of the English Department.” The Postcolonial Studies Reader, Routledge, 2003, pp. 438–442.

Viswanathan, Gauri. “The Beginnings of English Literary Study in British India.” The Postcolonial Studies Reader, Routledge, 2003, pp. 431–437.

At our Grave

Indigo descended

Upon my being

As the sand gathered around my folded feet

My entire body bowing in prostration

Besides our grave.

 

Indigo descended

Slowly

Penetrating our souls

The life in me seeping

Slowly

Into the sand grains

Into our grave

A parasitic connection

Drawing upon my strength

My passion and my dreams

Our future lay into the folds of the earth

And I sat attached to it

Never letting go

My life and blood

Making its way into the mound

My hands and heart

Trembling at its command.

 

Indigo descended

Upon my drooping eyelids

Silencing my pleas

Upon my lips

Stitching them together

Upon my heart

Bruising it forever.

 

Indigo seeped

Into my being

Indigo spread

Down into our grave.

 

Indigo were your arms

Indigo your mouth

As I buried you alive

Into the dirt

Above the dirt

Together forever.

 

Indigo rusted

Indigo preserved

Our grave

Our corpse

Our funeral goes on

Under a thunderous sky.

 

Seven Devils by Florence + The Machine wrote this Poem in My Head.

You brought your dagger up to my lid,

Cut them open as they bowed down to you.

My body has reflex reactions,

Even when my heart wants to behold your mesmerising smile.

You cut my eye lid open,

because you wanted me to see you through scarlet pearls.

And as the red haze blinded me,

You chopped off my ear lobes,

A chunk of my cheek,

And my body screamed at me.

Blood rushed up to the call of the knife,

My neck surrendered to the silver gleam.

You loved my collar bones didn’t you?

Your knife loved it that night too.

And at that moment when pain hit its prime,

You caressed my face and embraced my lips.

The adrenaline trembled helplessly in the hollows,

Every nerve end was on fire.

My body was busy in saving itself,

Between the ends of the ruptured veins

And the desperate gasps of breath.

Every cut throbbed and every slit whimpered.

And I could not feel your lips,

As they teased me for my attention.

I was Adam on the verge of sinning,

Your rosy mouth; the forbidden fruit.

That night,

God screamed at me.

You smiled at me.

Guilt burnt me alive.

And I still ask myself,

Why the body preferred to feel pain,

Over pleasure.

Stubborn

I whine like a child. I demand for what I want. This is not going how I planned. Why are you angry at something I did not envision you to be angry at? Why am I caught off guard? Things spin out of control so fast. They do not walk the track I carved for them, they do not follow my command! And so I lay, whining and crying, stubborn to make things reach the happy ending I wanted. Forget what happened, forget what mistake I made. Just be yourself again. Just love me the way you always do, smile like you forgot what I just did. Like it doesn’t matter. I want everything to go back to normal so fast. I just want us to be back to being us again. But you decide you will remain angry and I decide I will not accept that. Sorry after sorry after sorry. Apologies on stacks of apologies on stacks of mistakes. I won’t give up. You won’t change. Yeah, but you still love me. I’m stubborn. Give me all the love I deserve. Give me back the person I was happy with. No. So I whine and whine and refuse to let go. I cry like that child whom you scold and refuse to hand over your most precious belonging because the child will mess with it in her innocence and you will have to deal with the consequences. But that child does not understand. And so she keeps begging for you to give your most precious belonging to her. But you know she will mess with it again and you’ll be hurt so you become stern and refuse to take the risk. I am that child that demands you to pour your love even on days when you are most scared to give it because you get so hurt when she doesn’t understand how to take care of you. When she’s careless and hopeless and you snatch it all away in your anger to punish her. I am that child. That still wants the person she loves to hand over all his love even on days when she hurts you like hell. I want you to be forgiving, endlessly, even when I don’t deserve it. When i make mistakes and I need it most. When punishment only makes me even more stubborn. And so I will cling by your side like an annoying child and cry and whine and demand you to hand over all your love, no matter how hurt you are. Because I cannot live without it, and I cannot ask you to leave me unattended. I will cry and scream and make you lose your mind but I won’t budge until your heart melts and you forget what happened and decide to stop being angry. Like an eager child I will greedily consume all your love till I’m sure you’re not angry anymore. And then the stubborn child will sleep, peacefully and you won’t be able to help but feel love for her abundantly. Eternally. Like a stubborn child I’ll be. Always there.

Absence

Absences are difficult. Complex to understand. You believe your absence won’t make a difference. But why not? You think your simple disappearance would just be that? Simple? Do you even know what monsters absences create? Its not simple. You leaving and believing life still goes on in the same way in your wake. It doesn’t. You believing life suffers no changes, nothing, is ridiculous. Do you know what darkness is? Is it just the absence of light? Is it only a void left in the wake of the light that leaves? No. Darkness is a separate entity. Darkness is a being of its own. It lives. It lives in the absence of light because it exists. I know because I’ve felt it grow cold around the edges of my teardrops when I’m helpless and alone and the failure of making you stay overwhelms me. I know because darkness engulfs me, mocks me and laughs at what I’ve become when I’m unable to stop you. Sometimes it becomes so motherly, it covers me and lulls me into sleep. Gives me comfort but it makes sure it never fools me. It shows me the reality, the consequences of my actions. And I let it educate me. You think cold is just the absence of heat? Have you not seen what a monster this cold darkness becomes when the light of your love and the heat of your body leaves? Do you think their absence is just that? An absence. Can you not see what tentacles this cold sprouts and wraps it around me. How it seeps inside me, numbing me into silence. When I keep screaming at you not to be angry at me! The heat just doesn’t leave quietly, it leaves behind a monster that thrives on my desperate wails and feeds on my silent prayers. It tells me you’ve left. But the monster that raised its head in your absence will never tell you that your absence is not just your simple absence. It will rejoice in the delusion you live in and it will devour me. I have to survive it until you return. Cope with it, like a boil you can’t remove until your presence becomes too powerful for it to survive anymore.
So the next time you decide you cannot bear me anymore, just know that your absence isn’t a meaningless void in my life. A loved one doesn’t just leave, he becomes absent.

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