First published in London 1937, Halide Edip’s “Inside India” provides an account of Indian Independence movement of 1935. In this short essay, I will mention Halide Edip’s position as a writer in the colonial era of India by referring to specific passages from her text. In so doing, I will be illustrating the issue with a touch upon Aijaz Ahmad’s and Arif Dirlik’s approaches to the notions of orientalism and postcolonialism.
Halide Edip visited India at 1935 and delivered lectures at National Muslim University in New Delhi which were afterwards published under the title, “Conflict of East and West in Turkey”. In the same year at January, Mahatma Gandhi the leader of Indian independence movement chaired Halide Edip’s lecture at the university. He also gave an interview to her about the conditions of the independence movement in India. One should also be reminded of the fact that Halide Edip worked as a visiting professor at Columbia University during the 1931-32 academic year at the times when she was hailed as an “exotic, woman revolutionary” at the American press. An exile from her own country, Halide Edip was a well known and a celebrated figure in Britain, United States and India beginning with 1925’s. The question, what might be the reasons why she was so popular needs an extensive investigation of the perception of Halide Edip in these countries by means of the media comments, books and other documents, which can open up a fruitful discussion for the purposes of a longer and a more extensive paper. Therefore, for the intentions of this short paper, I will briefly mention the importance of Halide Edip’s “Inside India” as a “postcolonial” work of literature.
Halide Edip was a well known novelist worldwide, yet it is hard for one to define Halide Edip’s “Inside India” thoroughly as a work of literature. It is basically the travel accounts of Halide Edip’s visit to India in 1935. Yet it consists of not only physical observations but also theoretical approaches to Indian independence movement. In the preface, Halide Edip mentions her promise to Dr. Ansari whom she met during 1910’s in Anatolia, to write a book about his country after her visit. One of the popular intellectuals of the Muslim community in India, Dr. Ansari was present in Turkey during 1910’s, as the official of the Indian Muslims to help the Turkish army during war-time, since their aims was to preserve the Caliphate. Halide Edip went to India in a time when the Indian Muslims were still shocked due to the abolition of the Caliphate. Yet she wasn’t present there as a representative of Turkish Kemalist government. For example, in her accounts she cites Lenin and Gandhi as the two great leaders of the century whereas Mustafa Kemal doesn’t occupy her interests. Rather, her position pertains to an independent one; throughout her visit she only clings to her Muslim identity. Besides, she is known as an anti-colonialist and a revolutionary scholar and a critic among Indian intellectuals. However, strangely Halide Edip’s “Inside India” was never translated and published in Turkish. Despite the fact that she is very popular with her novels regarding the national independence movement of Turkey such as “Ateşten Gömlek” and “Vurun Kahpeye”, Halide Edip didn’t receive any attention for her very original work “Inside India” in which as an “Eastern” scholar, she provides a “postcolonial” account of India in a time when India was still under the rule of a colonial power of Britain.
Mushirul Hasan also notes that Halide Edip’s account of India was dismissed due to various reasons: “Presumably, the reflections of Halide Edip are ignored simply because she asks disturbing questions – questions that do not fit into established historical canons.” He further states that “the neglect of so important a work is largely due to our dependence on intellectual resources from the West, our anxiety to adopt their frameworks and models, and in some cases, to assiduously nurture the Orientalist vision and representation of India.” Then what are the ways in which Halide Edip’s India differs from its orientalist or Western representations? In this regard, Hasan provides an explanation: “she was not interested in imagining, inscribing, or inventing India, but rather in unfolding its multifaceted personality.” Besides, her understanding of India was anchored in the historical and sociological insights she had during her stay in 1935.
Her first part of the book is named “India Seen through Salam House” in which she makes observations of the conditions of Indian Muslim intellectuals in the process of the independence movement. She forefronts important intellectuals including some women activists and analyzes their relations to Gandhi by referring to her specific conversations with those intellectuals. The second chapter of the book is called “India Seen on Highways and Byways” in which she gives an extensive account of important Indian cities such as Bombay, Lahore, Calcutta and Hyderabad. She recounts the Indian way of life as it is lived in 1935 and relates her observations and sociological analysis to the conditions of Indian Independence movement leaded by Mahatma Gandhi. In the last and the third section of the book named “India in the Melting-Pot”, she develops a more historical and political analysis regarding the independence movement; she comments on important figures of the movement such as the Hindu leader Gandhi, the socialist leader Jawaharlal, the idea of single-nationhood of Abdul-Gaffar Khan and lastly the position of the British in 1935. Halide Edip’s accounts develop by constantly referring to the ideas and sayings of these intellectuals; as Hasan suggests, Halide Edip doesn’t image or inscribe India, but she manifests the “active agents” of India of 1935 by means of her book. She provides an intellectual and a scholarly space for those agents to express their very activism during the struggle against colonialism.
Aijaz Ahmad quotes Edward Said who “defines Orientalism as a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction between “the Orient” and “the Occident”.” According to Ahmad, Said speaks of “the West, or Europe, as the one which produces knowledge, the East as the object of that knowledge. In other words, he seems to posit stable subject-object identities, as well as ontological and epistemological distinctions between the two.” Halide Edip’s “Inside India” provides a counter example of Said’s intervention; for the ways in which this time, it is Halide Edip, an Eastern scholar who produces knowledge on the East. And what’s more important is Halide Edip’s position in producing that knowledge. Halide Edip, rather than providing an account of India as consisting of passive, colonized, stable subjects of the Occident, she insists on the active agencies of the Indian intellectuals who undertake a mission of overthrowing the colonial rule. Eventually, Halide Edip’s “Inside India” stands as a counter example to the Foucauldian view that Ahmad summarizes, that is, “he (Foucault) insists that it is a Western episteme; about the rest of humanity he makes no claim to knowledge.” By means of her book, Halide Edip becomes a scholar who produces an episteme as opposed to those were put forth by the Western scholars. As Hasan remarks, “she (Halide Edip) sums up aspects of Indian nationalism, points to its strengths and weaknesses, underlines its encounters with colonialism, and explores the rising tide of Muslim nationalism.”
Accordingly, Ahmad mentions the intention of Said’s Orientalism to encourage writing “counter-history” for the Orient, and that is which Halide Edip actualizes in her accounts of India. By emphasizing the active agencies of the Indian intellectuals during the struggle of Indian independence movement, Halide Edip’s book corresponds to Saidian humanism, as opposed to Foucauldian anti-humanism which underscores the definite construction of the episteme on the Orient by the West. Ahmad highlights what he considers as one of the major complaints of Edward Said as that “from Aeschylus onwards the West has never permitted the Orient to represent itself; it has represented the Orient.” Yet in virtue of “Inside India” it is the Orient which represents itself. Hence Halide Edip maintains a revolutionary stance with regard to the debates on orientalism and colonialism. Moreover, Halide Edip’s account of India becomes a reaction against orientalist intention, which Ahmad quotes from Said as “a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.”
After having examined Halide Edip’s position within the discussions of orientalism, we can now briefly explain the question whether Halide Edip is a postcolonial writer or not, and if she is one, in what sense. Indeed, Arif Dirlik asks the question, “Who exactly are the postcolonial intellectuals?” According to him, “now that postcoloniality has been released from the fixity of Third World location, the identity of the postcolonial is no longer structural but discursive.” Dirlik further states that “postcolonial in this perspective represents an attempt to regroup intellectuals of uncertain location under the banner of postcolonial discourse.” By paying attention to what Dirlik says regarding the postcolonial intellectual, one can conclude that Halide Edip’s position pertains to a postcolonial one since she carves up a “discursive” space within “Inside India” by which she puts forth an episteme of the Orient by the Orient in virtue of a literary space as mentioned before.
Moreover, Dirlik propounds further explanations regarding the postcolonial intellectual when he says, “intellectuals in the flesh may produce the themes that constitute postcolonial discourse, but it is participation in the discourse that defines them as postcolonial intellectuals.” Halide Edip’s travel accounts and her extensive observations on Indian Independence movement in 1935, proves her participation in the discourse that she manifests and recounts. In this respect Hasan notes that “there is passion in her writings, and anger against colonialism and colonial exploitation. There is commitment in her description of India’s nationalist movement and its leader, and a desire to see their efforts reach fruition during her lifetime.” For that manner “postcolonial, rather than a description of anything, is a discourse that seeks to constitute the world in the self-image of intellectuals who view themselves (or have come to view themselves” as postcolonial intellectuals.” It is hard to say that Halide Edip defined herself as “postcolonial” writer since the term wasn’t invented yet at 1935. However, it is crucial to see that Halide Edip doesn’t only provide a description of India but she also participates to that very discursive area constituted by not only Halide Edip herself, but also by all Indian intellectuals to whom “Inside India” refers.
Aijaz Ahmad, “Orientalism andAfter: Ambivalence and MetropolitanLocation in the Work of Edward Said”, Ch. 5 In Theory, Verso 1992
Arif Dirlik, “The Postcolonial Aura: Third World Criticism in the Age of GlobalCapitalism” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 20, 1994
Halide Edip Adıvar, “Inside India” Oxford University Press. New Delhi. 2002.
Mushirul Hasan, “Enduring Encounters: Halide Edib’s Image of India and Turkey” in “Inside India”. pp. ix-lxvii
Dirlik, p. 296-97
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