Halide Edib’s “Inside India” is basically the travel accounts of her visit to India in 1935. The book consists of not only physical observations but also theoretical approaches to Indian independence movement. Indeed, “Inside India” can be analyzed in the light of autobiography studies. In “Inside India”, Edib establishes an “autobiographical contract”. According to Philippe Lejeune, together with the indication of “memoir” on the title, the indistinguishability of the name of the protagonist and the name of the author in a book constitutes the “autobiographical contract”. Within this contractual structure that Edib establishes, her narrative doesn’t abide the norms of traditional autobiography writing. In lieu of conforming to the traditional norms of autobiography which celebrates the autonomous individual and his universalizing life story through the implementation of the master narrative depicting the “sovereign self”, Edib forefronts the active agents of Indian independence movement among the Muslim society and she herself is not as much present as the other agents that she narrates throughout the narrative.
On the other hand, Linda Anderson draws attention to the emergence of autobiographical writing as a merely Western/masculine phenomenon when she explains:
Insofar as autobiography has been seen as promoting a view of the subject as universal, it has also underpinned the centrality of masculine – and, we may add, Western and middle-class – modes of subjectivity.
Edib challenges this understanding of the genre by highlighting the active struggle of specifically the Muslims and broadly the Hindus of India during 30’s, in virtue of an autobiographical construction in which rather than depicting a master sovereign self, paves the way for a narrative space where various active agents of the struggle, either Muslims or Hindus figure. And what’s more, her being a woman writer and her depiction of active struggles of the Indian woman during the independence struggle sets another challenge to the autobiographical tradition which is merely masculine.
In “Inside India” Edib brings in the agents of the struggle of independence, not only the leaders like Gandhi, Dr. Ansari or Jawaharlal but also the active agents from the folk behind those leaders, and it is by this means that she maintains the heteroglossia of her work; in other words, in Gramscian sense, she welcomes the popular into her work. Brandist underscores the intersection of Bakhtin and Gramsci when he explains: “Heteroglossia, Bakhtin’s name for socially stratified national language, is the linguistic manifestation of the culturally stratified society Gramsci identified.” Edib maintains heteroglossia and the Gramscian national popular by displaying the active struggle and the cooperation of Hindu and Muslim communities for the war against British colonialism. Therefore she constitutes an autobiographical space in order to undertake a resistance through literature. Her having written an autobiography instead of a biography in which she would chose to represent the lives of the active strugglers highlights her endeavor to actively engage to the struggle of independence by means of her work of literature. Besides, her writing an autobiography as an Eastern Muslim author, and her writing of an Eastern anticolonial struggle against the colonial Britain make her book one of a postcolonial work of literature in terms of autobiography studies since the genre of autobiography, as mentioned above, already constitutes itself on the tradition of the master, universal sovereign self which is at the same time a colonizing and colonial self. Edib counters that colonial autobiographical self in virtue of applying the intersection of Gramsci’s national popular and Bakhtin’s heteroglossia by the help of which she forefronts not an alternative (Eastern) self as opposed to the Western self, but applies multiple selves which are altogether struggling against colonialism.
Edib’s book is not merely the representation of a portion of Indian society. It is a manifestation of an active resistance of an Eastern, anticolonial author against colonialism, who aptly makes use of the genre of autobiography in order to carry out this resistance. It is the very site of this resistance where her autobiography encounters postcolonial theory, as Huddart explains: “Postcolonial theory, in displacing universalized subjectivities associated with Western thought, wants to emphasize how one universalization of subjectivity has always excluded other modes of subjectivity.” Besides, Leigh Gilmore makes a crucial intervention when she declares: “Every autobiography is a fragment of a theory.” Edib’s autobiography is the fragment of a postcolonial theory, which displays the anticolonial, active, struggling Eastern self as opposed to the colonizer Western master self in the traditional perception of the genre of autobiography.
Furthermore, what’s crucial is that Edib’s postcolonial account has been dismissed for decades; it is even not a popular reading today in Turkey. Although Edib is a very popular author hailed for her nationalist novels written for the period of Turkish Independence, “Inside India” stays unintelligible to most readers. Following Bourdieu, one can say that Inside India belongs to the world of doxa, “the taken for granted, naturalized world of everyday life.”
Leigh Gilmore, The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony, Ithaca and London: