Slums and the Postcolonial Uncanny
This chapter examines the Freudian concept of the ‘uncanny’ in relation to the psychogeography of postcolonial Mumbai. The uncanny, in this definition, is a psychological avoidance mechanism that has its dark double in the way visibility is negotiated and manipulated by the colonial infrastructure dominant in global cities. Reading narrative non-fiction such as Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Siddhartha Deb’s The Beautiful and the Damned, and Sonia Faleiro’s Beautiful Thing, I also examine the ways in which these genres of aberrational fiction defy the naturalistic and neorealist documentary style generally associated with humanitarian narratives on the urban poor. Works such as Faleiro’s push against the limits of social justice discourse as well as creative literature on poverty in the way they cultivate physical proximity with the objects of inquiry through sustained and destabilising encounters. In the process, they develop a humanitarian critique that is embodied and kinaesthetic and that, without being voyeuristic, confers maximal visibility to the vulnerable habitations of the poor.
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