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Literary Non-Fiction and the Neoliberal City: Subalternity and Urban Governance in Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Davies, D. ORCID: 0000-0002-3584-5789 (2018). Literary Non-Fiction and the Neoliberal City: Subalternity and Urban Governance in Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Journal of Postcolonial Writing, doi: 10.1080/17449855.2018.1496468

Abstract

In this article I challenge the claims made for Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers as a piece of non-fiction, using the text to attend to continued questions around subaltern agency and voice that have been at the centre of postcolonial studies since Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak asked her field-shaping question, ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’. Reading Spivak’s essay alongside Beautiful Forevers foregrounds the continued relevance of her question in the post-Millennial context of the neoliberal city, particularly as it relates to issues of urban governance. The article demonstrates that a rigorous postcolonial reading of Boo’s book tells us something more about subalternity in the twenty-firstcentury Indian city, the violent social and spatial infrastructures of which continue to be shaped by the enduring legacies of colonialism, even as these are in turn exacerbated by more recent ideologies and policies of neoliberal urban governance. It concludes by arguing that Beautiful Forevers, and perhaps the genre of creative or literary non-fiction more widely, is undoubtedly responding to, and at times both complicit with and resistant to, this regime.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Postcolonial Writing on 17 Aug 2018, available online: https://doi.org/10.1080/17449855.2018.1496468.
Publisher Keywords: Katherine Boo, Gayatri Spivak, literary non-fiction, subalternity, the neo-liberal city, urban governance
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > English
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/20301
[img] Text - Accepted Version
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