Sunday, October 2, 2011

Liberation Theosophy

Anindita Banerjee, who teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the Department of Comparative Literature at Cornell University, contributes an interesting article on the Russian poet and writer Velimir Khlebnikov (1885-1922) titled “Liberation Theosophy: Discovering India and Orienting Russia between Velimir Khlebnikov and Helena Blavatsky” in the latest issue of PMLA, Vol. 126, No. 3, May 2011, pp. 610–624. According to her theory:

Between the Volga and the Ganges lies a vast yet little-examined zone of linguistic, religious, ethnoracial, and political contact shaped over many centuries by mobile communities of traders, saints, soldiers, and rebels. This is the space from which Velimir Khlebnikov, modernist poet and philosopher of history, articulates a vision of revolutionary internationalism. Khlebnikov’s quasi-fictional journey from Russia’s Islamic borderlands to the Indian subcontinent “in search of an idea that will free all oppressed people” transforms Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical interpretation of ancient Indian religious philosophy into a cornerstone of political resistance against global imperialism in the twentieth century. The intersectional history of violence through which Khlebnikov imagines a community of minorities, misfits, and mystics wandering between the peripheries of the Russian and British Empires challenges monolithic constructs of the Orient as well as dominant discourses of Russian and Indian national identity.

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