Mapping Imaginary Spaces in Salman Rushdie's Fiction

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Mapping Imaginary Spaces in Salman Rushdie's Fiction

Daniela Rogobete

Today everything that derives from history and from historical time must undergo a test. Neither ‘cultures' nor the ‘consciousness' of peoples, groups, or even individuals can escape the loss of identity that is now added to all other besetting terrors… nothing and no one can avoid trial by space. (Lefebvre in Burgin, 1996: 23)

Space and its recontextualisation, its metaphoric representations and political remappings have always preoccupied the theorists of postcolonialism who tried to find new ways of reading its physical and metaphorical coordinates. A relativisation of both space and time was long ago operated so that territories were reshaped, boundaries retraced in an attempt to reconfigure reality according to new dimensions. Relocation of centre and periphery, margins and interstitial spaces were redefined within what has been called the politics of location requiring a new vocabulary belonging to spatial language. It places identity, no longer envisaged in tight relation to a definite place, race gender or culture in the "

The difference between modernism and postmodernism in terms of displacement is most of the time defined as lying in the opposite conception of space seen as unitary in modernism versus the hybrid cosmopolitan space favoured by postmodernism. Whereas modernism was said to have been interested in an absolute, coherent space, postmodern culture seems to be increasingly interested in spatial logic. Frederic Jameson introduced the idea of devising cognitive maps serving on the one hand to offer space a different perspective and on the other, to provide metaphors for the metaphysical coordinates of space, so far slightly ignored, and for class struggle and social organisation, relying upon Laclan's affirmation that any representation of space is political. "That is exactly – he affirms – what the cognitive map is called upon to do in the narrower framework of daily life in the physical city: to enable a situational representation on the part of the individual subject to the vaster and properly unrepresentable totality which is the ensemble of society's structures as a whole." (Jameson in Leach, 2002: 31)

Mapping physical space relies upon a definite anchorage into reality by pinning it down by means of definite coordinates and well-established boundaries; economical and political considerations only come to further increase the "reality" of the place, giving its inhabitants the feeling of fully possessing it. The situation changes when space is caught within a clash of representations or when the native finds his space described and re-invented by the coloniser whether ideally embellished as an exotic paradise inhabited by "good savages" or as a corrupted, inferior place where cruel barbarians are to be forcibly civilised. Mapping space within colonial travel accounts meant "exoticising" the place and turning it into a counterpart of a homely, too well-known reality, practically recreating it so as to fit the traveller's desire for recasting old shapes into new moulds but gradually exoticism wore off and the marginal foreign place started being used in order to highlight the superiority of the metropolitan space. Smith and Katz (Grounding Metaphor) see mapping as a particular form of conquering space, translating what is being mapped into the map itself. Space progressively came to be judged according to the cultural and ideological gaze which totally transformed it almost lending it a new reality. The map metaphor was usually taken to stand for cartographic enclosure and conventional delimitation and most of the time it is undermined and deconstructed. Graham Huggan sees the map either as an "agent of cultural transformation" or as a means of "revisioning cultural history".

Space has gradually ceased to be envisaged in its physical, measurable dimensions and started revealing its...
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