Ved Mehta’s Continent of blind culture: challenges in reading the narrative domain using conventional fraeworks in diasporic theory

Ved Mehta’s Continent of Blind Culture

Challenges in reading the narrative domain using conventional fraeworks in diasporic theory

By 

Dr Hemachandran Karah

Continents of Exile, Mehta's autobiographical compendium, and his oeuvre at large unfold in six idiosyncratic narrative domains, fondly nicknamed as Continents. These are the Continents of India, Britain, America, psychoanalysis, The New Yorker, and blind culture. Of these, the Continent of blind culture is unique since it first, binds together the rest of the narrative domains; and second, it brings alive a dormant viewpoint in the oeuvre that blindness is an inferior visual binary to sightedness, and that, it is an isolated institutional dynamic.

Mehta inherits such a view based on his experiences with Anglo-American institutional practices of the blind such as Orientation and Mobility (OandM) and braille. Detesting these systems as spaces of isolation, Mehta seeks a home within the visual. Some of these locations of home include psychoanalysis, American car culture, The New Yorker, and apparently, memories of his homeland in Punjab. But the problem is, these locations themselves are infested by notions of isolation that are harmful to the blind.

Pervasiveness of the notion of blind culture, as well as Mehta’s ambivalent attitude towards it, render his global mobility as a blind writer of the literature of exile difficult to comprehend.  I address these challenges, testing this time conventional diasporic frameworks such as ‘exile’, ‘memory’, and ‘cosmopolitanism’.

 

Dr Hemachandran Karah continues to work in the fields of Disability Studies and Medical Humanities. His special interest in these areas are informed by his doctoral research at Cambridge, which is on the writings of Ved Mehta. Deploying visionism, a framework from Disability Studies, Karah managed to bind Mehta’s oeuvre, especially the narratives concerning the idea of blind culture.

Currently he is writing a book on the phenomenon of blind culture, which he claims exists beyond Mehta’s writings. In addition to a couple of international publications, Karah organized a national workshop on Disability Studies during his tenure as a Visiting Associate Fellow at CSDS. Making use of his permanent residency at the center, Karah hopes to nurture a nuanced discussion in the areas of disability, health, and medicine. In achieving this goal, he may travel beyond literary criticism, his mother discipline. 

Time and Place:

Date:   Saturday, Jun 22, 2013
Venue:   Jawaharlal Nehru University
Address:   Jawaharlal Nehru University
City/Twon:   New Delhi
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