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A Therapeutic Mangle of History: Towards a Politics of Reconciliation in Arjun Raj Gaind's Empire of Blood

Peter, Kurian Therakath

This essay examines representations of India and colonialism in steampunk fiction. Foregrounding India’s suspicion of colonial history, I argue that steampunk’s uchronias can serve as the alternatives to history advocated by postcolonial scholars like Ashis Nandy. Examining representations of India by Western-authored steampunk novels like S.M.Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers (2002) and Gail Carriger’s Prudence (2015), I demonstrate that despite their progressive politics, these texts are steeped in colonial nostalgia. Their elision of historical realities and roseate representations of the colonial encounter ultimately end up glamorizing colonialism. In contrast, Arjun Raj Gaind’s steampunk graphic novel Empire of Blood (2015) is more alive to history and manifests an understanding of the physical and epistemic violence of colonialism. Gaind’s text nevertheless embodies a politics of reconciliation and offers new possibilities for neo-Victorian alternate histories, a genre whose fictive transformations of the colonial past have often entailed an amnesia towards the traumas of history.

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