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The precarious lives of India’s Others: The creativity of precarity in Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Mendes, AC; Lau, L


AC Mendes


This article traces the agency of Arundhati Roy’s precariat in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. In her novel, Roy focuses on how those in the most precarious of social positions manage to retain a toehold within the system by defiant creativity, lateral thinking and alternative living. Roy’s precariat reacts not with a desperate clutching at the assumed securities of social life, but counter-intuitively, audaciously taking on more precarity, thus seizing the prerogative of choice. Through the lens of precarity as creative agency, the reading advanced in this article is inspired by the writer and activist’s refusal to depict India’s others – the poor, “apostates”, foreigners and third-gender individuals – abjectly or as victims. We argue that, by writing a cast of characters who rejoice in their precarity and overtly celebrating how creative these minorities groups have become in their conditions of acute precarity, Roy risks compromising her indictments of India’s social injustices.

Acceptance Date Dec 9, 2019
Publication Date Dec 9, 2019
Journal Journal of Postcolonial Writing
Print ISSN 1744-9855
Publisher Routledge
Pages 1 - 13
Keywords Arundhati Roy, India, precarity, othering, Indian writing in English
Publisher URL