This talk would be an attempt to unravel the figure of Kutiyettakkaran, a migrant, in the cultural unconscious of Kerala, by reading a set of fictional writings in Malayalam with migration of peasants to Malabar (1920-70) as their main trope. The attempt would not be so much to glean fragments of ‘history’ from the texts, but to see how the literary texts partake in the historical process of constructing and circulating new cultural subjectivities. It would trace the constitution a hardworking and productive subject in the context of the arrival of colonialism, capitalism and modernity and a resultant discourse of development with land, agriculture and hard work at the centre of its scheme. By reading three sets of literary texts belonging to different historical contexts, the talk would demonstrate how the migrant self implicated therein changes its configuration over time. The trajectory is that of a fall - from a heroic and transforming migrant to a vicious and destructive subject through an intermediary phase of anxiety and reiteration of the virtuous – which yet again reiterates the dynamism of cultural subjectivities, shaping history as much as being shaped by history.
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