Why Fiction Is Necessary For Marginalized Countries in Achieving Global Relevancy

Written By: Kritanjali Battig

Treading on Canadian soil as an international student provides a perspective that is never truly realized prior to the journey. I realized that from the age of ten, I knew quite well about America; the tangible land with its overwhelmingly intangible power whose reach travelled miles to penetrate me and my developing ten-year-old existence. At that ripe age, it was safe to say that I comprehended life through visual cues, and American television seeped through the third-world Indian cables of my abode. The soft words of my mother tongue found itself sharing a space with American English. Five pm supper, fruit roll-ups and apple pies became components of my imagined life, which once again shared a space with my truth; traditional home cooked nine pm dinners and an absence of pies. Children are easily penetrable, and the stories read about the West made me vulnerable to the American grand narrative. 

I have come to realize that a single rigid grand narrative does not exist to define America. On the contrary, American stories, perspectives and voices are shared worldwide and exist in multiples; there is no marginalized American point of view. Transnational media is saturated with the dominant power as we hear legitimized American voices that are ascribed freedom of expression and become the pivot of our local cable channels. America is not defined by one totalizing narrative, and I inevitably grew up viewing the greater part of the world as the American world. Fluid with their stories through fiction and media, their people were fleshed out in my imagination. 

Globally, the USA is the most important country in news coverage, and a study of their commanding position in the UK, Israel, Germany, Spain, Russia in 2013 prove the position of America in the world’s system.

The intense American focus simultaneously creates the erasure of the voices of marginalized countries. My little existence was raw with the images of the West. Blonde haired Susans who suffered from foreign crises of parental divorce and restless homes became the subjects of my stories, as my Indian narrative became a translucent additive that peeked through. It was important to realize that my Indian narrative was already lost through me, subconsciously and involuntarily. I could not visualize the reality of my own surroundings since my mind was saturated with stories from another world.

Arriving at a North American university led me to fully grasp the scope of this issue. It was important to comprehend that the limited worldwide media coverage of India had totalized my entire country into few defining entities: ‘butter chicken’, ‘yoga’, ‘riding elephants to all destinations’, ‘arranged marriages’, and most importantly, ‘poverty’. The nuances of my world were tarnished, and the coherence of my country was diminished. The voices of the country were preserved through historical remains and stereotyped generalizations, but fluid, developing and most importantly contemporary voices are locked within the local domain, only accessible to its own people. 

For India and several other countries of color/third-world nations, people’s unfiltered, raw stories are diffused through a) the process of time b) diffusion of memories c) incomplete narratives left to disappear.

But…

Fiction can behave as a force to challenge a lack of media coverage. Fiction has the power to give the incomplete aspects of official history the concreteness of reality.

Fiction can represent the perspectives of the marginalized.

Fiction can challenge existing narratives by writing literary narrative from the perspective of the disenfranchised in society.

Fiction can provide a plurality of readings that can liberate us from the coercive ideas in a totalizing narrative.

Fiction can negotiate the past (or the lack thereof) by making our stories seen through fleshed out characters.

While the process of writing fiction can have the adverse effect of rejecting historical authenticity in favor of a modern, unreliable representation, it also has the positive repercussion of putting countries like mine on the map. I often reflect and ponder how entire nations are deleted from relevancy unless country-specific events fit universal stereotypes. I believe the challenge is to let our culturally influenced perspectives flow through our narratives. I wish to see more writers from my country appear and challenge rigid notions of who my people are.