The Domestic Sphere in Attia Hosain’s Sunlight on a Broken Column (1961): The Home Mirrors the World.

Arunima Dey


By analysing Attia Hosain’s Sunlight on a Broken Column (1961), the article attempts to foreground the significance of home in Indian partition literature. As its theoretical framework, the article refers to postcolonial scholar Partha Chatterjee who claims that the Indian nationalist agenda during freedom movement turned home into a sacred site that was meant to safeguard the native values from the ‘corrupting’ Western ideology, which led to the segregation of the public and private sphere. In this context, the article examines how by focussing on the domestic sphere of home as a microcosmic reflexion of the socio-political changes happening in the country, Hosain reveals that both the private and the public are closely interlinked, thereby debunking the notion that private space is outside of history. Furthermore, the article explores the novel’s depiction of the purdah/zenana culture in order to highlight that though considered a place of refuge, home becomes a regulatory site of assertion of patriarchy-instigated familial, societal and religious codes, which makes it a claustrophobic place for its female inhabitants. In essence, the article argues that Hosain partakes in an alternate, gynocentric narrative of the partition of India.


Attia Hosain; Indian partition; domestic fiction; purdah/zenana culture; Muslim women; South Asian feminism; Muslim aristocratic home; Sunlight on a Broken Column

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