Subaltern studies has overwhelmingly privileged subaltern resistance as a means for the subaltern to attain autonomy. While the group's project has made breakthroughs in rewriting Indian subaltern history, their emphasis on resistance to oppression has also essentialized what it means to create autonomy. A 1999 novel, Lydia Minatoya's The Strangeness of Beauty, challenges this essentialist view by portraying alternative behaviors that indicate autonomy. The novel is set in 1920s Japan when transnational excitement and anxiety provided opportunities for one subaltern group, Japanese women, to gain autonomy. While some feminist movements in Japan substantiate the notion that autonomy must be gained through rebellion, The Strangeness of Beauty suggests that this is merely one possible method for gaining autonomy—and an undesirable method at that. The relationships among three women—a mother, daughter, and granddaughter—emphasize that both the elite and subaltern can do more than just oppress or rebel to express autonomy. Rather than responding to the other antagonistically, the characters in The Strangeness of Beauty indicate that autonomy can best be reached through beneficent acts toward the other. I hope to demonstrate that these beneficent acts also foster autonomy. Because resistance and beneficence widen the spectrum of behaviors that foster autonomy, subaltern studies must identify new spheres of autonomy and enact a non-essentializing beneficence in their methodology.



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Humanities; English



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subaltern studies, japanese feminism, elite, subaltern, hierarchy, domination, japan 1920s, feminism, resistance, rebellion