Rape as Metaphor

According to Sara Suleri, the trope of colonialism as rape "in which colonized territory is rendered dubiously coterminous with the stereotype of a precultural and female geography" no longer remains "culturally liberating" in part because this metaphor obscures "the anxieties of empire." She points out that rape as metaphor pervades the "antiimperialist rhetoric of such Indian nationalists as Nehru, who suggested that the colonization of the subcontinent in terms of stereotypical sexual aggression: 'They seized her body and possessed her, but it was a possession of violence. They did not know her or try to know her. They never looked into her eyes, for theirs were averted and hers cast down through shame and humiliation. While it requires a Salman Rushdie to read and to disrupt the aggression of shame -- its traversals between 'male' and 'female' discourse the stories of colonialism -- the obsolescence of the figure of rape is too naked in its figuration to allow for a sustained reading of the valences of trauma that the sexual symbolism of colonialism indubitably implies" (16-17).

Can you think of postcolonial fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that employ this metaphor?

[Compare themes and imagery related to colonial and postcoloniam theory, criticism, and literature.]


Suleri, Sara. The Rhetoric of English India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Postcolonial OV discourseov Bibliography