Bend Like the Grass: Ecofeminism in Kamala Markandaya's Nectar in a Sieve

Dana C. Mount


This paper revisits an early postcolonial favourite, Kamala Markandaya’s Nectar in a Sieve, by reading it as a possible ecofeminist text. Markandaya’s novel about a peasant farmer and her daily struggles has fallen out of favour, perhaps due to the often dismissive reading of Rukmani, the heroine, as a passive female character, a position which this paper challenges using de Certeau’s concept of tactics and power. Given the troubled history of ecofeminist thinking about women in the global South, this paper asks whether an ecofeminist reading still makes critical sense. The overwhelming role of nature in the novel, however, and particularly in Rukmani’s understanding of the value of life, means that it would be misguided to overlook these ecofeminist themes. This paper, then, aims to situate an ecofeminist reading within the context of a more specific postcolonial analysis in order to understand Rukmani as an active agent through her labour on the land and her embrace of community. The paper in particular focuses on the ways in which Rukmani employs tactics to negotiate modernity through the under-examined relationship between herself and the white doctor, Kenny. Rukmani’s ultimate decision to return to the land is not read as a retreat, but rather a thoughtful response to urbanization.


Markandaya; Nectar in a Sieve; ecofeminism

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