Radha’s Revenge: Feminist Agency, Postcoloniality, and the Politics of Desire in Anita Nair’s Mistress

Debotri Dhar


This paper examines the relationship between feminist agency, postcoloniality and the politics of desire in the novel Mistress. The paper begins with drawing from a range of classical as well as contemporary theological texts in order to read Radha of Mistress as and against the Radha of Hindu mythology. Arguing that the latter’s agency was co-opted by a series of androcentric cultural commissions and omissions, the paper reads Mistress as a feminist reclamation of Radha’s agency through a nuanced reworking of desire. Thereafter, the paper goes on to suggest that the notion of desire deployed in Mistress can usefully engage postcolonial feminist concerns. I argue that, by dislocating centre-periphery, global-local and universal-particular binaries in order to address past and present political hegemonies, and in locating female desire within a hybrid, ‘third space’ of agency, Mistress envisions a powerful postcolonial feminist politics of an alternative, open futurity.


Postcolonial; feminism; agency; hybrid; Anita Nair; Mistress; Hindu; mythology; desire

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