Accepted paper:

Violent environments: adivasi identity, naxalite insurgency, and natural reveries in contemporary Hindi literature


Gregory Goulding (International Institute for Asian Studies, University of Leiden)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores a recent 2015 Hindi novel which deals with the politics of globalization and political violence in the tribal (Adivasi) region of Central India, analyzing its language of nature and violence in the depiction both of global shipping and Naxalite insurgency.

Paper long abstract:

My paper will examine intersecting issues of environmental degradation, Maoist insurgency, and tribal (Adivasi) identity, as expressed in Hindi literature of the previous two decades. Through an analysis that centers on Manoj Rupra's recent 2015 novel «Kāle Adhyāya» [Black Lessons], I will examine how the question of Adivasi identity emerges in Hindi literature from a field of political activism, concerns with the environment, and the new influence of globalization. The novel centers on a young man who leaves an Adivasi community in Chattisgarh in order to join the merchant marine, but returns to search for his sister, who has become the leader of a Naxalite cadre in the jungles of Bastar. These two worlds are joined together by a language of nature and violence in which the destruction of the natural environment, predation among animals, and the machinations of global capitalism are all presented in a unified imagery. I will historicize the narrative fabric of this work within recent Hindi literature dealing with political activism and identity, arguing that «Kāle Adhyāya», in depicting its central character's odyssey through both the globalized world of shipping and transport, as well as the world of an environment violently disrupted by the struggle between tribal groups and the Central government, argues for a unified, political interpretation of these worlds.

panel P03
Arts of the political in contemporary South Asian literature and film