Nationalism in fiction and poetry: South Asia in conversation with the world

Mallika Shakya (South Asian University, Delhi)
Mallika Shakya
Start time:
15 May, 2014 at 17:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel will discuss whether and how anthropology can borrow from critical readings of fiction and poetry to theorise alternative ideas on nationalism and regionalism. We invite papers on South Asia along with papers on pan-African, European, Asian and American movements.

Long abstract:

Although today's familiar national emblems date only as far as half a century, the kitsch of nationalism now glosses over centuries old sensibilities of pan-national and trans-national affinities in many parts of the world. The fixity of boundary that the nation-state requires and its coercive definition of the normalcy of citizenship cannot cope with nomads and rebels. Today's social science discourse on nationalism lacks the stamina or vocabulary to express the pain and suffering of those pushed aside as 'others.' This panel will bring together papers that read alternative nationalisms in popular fiction and poetry. For example, in writing about new nation Bangladesh, prominent South Asian poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz echoed what Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore had said an entire century ago that exclusionary nationalism interrupts the South Asian way of thinking and being. Early pan-Africanists Franz Fanon and W.E.B. Dubois have penned fiction and poetry contesting colonial nationalism. Closer to Europe, James Joyce's Ulysses depicted Cyclop as a 'one-eyed' nationalism that needed slaying for humanism to prevail. Can literary genres offer the corpus necessary for anthropologists to explore alternative views on nationalism? This panel invites critical readings of fiction and poetry scrutinizing nation-states for their histories of exclusion. What have poetry and fictions been saying about a transborder way of life, and ideological, economic or social nomadisms that have roots deeper than modern nationalism? How are pre-nation memories reconciled within nationalist discourses? What kinds of alternative imaginations populate literary genres? How can anthropology borrow from these imaginations?