Social Justice in South Asian Cultural Practices
8th Annual Conference of the South Asian Literary Association
December 26-27, 2007, Chicago, IL
For its 8th annual conference, the South Asian Literature Association invites proposals (of no more than 200-300 words) on the subject: Social Justice in South Asian Cultural Practices.
South Asian cultural production, especially in the Diaspora, tends to privilege the paradigm of identity politics. While it has its uses, the politics of identity, in its analysis of both colonialism and of postcolonial realities, marginalizes issues of systemic social and economic exploitation. In this context, we believe it is important to redirect our attention to questions of social justice. How have the literatures of South Asia dealt with various issues of social justice that political activists and social reformers (both during and after the period of colonial rule) have been known to engage with? How do South Asian aesthetic practices engage with questions of the just, and the morally justifiable, whether it be in terms of affirming or contesting existing regimes of truth and reason? As a region of historically altering hegemonies and various kinds of coexisting pluralities (linguistic, religious, ethnic, etc.) how have South Asians sought to bring the just and the beautiful in accord? What sorts of ideologies of progress and change, or of anxious return to indigenous tradition, have fostered what kinds of narratives of affect in literature primarily but also in cinema, theatre and other popular forms?
Possible areas and issues for exploration:
• The rich corpus of literature engaging with struggles against both colonialism and indigenous forms of injustices during the colonial period: Apart from analysis of anti-colonial texts, this may also include inquiries into the relationship of literary discourses with various kinds of reform initiated by leaders of particular religious communities (Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj, the Barelvi and the Deobandi movements, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, and other modernizers in various communities) and their combined effects on new articulations of social justice.
• The Progressive Writers’ movement and the Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association (IPTA)—their reading of the anti-colonial movement, its blind spots and the socioeconomic challenges of the nascent nation. To the extent that this powerful tradition highlights class conflict, in what ways do contemporary cultural practices reflect its influence?
• One of the most exciting developments in the contemporary Indian literary scene is the emergence of a vibrant body of Dalit literature. A possible area of enquiry could be the “ideology vs. aestheticism” debate regarding this literature.
• The politics of religious identity: artistic representations of movements against communalism across South Asia.
• How do the several movements for gender justice play out in literature and the arts?
• Ethnicity has been a vexing issue in postcolonial South Asia: it’s a crucial aspect of the various insurgencies in Sri Lanka and within India, in the North-East, in Kashmir and Punjab. How has literature emerging from and about these regions engaged with the issue?
• Sexuality: The possibilities and dead-ends within this emerging field; are there certain ways in which both struggles against discrimination based on sexuality and their representations are following different trajectories compared to their western counterparts?
• How do we theorize social justice in regional, national and global terms? What problems of translation (not just linguistic ones but those of cultural translation in an uneven world) do we run into when literary representations of social justice (or the search thereof) get carried over from a local (or regional) domain to a national and transnational one?
• Social justice in post-liberalization literature and cinema: have questions of social justice been occluded in recent literature and cinema?
• South Asian cosmopolitanisms and questions of social justice: are recent cosmopolitical writers more sensitive to questions of social justice than some writers of the preceding generations (whether writing in English or in South Asian languages)? How are questions of social justice being articulated in the present age of almost instant awareness of global wrongs? Are there new dilemmas of local and global justice being articulated?
Abstracts of 200-300 words with the subject line, SALA Abstract, must be sent to both conference co-chairs by August 6, 2007.
Karni Pal Bhati:
Nivedita Majumdar, Department of English, John Jay College/CUNY, 1258 North Hall, 445 West 59th. Street, New York, NY 10019, U.S.A.
Karni Pal Bhati, English Department, Furman University, Greenville, SC 29613, U.S.A.
Please include your full name, institutional affiliation, title, phone
number and email address with your proposal. A panel proposal will be
considered ONLY IF it includes a detailed abstract for each paper, a
designated chair, and a short statement as to why the submissions should
be considered as a panel rather than as individual presentations.
The SALA conference will be held on December 26 and 27 in Chicago, IL,
in conjunction with the MLA convention.
SALA also publishes the refereed journal, South Asian Review (SAR). All
abstracts accepted for the conference will be published in the special
conference number of the SAR. Inquiries about SAR should be directed to
Kamal Verma at firstname.lastname@example.org.