Published today in South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies

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‘Post-Millennial Indian Dystopian Fiction: A Developing Canon of Precarity, (Im)purity and Ideas of India(nness)’


This paper is interested in an emerging canon of post-millennial Indian dystopian fiction in English and the related themes of precarity and (im)purity. After introducing some recent novels and texts from the domestic Indian literary scene, the paper looks to demonstrate how precarity, (im)purity and changing ideas of India(nness) are manifested in Prayaag Akbar’s Leila, a 2017 Indian post-millennial dystopian novel in English. To focus on these particular themes, I consider the novel’s urban geography in terms of its modes of segregation, specifically how the walled sectors of the dystopian, near-future metropolis divide a city ruled over by the Repeaters and pervasive surveillance systems, whilst the Slums and the Outroads lie beyond the city limits. This focus on (im)pure involves an examination of representations of class, privilege, freedom of movement and religious affiliation. Overall, this paper is especially interested in how the dystopian as a narrative mode is harnessed in order to recount ‘precarious’ urban existence, a theme that runs through the wider body of post-millennial Indian dystopian fiction. Through discussion of the (im)purity trope and particularly through the narrative mode of the dystopian, I argue that Leila, like other recent Indian works of this genre, tangentially engages with certain socio-political themes of the second decade of the millennium such as segregation and develops ideas of India(nness) in relation to the Indian post-millennial contemporary.


Published this month in SAPC

‘Automatic guns singing death verses and Swachh Bharat rainbows’: layered messaging and public wall art on Maharshi Karve Road, Mumbai


This paper examines three panels of public wall art on Maharshi Karve Road (Marine Lines), Mumbai, specifically artwork found on the walls of a kabristan (Muslim cemetery). Some of the artwork appeared following the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008 and more latterly, Swachh Bharat Mission images have appeared since the
campaign launched in 2014. Drawing on fieldwork from April 2016 and December 2017, the paper examines how ideas of Indianness and (cultural) citizenship are evoked both textually and visually.
Since the paper examines wall art produced intermittently, over a number of years, I suggest that the palimpsestic nature of the artwork appearing on the kabristan wall is central to the reading of these images.
The ‘reading’ of the 26/11 wall art specifically is shaped by the fact that the fieldwork was conducted ten years on from the terror attack of 2008 and thus takes into consideration the hanging of Ajmal Kasab in 2012 as well as the burial of Yakub Memon, convicted of the 1993 Bombay bombings, in a ‘Marine Lines cemetery’ following his execution in 2015. Through these readings of the larger canvas that constitutes the wall artwork of Maharshi Karve
Road, the paper considers how Indianness, notions of communities and citizenship are portrayed in these panels of wall art and moreover, how these are complicated by the physical surroundings, the transient nature of wall art and the passing of time.