Session Abstract: Scholars have frequently characterized the advent and development of modernity in South Asia through the prism of gender. The burden of a civilization or a nation to prove its modernity fell on its women: their voices and visuals, their rise and representations. Despite Partha Chatterjee’s philosophical argument about the “nationalist resolution of the woman’s question”, in practice there was never any homogeneous resolution for this gradually unraveling aspect of modernity across the vast subcontinent. While sections of women chose to embrace the ever-evolving paradigms being set for them, others often found more resonance in alternative, non-modern traditions. In order to track women’s voices across the colonial and postcolonial subcontinent, it is necessary to enter a world of volatile vernaculars and English education. All the papers in this panel investigate different linguistic traditions and the transformations that occur in their internal practices of genre as a result of the encounter with modernity. The participants seek to explore new forms of literary experimentation in 20th century Urdu, English, and Bengali print spheres in the subcontinent, focusing on gender. Which genres and forms were found to be amenable for writing about gender? How did earlier traditions of representing women feature in these literatures? What place was granted to sexuality and reproduction? How did contemporary politics impact the self-fashioning of women in fiction and in real life? And most significantly, what do these literary experimentations mean for the relationships between gender and genre in modern South Asia?
Paper Presenter: Supurna Dasgupta – The University of Chicago
Paper Presenter: Preeti Singh – The Ohio State University
Paper Presenter: Jaideep Pandey – University of Michigan