Long after the shadow of the ‘postcolonial’ stayed its course in the history of literature’s encounter with the political, the question of reception has still remained a thorny one. Placed against the red-hot outrage surrounding a Santhal writer’s place within his own community at the ‘margins’, it is important that we re-open the spaces of cultural consumption to a more searching scrutiny – beyond markers of political certitude and rehearsed idioms of correctness. Insofar as this latest controversy traces its origin to debates around the textuality of tribal languages, it is important to mark this moment as unsettling a self-assured postcoloniality at the peripheries. The latter are no longer unproblematic sites for resurgence and mimicry. Structures of epistemological violence are imported from the sovereign fetish of the ‘canon’ and re-enacted with vengeance, till the excluded participate in their own expropriation. While the empire was writing back its own fantasies of ‘tolerance’, the subaltern performed to a script of ‘bigotry’ that has long been its historical destiny. However, the marks of injury that establish parallels between a Perumal Murugan and a Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar – or a Wendy Doniger and a Taslima Nasreen – are equivalent, but not identical. The effects of their violence are utterly unequal. But, might an apolitical humanism of ‘tolerance’ be enough to tame a national culture into foregone templates of ‘diversity’ – or, to civilize the subaltern into this culture? Must the ‘centre’ and the ‘margins’ dance to the same anthem of ‘tolerance’ – or, must their difference be recognized in an other script, an other text, an other history and an other nation?
In thinking through this, the IACLALS Annual Conference, Tolerance and Bigotry: Contestations in Indian Literatures in English will attempt a reading of subjectivities, alterity, hybridity, ambivalence, liminality and the interstitiality negotiated within and beyond current understandings of ‘tolerance’ and ‘bigotry’. In this would be questions that could account for diverse modes of citizenship and belonging within modernity’s genealogies of freedom and agency. Further, how these are willy-nilly ascribed within the religious and the secular, the sacred and the blasphemous, as also the ways in which the burdens of tolerance and the scourge of intolerance/bigotry fall on minorities – ethnic, religious, sexual, linguistic – would be of interest. How might tolerance translate into a communal gesture of assimilationist expansionism, or bigotry be the mark of a politics of default secularity? Is ‘critique’ necessarily tolerant, or must it rather shun a politics of consensus that passes for ‘tolerance’? Importantly again, is the much-vaunted idea of tolerance adequately historical – or, in other words, can it address the structural asymmetries of history and social justice? If, commonsensically speaking, tolerance augurs an ‘effect’ of passivity while bigotry presupposes active vigilantism, might democracy be redefined through recourse to questions of individual-collective agency? What are the evaluative rubrics at stake in understanding the conflicts and tensions between the self and the other, free speech and other freedoms of living and being? Finally, what role does literature play, in understanding and negotiating conflicts and differences within affectively volatile communities or nation-states?
The conference, located in the historic Aligarh Muslim University, seeks to investigate how literatures in India have narrativised the complex interactions stemming from deep-seated divisions. From negotiating colonial modernity to asserting multiple nationalisms, from contesting caste hierarchies towards a politics of Dalit identity, from narratives of military invaders to the unwritten tales of indigenous peoples and tribal communities, from the inherent heteronormativity of civilizational humanism towards the assertion of an entire spectrum of genders; the subcontinent throws up a vibrant matrix of polyphonic multilingual literary endeavours. Located in the heartland of the country, this conference proposes a complicating of concerns outlined but not limited to the following:
A politics of ‘tolerance’ and the idea of India
The limits of tolerance and effects of censorship
Non-state players and censorship
Literatures of intolerance, and cultures of reception
Tolerance while contesting: Literatures from the subcontinent
Tolerance and Bigotry in – Dalit Literature
The Sacred and the Profane
Religion, affect, reason, and tolerance/intolerance
Tolerance discourse and minority literatures in India
Teaching tolerance: Pedagogical potential of tolerance narratives.
Critique and the secular
Linguistic and other markers of identity/difference.
The conference is open only to members of IACLALS (visit www.iaclals.com to know how to become a member).
Abstracts (250 words) to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 30th 2017
Acceptance will be intimated by October 15th 2017
Complete papers to be submitted by November 30th 2017 (All papers will be considered for the CD Narasimhaiah Prize for the Best Paper read at the conference unless specified otherwise)
Registration to be completed by January 5th 2018 (details will be sent with acceptances)
IACLALS also announces the next edition of the Meenakshi Mukherjee Prize for the Best Paper published in the previous year by a member of the IACLALS. Please submit your published paper with all details to email@example.com by November 1st 2017.
About our hosts
Aligarh Muslim University (accredited by NAAC ‘A’ grade) has 13 Faculties including Agricultural Sciences, Arts, Commerce, Engineering & Technology, Law, Medicine, Media Studies etc which collect together over 330 departments of studies. Established by the Muslim reformer and statesman, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, it began as the Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College in 1877 and transformed into a University in 1920. AMU has produced several luminaries such as political leaders like Dr. Zakir Husain, Hamid Ansari, stage stalwarts like Naseeruddin Shah, Saeed Jaffery, academicians like Prof. Irfan Habib, Shahryar and eminent progressive writers such as Ismat Chugtai, Majaz, Ahmed Ali and many more. Raja Rao is also an alumnus of AMU. Indeed, amongst its formidable lists of alumni include Heads of States of various nations, Nobel Laureates, Bharat Ratnas and others who have gone on to produce sterling work in almost all fields of human knowledge and creativity. Partly in recognition of its immense contribution to human thought and expression, Article 246 of the seventh schedule of the Constitution of India lists AMU among one of the three institutions of National Importance.
The Department of English at AMU offers courses both in English and ELT. It has the Raleigh Literary Society which is named after the eminent professor Sir Walter Raleigh, who was also the first Head of Department. The society aims at recognizing and encouraging hidden talent of the students. The Department is engaged in both the teaching of Literature and English Language Teaching, besides being engaged in various research activities. Currently the Department has just moved into Stage II of the UGC SAP DRS program, after completing Stage I with a focus on Translation Studies in India.
The Department has over 40 members who teach both in the Women’s College and the Central Faculty of the University, and engage in a diverse range of topics in its pedagogy. Practically every student in the University is in touch with the department with takes Compulsory and Technical Writing courses aimed at language teaching, Subsidiary courses for non departmental students interested in pursuing Literature, Core courses on Canonical British and Indian Literatures and offers a wide range of optional courses at the Master’s Level, besides training and guiding research scholars at the PhD level.
Aligarh is situated in the middle of Doab- the land between the Ganga and Yamuna rivers, at a distance of 120 kms from Delhi. It is very well connected by rail and road. The university is about 3 km from the Aligarh Railway Station. The nearest airport is Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi that is about two and a half hours’ journey to Aligarh.
The Chairperson of the Department of English at AMU is Prof. Seemin Hasan (firstname.lastname@example.org). The coordinator of the conference is Dr Siddhartha Chakraborti (email@example.com).
The contact information for the members of AMU’s organising committee along with information about registration formalities will be given with the acceptances of paper proposals.
Centre for English Studies
School of Language Literature & Culture Studies
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi 110067 India