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After New India: Diasporas, Anglophonisms, Returns

  • Author(s): Srinivasan, Ragini Tharoor
  • Advisor(s): Jackson, Shannon
  • Lye, Colleen
  • et al.
Abstract

After New India is a literary and cultural study of the Anglophone discourse on the rise of a “New India” after the economic liberalization of the country in the early 1990s. The project asks whether India’s putatively “global” ascendance has, in fact, as both popular and critical sources aver, decentered expatriate writers and exhausted diasporic tropes that were central to the writing and study of Indian Anglophone literature as “postcolonial” literature. In order to pursue this question, I focus on the contemporary literary registration of three aspects of India’s rise that map onto my sub-titular terms, “diasporas, Anglophonisms, returns”: first, the epochal, but ultimately counterfactual, temporal inversion in which India begins to represent world futurity vis-à-vis its diasporas in the West; second, the literary-critical discourse on the simultaneous globalization and indigenization of Indian English; and third, the empirical social fact of reverse migration to India, specifically by Indian Anglophone writers from the United States and United Kingdom. In readings of global icons, fictions, and nonfictions that have been central to the New India discourse, After New India shows how New India emerged through “East-East” encounters between diasporic and national figures of the Indian Anglosphere, who pursued their fellow Indians as proxies and informants in both real and narrative time. In so doing, the project argues that the rise of New India—a rise that inspired returns from diaspora to the nation—merits a critical return to diaspora as well.

The three chapters of this project consider how the New Indian icons of the expatriate writer and the call center agent, national and diasporic novels by Chetan Bhagat, Bharati Mukherjee, and Raj Kamal Jha, and popular, nonfictional narratives of Indian ascendance written by diasporic repatriates including Suketu Mehta and Amit Chaudhuri differently mediate intersubjective encounters in the New Indian Anglosphere. Together, my readings show how longstanding worries about the illegitimacy of a colonially-bequeathed Indian English underlie the literary-critical turn away from postcolonial tropes (chapter one), novelistic preoccupations with call center English and the wordless subaltern (chapter two), and the repatriation of Indian writers seeking compensatory identification with their New Indian Others (chapter three). All of these movements can be understood as attempts to resolve the problem of diasporic Anglophonism in India through the “East-East” encounter. Ironically, After New India argues, they also evince the vitality of the diasporic vantage and significant transformations within Indian Englishes, plural, that render moot the assumption of Anglophone exceptionality. The Conclusion turns to the graphic novels of Sarnath Banerjee in order to offer a final word on the aspiration of self-return and a speculative account of the promise of India’s “redevelopment” after New India.

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