Monday, 17 June 2013

Decolonial Dreams: Good news to share

Excitement and modesty war in my heart as I write this post. I want to share the exciting news that my first solo-authored article has been published. It can be accessed online in the First View section of Modern Asian Studies here. Friends with institutional access, please download the article. And thank you if you do that more than once, or circulate it among those whom you think may be interested. Friends without institutional access, if you want to get a copy, please let me know and I'll inform you when the print version is going to appear.
Those of my friends who are not academics may be wondering "Why is this a big deal?". Well, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a young academic in possession of intellectual ability must be in want of a publication. And getting accepted by Modern Asian Studies is exhilarating, as it is a prestigious journal published by Cambridge University Press and, like most prestigious journals, it has a high rejection rate. (Yes, modesty lost by a large margin!)
At the same time, there is another, less selfish reason for my happiness. And that is because my article, the beginning of my life's work, is on Kanyailal Munshi. Not Shakespeare, not Jane Austen, not Kurt Vonnegut, not Thomas Mann. Not that these are bad writers. Yet I am happy that I am beginning to decolonise my mind. In their focus on specific times and places, Shakespeare and Austen are as "particular" as Munshi and Premchand; in their focus on the interaction between human self and the world through ideas of love, courage, honour, glory and so on, Munshi and Premchand are as "universal" as Shakespeare and Austen. Premchand, Govardhan Ram Tripathi, Dharamveer Bharti, Mohan Rakesh and countless others need the academic industry behind them. They need to be read, discussed and analysed from post-structuralist, feminist, decolonial and other perspectives. When academic literature around them abounds, we shall realise that "universalism" and "particularity" are narratives created by academic industries, and new narratives will allow new valourisations. I dream of a future where literature departments across India will teach Indian novels written in Indian languages. Students can read translations in their mother tongue, closer to the flavour of the original. They can then dissect them in whichever language they prefer, including English, and spread information about them far and wide. The language may be the coloniser's, but why should that stop our thoughts from being decolonial?