This seminar proposes to examine utopian writing and film from South Asia and its diasporas (and utopian writing and film highly influenced by or connected closely to South Asia) in a comparative perspective. While in 2016 we celebrate 500 years of the publication of More’s Utopia, Sargent and Dutton argued in their Introduction to Utopian Studies 24:1 (2013) on “Utopias from Other Cultural Traditions” that a reconsideration of the epistemological foundations of utopia is in order, that it is necessary to reframe western Judaeo-Christian definitions of utopia in order to take into account the parallel existence of utopianism in other cultural traditions, and that this allows us to recognize the wealth of texts and images from different parts of the world. This seminar concurs with this view, and proposes to build on existing work by scholars on utopia and South Asia, such as Prakash (conditions of historical possibility), Meisig (Buddhistic utopia), Bagchi (feminist utopia from South Asia), Mohan (utopia and the village), and Chakravorty (contemporary dystopian texts from South Asia), while taking new directions. South Asia is a region of huge diversities of religion, language, and ethnicities, with longstanding histories of encounters with other cultures, such as the Greek, the Turkish, the Mughal and the British, which in turn created a highly hybrid civilization. This seminar asks scholars to analyse utopian writing connected to the region with focus on any period or language(s), from ancient to contemporary times. While written work may be our main interest, we are also interested in oral, filmic and televisual strands. Questions we are interested in include, in relation to the region: relations between the religion, the secular, and the social in utopian expressions; reinventions of ancient and medieval utopian topoi in modern and contemporary utopian expressions; flows and connections between South Asian or South-Asia inflected utopian expressions and those from other parts of the world; literary utopian communities, gendered utopian networks and communities; irony, fantasy, and realism in such utopian articulations; imaginings of futurity in such writing; utopia and Sufi, Baul, and various other syncretic traditions; analysis of narrative styles and topoi in utopian texts; utopia in relation to dystopia in the South Asian context; urbanism and rurality in such utopian articulations; different indigenous peoples’ conceptions of utopia in the region; time warps, modernities, and ‘back to the future’ utopian conceptions; ecocritical and posthuman approaches to South Asia-inflected utopian writing; the relationship between utopian practice and utopian writing in or connected to the region, taking case-study approaches; feminist, Marxist, anarchist, and green utopias connected to South Asia.
Presenters: Dr Alaka Atreya, University of Vienna; Dr Barnita Bagchi, Utrecht University; Dr Sandeep Banerjee, Mcgill University; Dr Anne Castaing, CNRS; Prof. Supriya Chaudhuri, Jadavpur University; Dr Henry Schwartz, Georgetown University USA.