SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Death of Diplomacy as Literary Event


Date: 24 April 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 24 April 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Faber Building, 23/24 Russell Square Room: FG01

Type of Event: Seminar

Speaker: Dr Adhira Mangalagiri (QMUL)

The study of South-South literary relations in the Cold War world often centers literary exchanges conducted under the auspices of diplomacy. Such an approach risks treating the literary as a passive reflection of the political arena, wherein literary exchange occurs in tandem with friendly political relations. At the same time, however, reifying the literary sphere as the site of political protest can fetishize literature as a mouthpiece of dissent thereby perpetuating the literary critic’s tendency to valorize subversion. I explore this methodological double-bind in South-South literary studies, offering insights from the case of China-India literary relations.

The China-India border war of 1962 has long been read as an end: to the period of state-led cultural diplomacy between China and India in the 1950s, to the spirit of China-India brotherhood that had accompanied such diplomacy, and to visions of the Third World propelled by Bandung ideals. Countering such narratives, this talk reads the 1962 China-India war as sparking a literary event in the Hindi public sphere. I introduce a field of post-war Hindi literary practice that takes the death of diplomacy as a cue for literary liveliness, posing the China-India war as the grounds upon which to rethink the imperatives of literature, the form of fiction, and the stakes of China-India comparison.

Bio: Adhira Mangalagiri is a Lecturer in the Department of Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London. Her research examines intersections between the Chinese and Hindi/Urdu literary spheres during the twentieth century, with a focus on the literary history of China-India comparison.

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