Comparative Literature as Alternative Humanities Ethics, Affect and the Everyday Social

deadline for submissions: 
May 15, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Comparative Literature Association of India & University of Delhi
contact email: 

In the last few decades, scholars in the Humanities have found it necessary to examine the fundamental underpinnings upon which their disciplines are built. One of the primary questions that animated this re-examination has been regarding the very terms of our engagement with countries and communities that inhabit radically  different  social  and moral life-worlds, living as they do outside the orbit of European Enlightenment values that still regulate both organization and practice within and outside the academy, across the world. Instead of accepting difference as a defining feature of the human condition, the grand narratives of the Enlightenment were used as colonial and imperial tools to homogenize the diversity of experience, emotion and expression as the high tide of colonial modernity swept the world. The consequent otherness and alienation that characterised human society have deeply impacted literary and cultural production. We witness a disjunction between the objective, scientific discourse with its claim to truth and  the everyday social experience of the human subject which Humanities seek to understand. These asymmetries compel us to rethink the Humanities from alternative positions and perspectives to embody and address the plural orders of reality and the differences between them. How can the collection of disciplines we call the Humanities recover the capacity of self-reflection and self-criticism? Much has been written about how stereotypes invade our imagination to contaminate our experience and knowledge.

Comparative Literature’s commitment to alterity and plurality gives it a foundational interest in the non-stereotypical, non-canonized, un-heard narratives of “others” that constitute a radical sense of the literary. Such articulations can only emerge from the confluence of different locations, experiences, and identities, demonstrating how   our vision of “others” projects our own versions of ourselves onto the outside world.

An alternative view of the Humanities will have to come to terms with the ideas of relationality, plurality and cultural mobility as the defining features of all epochs including that of the pre-modern. Texts, ideas, images, metaphors, themes,  modes, genres, tales are all human endeavours and like humans  themselves  these  have  the capacity to travel across constructed, eternally  given  or  pre-fixed  borders,  thereby defying the exclusivist, essentialist ideas of culture and literature.  The  prevailing inclination towards connected sociologies and connected histories, while  a  step  in  the right direction, often reflects the dominant discourses which impose homogeneity and hierarchy, evincing a lack of empathy for  the  precarious  endeavor  of  encountering alterity and a lack of understanding of the transient and the contingent.

Thus, we propose plurality as a conceptual framework to address this eco-system of interconnectedness and relationality in terms of their manifestations in the languages and literatures of all nations, regions and communities, regardless of their location in the hierarchy of political and economic regimes, or of their internal stratifications. We would like to recover  the  mutuality  of  interconnections  and  interdependence  between literatures and cultures across the world. The assertion that  we  live  in  a  post-human world prompts us, as humans to consider our experience in terms of relationality and plurality. These emerge as conceptual tools for recasting our relations with the other - be it humans, animals or the non- living.

Texts are actualised through their immersion in the shared ideological  and  affective worlds that constitute the everyday world. From orality to print  to  the  visual  media, modes of intersubjective engagement are implicated in  structures  of  power  relations within society and our response to them. The very practice of Comparative Literature is an acknowledgement of plurality and a willingness to engage with difference. The discipline emphasises upon relationality,  heterogeneity,  multivocal  perspectives,  and direct engagement with alterity that translation offers as a process and a product. Built into the discipline is the  interaction  between  literatures  in  multiple  languages  both within the nation and in other countries of the world. Furthermore, it takes orality and performance in its ambit. It reaches out to all other disciplines by asking the existential question : can we open ourselves to the location of the other and view the world from the vantage point of difference that we encounter outside ourselves? Can we frame a dialogic mode of interaction that reading teaches us to our relations with the world, to expand our view of the world outside our own limited subjectivity ? Hence, we propose Comparative Literature as an alternate paradigm - and invite reflections upon the possibilities inherent in the conceptual frame structured by the reciprocal, the relational and the plural. It is our hope that it will help to grasp and address the nature of the crisis that afflicts the Humanities today both in intradisciplinary and interdisciplinary framework.


Some of the sub-themes in the context of the main theme that can be taken up for discussion are as follows:

Interrogating categorial binaries (tradition/ modernity/ nature culture / regional/national/ east/west, etc.)/ Literary Studies and Social Sciences/ The Posthuman as a paradigm in literary studies.

Worlding literature / Historicising canons / Global and local as reading contexts. The idea of the classic in modernity: circulation or creativity? Translation and the encounter with difference.

Translating “dialects”/ The oral texts/ Archaic texts.

The plural nation: stratification and resistance/ Literary historiography and geopolitics/ Intertextuality and chronotopes.

Polyphony/ Polysemy in  literature/  Poetry  and  cosmopolitanism. Interrogating “Minor” literature as a category/ Identity theories as critiques of the Humanities/ Life-writings from the margins.

The performativity of literature/ Screenplay as literature/ Intermediality in literature. South Asian literatures and cultures: relations, reciprocity and ruptures/ Population movements and literature.



Papers are invited from the scholars of Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies, Theatre Studies, Gender Studies, Black Studies, Dalit Studies, etc., or any aspect of litearture and culture that will help us understand and practice the Humanities in accordance with the ethical perspectives outlined above.

Abstracts of about 250 words along with a short bio-note of about 100 words may be submitted to

Upon acceptance, participants will be provided with registration details through mail. The Registration Fee will include workshop kit, certificate, lunch, and refreshments during the three days of the conference. Participants would need to become members of CLAI on receiving their acceptance letters in order to present papers, if they are not already members of CLAI.

For further information please visit:




 Last date of abstract submission: 15th May, 2024 Selected participants will be notified by: 30th May, 2024 Last date of registration: 15th July, 2024



Faculty members: Rs.3000/-

Research scholars/students: Rs.2000/-

Students with accomodation: Rs. 5000/-

International participants: US$ 200