Seminar: Representation, Secular Violence, and the Politics of South Asian Community--NeMLA, March 15-18, 2012

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43rd Annual Northeast Modern Language Association Convention, Rochester NY, March 15-18, 2012

Representation, Secular Violence, and the Politics of South Asian Community (Seminar)

43rd Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
March 15-18, 2012
Rochester, New York – Hyatt Rochester
Host Institution: St. John Fisher College
Keynote speaker: Jennifer Egan, 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner, A Visit from the Goon Squad

On the heels of After 1984?, a workshop held at UC Berkeley in 2009 to commemorate the state-sponsored pogroms of Sikh civilians in India that followed Operation Blue Star (the military's assault on Sikhism's holiest shrine) and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, editors of the interdisciplinary journal Sikh Formations devoted issue 6.2 (2010) to addressing the historiography, memory, and transnational significance of this tumultuous year and its aftermath. In context, this workshop and special issue signal an important political turn in Sikh Studies, which as a field has largely concerned itself with Sikhism's foundational Guru Period (1469-1708) often at the expense of attention to the sociopolitical, cultural, and diasporic trajectory of Sikhism since the havoc of Partition.

Significantly, this turn in Sikh Studies to the politics of representation in transnational context and to legacies of state violence in an era of globalization dovetails with interdisciplinary research into other sites of "communalist" and/or political strife across South Asia and its Diaspora, including (but not limited to) the bombing of Air India flight 182 (1985), the demolition of Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh (1992), massacres of Indian Muslims in Gujarat (2002), pogroms and displacements of Indian Christians in Orissa (2008), the culmination of Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war and its attendant humanitarian crisis (2009), and the impact of drone strikes on civilian populations in Pakistan (ongoing).

In asking the difficult and timely question, Who sings the nation-state?, this NeMLA seminar on "Representation, Secular Violence, and the Politics of South Asian Community" seeks interdisciplinary papers that address and negotiate the ethics, politics, and/or aesthetics of representing community (including genealogies of "communalism"), statehood, and conflict in South Asia and its Diaspora from Partition to the present day. Literary, historical, theoretical (including postcolonial), media studies (including film and news), cultural studies, and other approaches are welcome. Attunement to the vicissitudes of historiography and memory, as factors that inform research into (ethnic, social, religious, linguistic, class-based, etc.) communities across the subcontinent and its "sub-continental" Diaspora, is vital.

Invited respondent: Asha Varadharajan, Professor in the Department of English and in the Cultural Studies Program at Queen's University. See: Varadharajan, "Afterword: The Phenomenology of Violence and the Politics of Becoming." Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 28 (2008): 124–141.

Please send abstracts of 300-500 words by September 30, 2011, to Raji Singh Soni:

Deadline: September 30, 2011

Please include with your abstract:
Name and Affiliation
Email address
Postal address
A/V requirements (if any; $10 handling fee with registration)


The 43rd annual convention will be held March 15-18th in Rochester, New York at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown, located minutes away from convenient air, bus, and train transportation options for attendees. St. John Fisher College will serve as the host college, and the diverse array of area institutions are coordinating with conference organizers to sponsor various activities, such as celebrated keynote speakers, local events, and fiction readings.

Building upon the excellence of past NeMLA conferences, the association continues to grow as a vibrant community of scholars, thanks to the wide array of intellectual and cultural opportunities at every venue. Compact yet diverse, Rochester also boasts important historical connections; it is the site of the home, publication operations, and orations of Frederick Douglass, where he edited the North Star, as well as his eponymous periodical, and delivered the speech, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?". Visitors can explore the houses of abolitionist, suffragette, and reformer Susan B. Anthony and the inventor of devices popularizing photography, George Eastman, as well as shopping and eateries; attendees will also be within reach of the beautiful Finger Lakes region, known for its local wineries.

Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however, panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). Convention participants may present a paper at a panel and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable.