Narrating the New Nation: South African Indian Writing (Deadline 31 Jan. 2014)

full name / name of organization: 
Jaspal K. Singh, Northern MIchigan University; Rajendra Chetty, Cape Peninsula U of Technology, Cape Town


Narrating the New Nation: South African Indian Writing

The advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994 has witnessed a plethora of new writings. Much of the writings reflected on the old oppressive nation, with elements of 'restoration' for past atrocities. While some centered around reflective nostalgia, others looked ahead with optimism and foregrounded new beginnings. It is interesting to note how the end of the interregnum in 1994 drove many people to tell their stories and to narrate the relationship between past, present, and future. The writings revealed an exciting diversity of emblems and rituals of bourgeois lives and disadvantaged and marginalized homes in bantustans, casbahs and ghettos with innovative attempts to conquer and spatialize the different histories, and creative ways to assemble shattered fragments of memory. Literature is slowly transforming and new ideas are evolving; from the critique of apartheid and post-apartheid issues seen in earlier texts, writers are now examining the new elite and critiquing inequality due to neo-colonialism in the rainbow nation. The questions arise: has the obsession with apartheid declined, or are the remains of apartheid still visible around us in segregated townships, in the social and economic conditions which prevents equality of opportunity? Are exploitation and corruption still to be detected in the African nationalist government, which continues, to some extent, to base its practice on the norms of the old regime? Frantz Fanon warned against first fighting for decolonization, and then hoping that those who usher that historic moment in, do not become the postcolonial enemies of freedom.

In the process of narrating the new nation, the writings of the marginalized other took prominence. This has raised interesting questions around the notions of value, decentering of the little 'canon' of South African literature and the complicity of academe and publishing houses in the exclusion of other writings. The 'little' canon of South African English literature written predominantly by white writers, such as J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing, Andre Brink, Athol Fugard, among others, is significant and well-known. The shift of excluded writings from the periphery to the center is an important cultural imperative in the process of narrating the new nation and nation-building. Recent research on South African Indian writings (Chetty, 2010; Rastogi, 2008; Govinden, 2008) reveals that this sub-genre has been neglected in academia and in the larger South African and global reading community in spite of the existence of a significant range of Indian literary works. There is also a paucity of critical texts in academia that examine South African Indian writing exclusively and we intend to partially fill this gap with a text that examines this sub-genre within a critical postcolonial lens.

Our anthology attempts to provide colleagues an opportunity to engage deeply with post-1994 South African Indian writings, especially with the concepts of nation, narration and identity. How do South African Indians negotiate the tension between the disappearance of their particular inheritance and the evolution of the new identity? How do the writings of Ronnie Govender, Agnes Sam, Imraan Coovadia or Farida Karodia exemplify the moral and critical approach to Indian tradition? In what ways do the life narratives of activists like Zarina Maharah, Fatima Meer, Pregs Govender and Phyllis Naidoo deepen understandings of the intense political struggles waged against the racist androcentric regime concomitant with representations of identity, gender, positionality and difference? We invite essays that discuss constructions of nation, identity, gender, race, class and sexuality against the broader palette of the new democratic society. We envisage that South African identity and ideas of cultural and national belonging would be explored within geo-political national/transnational and diasporic spaces to arrive at a critical understanding of South African Indian literature and culture.

The purpose of the anthology is to gather essays from interdisciplinary fields, ranging from literature, cultural studies, theatre, arts, and film studies, and so forth, in order to examine the hybrid cultural practices of the South African Indian communities. A critical question is whether this sub-genre of writing continues to address themes of journey, exile, migration and identity within the major concern of place and displacement in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa, or whether the new writings foreground critical self-awareness as citizens of a democratic and neo-colonial nation-state? We hope that the contributors will endorse racial, social and cultural analysis, problematize it, expand it, and in the end enrich it. In so doing, they will clear the space for a plurality of voices, minds and stories and reveal how literature involves itself in the unfinished business of the collective South African history.

All papers will be blind peer-reviewed to ensure that the text would be accredited as an academic publication. Please send a 250-300 word abstract and a 100-word bio-detail to Professor Rajendra Chetty ( and Professor Jaspal Kaur Singh ( by 31 January 2014.