ACLA 2020 Call for Papers: Censorship and Dissent in South Asia

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Preeti Singh/Ohio State University-Columbus
contact email: 

The history of censorship in modern South Asia goes back to the Registration of Books Act (1867), used to track anti-state sedition; and to the various indigenous and British non-governmental associations of civilians who organized themselves as the guardians of literary culture around the same time. Both these currents continue to the contemporary moment in many ways. Genres of dissent are governed by various acts, laws, associations, extra-judicial modes of repression, and more recently, by social media.

In India, the 2019 re-election of the BJP followed intensified persecution of academics, journalists and human-rights activists. The effects of this suppression, both legal and extra-legal, have been acute in the fields of cultural and social work: murders of journalists and writers, imprisonment of activists. These contemporary incidents of censorship have parallels in Bangladesh in the arrest of the photographer Shahidul Alam for his public support of Dhaka students’ protests, and in the state crackdown on Cyril Almeida, editor of Pakistan’s respected newspaper Dawn. Such attacks on individuals are accompanied by censorship of educational institutions. This dialectic between dissent and censorship has a long genealogy in independent South Asia. Several instances have been noted by scholars like Sumanta Banerjee, Ania Loomba, and Gyan Prakash, from Naxalbari, the 1971 war, the Emergency.

 However, this repression has also led to a vibrant culture of dissent with the formation of various artists’ and scholarly collectives. For instance, the Critical Kashmir Collective proposes that we consider new forms of protest as “forms of memory-making”, while also “empowering a young generation of Kashmiris to defy state-scripted formations of Kashmiri political and cultural identities.” New inscriptions of such dissent etch out new subjectivities.

 This seminar invites proposals that explore the impact of censorship in literature, film, journalism and public discourse in South Asia. Western social theory concepts such as Foucault’s notions of authorial accountability, Habermas’s public sphere, and Bourdieu’s free communication need to be re-examined in the context of the rapidly transforming intersectional political thought in South Asia. What are the continuities between colonial and postcolonial forms of censorship? How do we engage theories of New Censorship to understand contemporary censorship, self-censorship, and political imagination? Possible paper topics may include, but are not limited to:

Censorship & Authorship: theorizing dissent

Self-censorship and subjectivity

Cultural forms of censorship & dissent: genres & innovations

Colonial laws & postcolonial censorship

Literature from the South Asian borderlands 

Censored literary & cultural texts in the public university

Right-wing populism & censoring publics

Social media as a site for censorship & dissent


Please note that the ACLA allows only one submission per person, and you need to submit through the ACLA portal which will open August 31 morning and close at 9a.m. EST, September 23. You don't need to become a member, but you will need to create an ID for yourself.  For questions, contact Preeti Singh ( or Supurna Dasgupta (