Call for chapter abstracts- Extended Deadline- Human Rights and Indian Literary Communities

deadline for submissions: 
May 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Dr Swatie/ University of Delhi
contact email: 

Call for book chapters in an edited volume: Human Rights and IndianLiterary Communities

This collection undertakes various explorations about the role of literary (and related cultural) communities in the acknowledgement and understanding of human rights bearing subjects. Can literary texts highlight and empathise with those on the social margins as legal subjects possessing rights? Do texts also recognise and challenge the contours of human rights? Can literary communities help imagine and reimagine the outlines of those deemed human and therefore capable of being human rights bearing citizens?

The history of human rights has been traced in the West from ideas in the English Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta, and the American declaration of Independence about “unalienable rights”, the French “declaration of the rights of man” up to the post WWII formation of the United Nations and beyond. Western academia has produced a large body of work around the theme of human rights as certain norms and expectations of personhood for all human beings. This body of work has been also seen in conjunction with the role of literature and its capacity to imagine the ‘other’ as a rights bearing citizen. Lynn Hunt’s argument especially, about human rights and the role of the sentimental novel, and literature in general, to create a sensibility of recognition of the rights of others, has been much in circulation to argue for literary communities playing a more responsive and thus responsible role of what we owe each other in collective living. 

However, despite some contributions to the area by Indian scholars (eg: Human Rights and Literature: Writing Rights) or works about Indian literature, the theme remans by and large unexplored in the Indian context under a singular HR prism. For instance, we know that the anti-colonial movement in India can be called a movement for the recognition of a people as citizens and therefore a human rights issue, literary communities too played a role in envisaging a yet to be formed “imagined community” of a free, Independent India (Benedict Anderson). Similarly, post-Independence, the issues of class, caste, gender, sexuality were brought forth in literature to imagine the citizenship of the cultural other in a more equitable way, as envisaged constitutionally. From Srilal Shukla’s scathing critique of the legal framework of rights in Raag Darbari, where rights are forever postponed by bureaucratese, to more recent assertions of women’s, queer and Dalit rights and citizenship (eg: poetry on women’s activism, novels like Abha Dawesar’s Babyji or memoirs like Coming Out as Dalit by Yashica Dutt), post Independence Indian literature remains ripe with addressing these human rights concerns. 

Further, critique of human rights’ and literature’s liberal humanist framework has also been carried out in philosophical and aesthetic discourse. For example, Hannah Arendt’s argument of ‘the right to have rights’ (The Origins of Totalitarianism) or that of Giorgio Agamben whose modern day homo sacer points to a critique of human rights concerns (the Homo Sacer trilogy). HR violations in this manner become a new age international crisis, yet to be mitigated. Further, in the age of technology and AI, the terrain of human rights is also contested from a post-human framework which is yet to be fully explored through a literary lens.

This edited volume, titled Human Rights and Indian Literary Communities, requireschapters interrogating the role of Indian literary communities in human rights struggles and critiques for the following planned sections of the volume: 

  1. pre-Independence anti-colonial movements
  2. post-Independence postcolonial interrogations
  3. caste, class, gender and sexual citizenship claims through literature
  4. animal and environmental rights concerns in the anthropocene
  5. visions for human rights in the digital age 


Contributionsmay contain but are not limited to the following:

- A close reading of three or more texts on how these texts envision various human rights

- An analysis of the philosophical human rights based contexts surrounding one or more literary texts

- An analysis of the production, circulation or reception of a text/s through a human rights issues

- A discursive history of a literary community in a HR framework, among others

300-500 word abstracts for proposed 6000-8000 word chapters adhering to one of the above sections are solicited for an edited volume by Dr Swatie (Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi University), author of The New Normal: Trauma, Biopolitics and Visuality after 9/11 (Bloomsbury, 2021). Please send queries or abstracts in a .docx file by email to the editor ( by the extended deadline of 15th May 2023