"Impossible!": Politics, Possibilities and Celebration

deadline for submissions: 
December 22, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University
contact email: 

15th Debrupa Bal Memorial International Students’ Seminar
(Celebrating the spirit of Abol Tabol on its centenary year)
6-7 February 2024
Department of Comparative Literature
Jadavpur University
"Impossible!": Politics, Possibilities and Celebration
The year 2023, among other occurrences, marks the first roving vehicle landing softly on
the lunar south pole, generative AI threatening to replace humans, and almost on a summative
note, Sukumar Ray’s Abol Tabol (1923) reaching a hundred years of celebrating
‘impossibilities’. The ‘impossible’ and the ‘unthinkable’ also fuse together in the context of
the year, as a precarious world goes on to witness the violent erasure of a population in
Palestine, quite silently. The simultaneous and dichotomous presence of a devastatingly
dominative, as well as celebratory and subversive aspect of the ‘impossible’ in the horizon,
proceeds to pinpoint the simultaneity of the many impossible(s) and its polyphonic
possibilities as the centre of concern.
Although the idea of (im)possibility derives from, and is modulated by the context, Abol
Tabol with its impossibilities becomes “a doubt, a slap - a dangerous push, throwing out of
limits”, as Manabendra Bandopadhyay puts it in Sukumar Ray: Dishi o’ Bilati (1988). The
impossible thus, refuses to be contained within the historical-material, or thematic dimension
only - and, seeping into the linguistic, formal, conceptual and normative dimensions, unfolds
across all forms of human expression. While the normative attempts to either eliminate the
possibility of the impossible, or draw it within its fold by providing a shroud of sense, it is
also from the resistance to such processes that newer impossible(s) with its potentials of
subversion come into being. For instance, in the ambit of such resilience, possibility unfolds
when the facet of gender as a product of socialisation is broken down, when female voices
subdued earlier, emerge – surpassing the impossibility of communication, and of
trauma/grief, as we look into the silences. In such a context of 'construction 'of the impossible
and its subversive capacities, the impossible does not arise out of the unthinkable in terms of
happening or being, but also through the defiance of hurled questions. If impossibilities can
be constructed and de-constructed, where does one delimit the impossible, the eccentric or
the irrational?
The hegemonic, logical and the ‘irrational’, as well as the ideas of sense and ‘non-sense’
gain further relevance in Ray for his attempts at juxtaposing scientific knowledge and liberal
arts – two seemingly conflicting disciplines in a setup where science has popularly been
accorded with reason, rationality, and, humanities and artistic expressions as being the
domain of imagination and fantasies or the realm of the impossible. Within Ray’s works, as
well as life, science and imagination remain not as separate entities, but as complementing
one another, conjoined by the quest for the ‘impossible’.

As students of Comparative Literature, as we seek the politics and potential of the
‘impossible’ along with a relevance for the same, the idea of a conjunction between
imagination and scientific technologies resurfaces owing to the emergence of generative AI.
The posited crisis comes to facilitate a coming together of the two diverged streams of
humanities and science, as a possibility that has remained in the realm of the impossible till
the recent times - making one ponder: does possibilities change into impossibilities
depending on human affiliations? Our quest enhances further as we traverse the globe with its
various literary, artistic and inter-medial expressions, each existing in a matrix of multifarious
local contexts, but nonetheless echoing the irrational, 'illogical', eccentric spirit; encouraging
one to appear with all their ‘madness’ in an ever changing world that constantly compels one
towards normative modes of existence.
We welcome abstracts of not more than 350 words, exploring the multifarious possibilities of
the impossibilities, in both English and Bangla from students of UG and PG levels.
Abstracts may have direct bearing on but are not limited to the themes mentioned below.
1. (il)logicality of language
2. Performing the unconventional and the impossible
3. Politics of humour and laughter
4. Gender and the possibility of impossible identities
5. Representation and potential of non-human ‘others’
6. (Im)possibilities in other artistic mediums
7. Inheritance of impossibilities
8. Colonial Reality and Nonsense
9. Impossibility and violence
10. Imagination and scientific possibilities
11. Interpretation and (mis)interpretation
12. Questioning categories of ‘sense’ and ‘non-sense’
13. ‘Eccentric’ and ‘genius’ in reality and fiction
14. (Im)possibilities and translation
15. Impossible possibilities in children’s world
16. Exploring ‘impossibilities’ through popular culture
17. Impossible potential and the possibilities of AI
18. Seeking ‘impossible’ connections and the discipline of Comparative Literature
Abstracts are to be sent in pdf/docx format to dbmssju@gmail.com along with a bio-note (50
words) with the subject line of the email as "DBMISS_2024_(Name of Student)" by 22nd
December 2023. Acceptance will be intimated by the 30th December 2023.
● The conference will be held in-person at the Department of Comparative Literature,
Jadavpur University, Kolkata.
● Only overseas participants might be considered for online presentation.
● Outstation participants will bear their own travel expenses and shall make their own arrangements for stay in Kolkata.

For any enquiry, contact: dbmssju@gmail.com