The Question of Representation in the Writing of contemporary Indian literature

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
University of Tübingen

Academic workshop at the University of Tübingen, Germany

10-12 June 2024 (in person)


In an increasingly globalized world, where a combination of digital technologies and multiple possibilities for migration, as well as the unfortunate realities of regional conflicts and climate change, people are brought together not just across geographical but also socio-cultural barriers. Race, class, gender, and creed, among other factors, come into collusion and synchrony in the most stunning ways to produce more and more questions about the value and meaning of a human life. In this context, the question of authentic voice and its representation looms paramount and the writing of literature its biggest ally.


In the prologue of the tale of the Wife of Bath from The Canterbury Tales ,the Wife of Bath refers to the Aesopian fable where a man has shown a lion a painting in which a man can be seen killing a lion. The Wife of Bath reasserts the question asked by the lion: ‘Who painted the lion, tell me, who?’ If the dominant narrative is shaped by the powerful and the victorious, then voice, narration, and representation become powerful tools, especially for marginalized groups.. Re-examining and interrogating these frames of reference help to find new answers to important questions: who gets to tell whose story? Who has what at stake? Who is representing whom? Where does the line between fiction and authentic representation get drawn? In terms of fiction, the question is more complicated than ever: who is allowed to tell whose story? If in fiction one is allowed to only tell their own privately lived experiences, how is that fiction? What does it do to representation of groups that are already endangered?


Gayatri Chakrovarty Spivak asked in her influential work ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ (1988), and scholarly work in literary and critical studies is still attempting to satisfactorily answer the question. Are the powerless ever able to raise their voice in a world where even the medium of language is biased to favor those in power? Postcolonial and subaltern studies have repeatedly questioned the ways in which established ideologies suppress the needs and demands of the most vulnerable sections of a society.These questions take on even more significance in the literature of India where issues of caste, class, religion and gender, and the many inbuilt inequalities and discriminations constantly determine identity and its representation. Contemporary Indian literature jostles with these dynamics, shaping characters that are dealing with privileges and prejudices, and that juggle various aspects of their identity and its meanings. The reading of this literature presents a richer understanding of this new and complex world, where capitalism disrupts and catapults lives, and a postcolonial framework seeks to define itself also without its colonial past, and not just react to it.


The workshop’s interdisciplinary approach looks at the topic and the literary frameworks that surround it from two points of view: the literature on the page and its many facets, as well as the tools employed in the writing of that literature. The two-pronged outlook will help deepen the understanding of what is perceived as literature and its production. The workshop encompasses the wider areas of subaltern and postcolonial studies, as well as the craft employed in a work of literature. Researchers are invited to engage with the questions of representation and its nature in contemporary Indian literature, as well as in the wider postcolonial framework.

The following themes within research will be given priority for participation:

  • Subaltern and marginalized voices in Indian literature
  • Point of view and narrative in fiction
  • Representation of the subaltern
  • Identity and power in terms of religion, caste, class, gender, and sexuality
  • Writing and marginalized voices
  • Narrative and language
  • Revisionist narratives
  • Identity politics in Indian literature
  • The writing of contemporary Indian fiction
  • Identity in postcolonial literature
  • Postcolonial subjects and identities
  • Nation, nationalism and literature
  • Perspective and voice in creative writing


For an interdisciplinary approach, we encourage participants who work in literary studies, creative writing, history, philosophy, anthropology, cultural studies, linguistics, psychology, political sciences, sociology, and artificial intelligence for arts to apply. Abstracts for papers, articles, and presentations, of up to 300 words, with a brief bio note, should be sent to or on the form at the link below:


Deadline: 15.03.2024

Notice of acceptance: 22.03.2024


The accommodation for the duration of the workshop for all participants is covered. Transportation costs will have to be self-funded.


Keynote speakers:


Prof. Sukanya Banerjee, UCLA Berkely, Associate Professor


Dr. Deepa Anappara, author of Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, Lecturer in Creative Writing at City University of London.