IIAS Lunch Lecture

The Forgotten Caryatids: Writing women and agency in the border colonial port towns in South Asian fiction

Lunch Lecture by IIAS fellow Aatreyee Ghosh, PhD (Jawaharlal Nehru).

Lunch is provided. Registration is required.

South Asian Fiction in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been undergoing numerous changes as theories of power have re-configured with the birth of new nations, the death of older superpowers and the fluctuating contours of History and politics, all converging together into a problematic struggle for agency and power. Earlier bound within the binary of the colonizer and the colonized selves, postcolonial writers are now slowly moving away from such deductive narratives, instead, looking towards a reframing of their historical selves beyond answering to the colonial narrative. Breaking the stereotype of the masculine project of the colonial narrative, new narratives are now probing into the silenced world of the women in the border points of view of women, especially in the twilight zones of the port towns that were witness to the amalgamation and the power struggles between opposing cultures and beliefs. Works like Amitav Ghosh’s The Ibis Trilogy (2008/2011/2012) or David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob Zoet (2010) pepper the narratives with women who much like caryatids create the bustling polyglot spaces of the port towns like Deshima or Canton.

This paper aims to read these works of fiction as agencies of disruption, unmaking the singular narratives of masculine colonial enterprises, breaking the silence of the colonial archives. This paper will also try and establish how these narratives become important points of study not only as alternate formats of historical study but also as models of feminist inquiry into female agency in “verandah” spaces of the colonial empire and identify new modes of knowledge production in relation to contemporary social and political identity discussions in South Asia.

Aatreyee Ghosh completed her PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India in 2017 working on the fiction of Amitav Ghosh. She has taught for 4 years in colleges in Delhi University and Calcutta University before joining in as a Creative Manager in Oxford bookstore, Kolkata where she is responsible for the curating and organizing of their literary festivals. Currently, she is on a sabbatical from that as she is pursuing a research project on the representations of British and Dutch East India companies in the literature about Asia. Her areas of interest are popular fiction, postcolonial studies, memory studies.

Registration (required)

If you would like to attend this lecture, please register via our webform below (by Friday, 26 April if you would IIAS to cater for your lunch).

About IIAS Lunch Lectures

Every month, one of the IIAS affiliated fellows gives an informal presentation about his/her work-in-progress. IIAS organises these lectures to provide the research community with an opportunity to freely discuss ongoing research and exchange thoughts and ideas. Anyone with an interest in the topic is welcome to attend and join the discussion.