Post-Humanitarianism and the Indian Novel in English

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    In the late twentieth century, Indian novels in English exploded in the world market. With the critical success of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (1981) and the “midnight's grandchildren” who followed, Indian writing in English began to glitter with glossy paperback covers in airport bookstores all over the world. While this explosion of Indian fiction was diverse in approach, the literature that gained the most international traction in this generational shift included works that sought to grapple with major crises of modern South Asian history, such as Partition, Emergency, and the spread of religious, gendered, caste, and state violence. As these works inaugurated a late-twentieth-century boom in South Asian Anglophone writing in a globalized marketplace, they resonated internationally in part because they tapped into a powerful discourse of human rights. Novels have long shaped, and been shaped by, the emergent discourse of human rights. When the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted its Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it promulgated a language that has served as a foundation for activism and debate around the globe. As Joseph Slaughter has shown, the definition of human rights in the Universal Declaration drew heavily on visions of personhood first articulated in the novel (Slaughter 45–55). If novels gave a conceptual vocabulary to the drafters of the Declaration, suggesting what a free, rights-bearing human being could look like, the Declaration in turn generated a powerful discourse of human rights that has shaped the cultural work of twentieth-century fiction. In their ability to dramatize legacies excluded from history books, novels have often been seen to shatter official silences on histories of atrocity. In the comforting linearity of their narrative form, they have been thought to restore the moral and psychological order that trauma destroys. And in the dialogic intimacy between writer and reader, they have been seen to perform the public act of testimony and witness that underpins such human rights mechanisms as the truth commission. Many Indian novels in English have, to varying degrees, participated in such projects.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationA History of the Indian Novel in English
    Editors U Anjaria
    Place of PublicationNew York
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    ISBN (Print)9781107079960
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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