SALA Conference: Precarity, Resistance, and Care Communities in South Asia

18th Annual South Asian Literary Association (SALA) Conference
Jan. 8-9, 2018 – Omni Berkshire, Manhattan
New York City, NY
(Executive Committee meeting will be held on Jan. 7, 2018)

Hotel Room Rates:
$119 for a Deluxe King Room
$149 for a Deluxe Double/Double Room
(These rates are also available to us for the three days before our conference and the three days after our conference.)

Globalization, advances in technology, and skilled-labor migrations have benefited us in their opening up of all sorts of borders. Ironically, however, increased interaction between different kinds of people has not always guaranteed mutual understanding; rather, according to Pankaj Mishra, we are in an age of anger. Such “virulent expressions of anger” may be attributed to geographic, religious, and/or sociological shifts in the world, all of which are political in their effects. Such attacks have not only become the norm but have redefined the post-World War II attempts at maintaining global peace and security.

South Asia has not been immune to these incidents. Policy decisions and economic measures have brought widespread distress and insecurity in the lives of the affected communities. In addition to the demands of globalization on those particularly at the margins, such recurring political, apolitical, governmental and non-governmental actions tend to consolidate precariousness, also allowing the wielding of biopolitical power over human bodies, justifying the destruction of bodies that are considered dangerous or harmful. As Michel Foucault claims, a state of insecurity requires the adoption of stringent measures to establish security. Terms and phrases such as anxiety, uncertainty, and a general lack of protection may all be used as synonyms for the term insecurity or precarity. In a lecture given at Universidad Complutense de Madrid on June 8, 2009, Judith Butler states that: “‘precarity’ designates that politically induced condition in which certain populations suffer from failing social and economic networks of support and become differentially exposed to injury, violence, and death. Such populations are at a heightened risk of disease, poverty, starvation, displacement, and of exposure to violence without protection.” In State of Insecurity: Government of the Precarious, Isabell Lorey asserts that precarity calls for “biopolitical governmental power…[that] frequently appear as sovereign, self-made, free decisions, or as personal insights.” She further notes that instead of achieving security, “everything that the society holds as a threat is projected onto specific groups at its margins.” Othering those at the margins further perpetuates precarity. Similarly, Carol A. Stabile and Carrie Rentschler have also pointed out how precarity results in “an arrogant and androcentric militarized culture” and needs to be countered. In such fraught times, Lorey suggests that citizens need to form “a ciudadanía, a care community in which our relationality with others is no longer interrupted but is regarded as fundamental.”

We are interested in insecurities and care communities that may exist within states and within bodies. Papers could answer the following questions, among others:

  • What forms do these insecurities and care communities take in literature and culture? For example, insecurities within states may be seen through financial, economic, political, or environmental turmoil, and even through the clashes between governments and their subjects.
  • How do authors depict states of insecurity or care communities? What literary devices do they use? How do their different narrative techniques address social and political issues? How do these narratives or characters overcome or transgress the states of insecurity? How are terms such as security and insecurity reimagined both by writers and by states? How are inter-state or intra-state relationships amongst the different nations of South Asia depicted?
  • How do bodies and states clash? Topics that involve insecurities within bodies could include: tensions between governments and non-normative sexual bodies, migration and refugees who cause insecurities in host countries; mental illnesses and health/social policies; disabled bodies.
  • What insecurities do diasporas pose to the host nation-state? What precarities do foreign nationals face in South Asia?
  • How do South Asian literatures, and other forms of cultural productions (for example, television shows or film industries), articulate and reflect on these insecurities or care communities? How do they propose strategies of resistance?
  • How do insecurities, whether in the state or in the body, shape our image of the nation/self?
  • How effective is the resilience offered by South Asian literature, film, performance and visual arts in terms of creating social awareness and mobilizing political activism? Ultimately, through their explorations of various precarities and care communities, how do writers illustrate the role that humanities can actively play in this world?

Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words along with institutional affiliation, and a/v needs online here by the firm deadline of August 1, 2017. Conference co-chairs will send out notification of acceptance/rejection of abstracts via e-mail by August 15, 2017.

Please note that those who submit abstracts for consideration to the SALA conference must become members at the time of submission. For membership and other details, please visit the SALA website at Conference participants are expected to present their accepted papers in person. SALA does not encourage proxy presentations or Skype presentations.

If you have any questions, please email the conference co-chairs, Dr. Sukanya Gupta and Dr. Afrin Zeenat, at