SALA Conference: South Asian Literatures in the World

South Asian Literary Association Annual Conference January 6-7, 2019 The Wits Hotel, Chicago, IL

You can submit your abstracts online here.

The South Asian Literary Association invites papers, panels, and roundtable proposals for the 2019 annual conference to be held in Chicago January 6-7 on the topic “South Asian Literatures in the World.” We invite work that investigates the cultural production of South Asian identity as a global phenomenon—which is to say, that thinks about how such production is generated globally, through international relationships, and in concert with production of identities of other nations and collective identities.

A persistent demand among liberation, anticolonial, and postcolonial thinkers has been to decentralize the prominence of Europe and the Global North while studying postcolonial nations and their intellectual productions. This demand undergirds projects as ideologically and methodologically diverse as Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s Decolonising the Mind, Spivak’s Death of A Discipline, Dipesh Chakrabarty’s Provincializing Europe, and Walter Mignolo’s Local Histories/Global Design. Famously, and in the particular case of South Asian studies, the Subaltern collective came together in order to try and practice historical study that was a departure from necessarily Eurocentric historiography. Less celebratorily, Dibyesh Anand has argued for an approach that examines India’s regional oppressive military presence, especially with regard to its borderland ethnonations, showing how a country can hide its own colonizing actions behind its postcolonial status.

The multivalent and heterogenous demands for decentralizing the Global North suggests that such scholarship can be done across disciplines, research methods, and ideological lineages. Embracing such plurality, we invite submissions that follow a non-Eurocentric investigative spirit and think through South-South affinities, affiliations, and antagonisms. In this, our project is different from thinking through the “globalization” of South Asia, which is the naming of a neoliberal process that both centers the technology and consumerism of the Global North and, additionally, casts transnational interactions as a late-twentieth-century phenomenon. Instead, we seek to bring together presentations and panels that concentrate on expanding the idea of a global South Asia both spatially and temporally.

Key questions we ask: What global relationships have underpinned the invention of the South Asian literary imagination? Conversely, what role has South Asian culture played in the imaginaries of other Global South nations or collectives? In what ways has literature provided a space for the representation of international conflicts? What have been some trends in these representations? In texts that are concerned with South Asian diasporas in the Global North, what relationships with other ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities have emerged in such literature? How does literature help us interrogate and reconfigure the assumed relationship between the colonized and the colonizer or the Global North and the Global South? How have gender, sexuality, class, and caste shaped some of these relationships? How do vernacular literatures and literatures in translation frame these global relationships? How do they get refracted or erased in the diaspora? What does it mean to speak of South Asian literature(s) collectively at a time when the nations that comprise this collective are often in conflict—either state-sponsored or otherwise—with each other. In what ways do South Asian literatures prior to the emergence of Anglophone literature engage in global world making?

Potential panel and paper themes include, but by no means are limited to:

  • South Asian literatures alongside other Global South literatures
  • African and South Asian diasporic literatures
  • The “Asian” in South Asian literatures
  • Global Dalit literatures
  • Literatures of transnationally inspired liberation movements: erstwhile Indian-Palestinian solidarity; Dalit Panthers; Ghadar; Civil-Disobedience
  • Literatures of intra South Asian conflict
  • Vernacular South Asian literatures across the globe
  • Traveling South Asian texts: classic to contemporary
  • Global adaptations of South Asian literatures and South Asian adaptations of Global literatures
  • Comparative Partitions in literature
  • Worlding digital-diasporic culture
  • Literatures of South Asian diasporas and global indigeneities

The 2019 SALA conference will be keynoted by Prof. John S. Hawley, Claire Tow Professor of Religion at Barnard College, Columbia University. Professor Hawley’s research is focused on the religious life of north India and on the literature that it has spawned in the course of the last 500 years. The author of over twenty books, his latest works include Into Sur’s Ocean: Poetry, Context, and Commentary (Harvard, 2016) and A Storm of Songs: India and Idea of the Bhakti Movement (Harvard, 2015).

Additionally, the conference will feature a working lunch, during which we will discuss excerpts from Neil Lazarus’s Postcolonial Unconscious.

You may submit an abstract for a paper, a panel proposal including abstracts and bios for all participants, or a proposal for a roundtable. All abstracts should be no more than 300 words, and biographic notes no more than 75. The proposals for all need to be submitted by the hard deadline of July 31, 2018 online at the 2019 SALA Annual Conference Paper Proposal Form.

You can direct your questions about the conference to Dr. Nalini Iyer and Dr. Madhurima Chakraborty at

Conference Co-Chairs:

Dr. Nalini Iyer is Professor of English at Seattle University. She is co-editor (with Bonnie Zare) of Other Tongues: Rethinking the Language Debates in India and co-author (with Amy Bhatt) of Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest. She has published articles on Bharati Mukherjee, Lalitambika Antherjanam, and M.G. Vassanji, among others.

Dr. Madhurima Chakraborty is Associate Professor of English at Columbia College Chicago. She has co-edited Postcolonial Urban Outcasts: City Margins in South Asian Literature and a special issue of South Asian Review on The Nation and Its Discontents with Umme Al-wazedi. Her articles on Postcolonial and South Asian literature and film can be found in Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Literature/Film Quarterly, and Journal of Contemporary Literature. She is also finishing a book on Mahasweta Devi.

Important Deadlines:

July 31: submission deadline

Aug 31: decision notification

Oct 1: presenters have to be members of the South Asian Literature Organization in order to be on the program

Dec 1: participants have to register for the conference in order to be on the program

You can submit your abstracts online here.