Mahasweta Devi’s act of writing and relation building, or on the angry political subject

Wednesday, 5 December 2012 (All day)
King’s College London

Alessandra Marino speaks at  "Emotion, Affect and Value: A Workshop on Feminist Methodologies" on Wednesday 5th December 2012 at King's College, London.

Her paper concerns the relation between the literary work of the Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi and her activism in support of the adivasis of India (indigenous people). Focusing on the discrimination and the struggles for equal rights of denotified tribes in the area of Purulia, where many of her recent short stories are set, I highlight Devi’s insistence on the feeling of responsibility towards the dispossessed. As a response to an urgent ethical call, her writing appears as an act intervening into a social and political field and shaping the language of citizenship struggles. To show how literature responds to the ongoing marginalization of adivasis, I dwell on anger as a vehicle for transmitting an affective force creating resistance. Political associations produce specific aesthetics creating a language of ‘emergency’.  Moreover, personal and embodied encounters have a key role in stimulating textual productions: i.e. Devi defines the tribal groups she works with as ‘coauthors’. How does Devi’s relation with her ‘sources’ modify a common idea of the author as a Cartesian subject? I propose the idea of ‘act of writing’ as a possible conceptualization of public engagement for social change. The paper freely incorporates extracts from an original interview I recorded with the author and, through the idea of ‘acts’ and their need for interpretation, it questions the objectivity of the normative methodology of social sciences.

For further information, please see the webpage for the event.


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Oecumene: Citizenship after Orientalism is funded by an European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant (Institutions, values, beliefs and behaviour ERC-AG-SH2).

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