Decolonization: Texts and Con-Texts of Freedom

Call For Papers:

The Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru claimed the midnight of 15 August 1947 as the moment of the country’s awakening to “life and to freedom.” In 2017, we find South Asia rife with violence along the lines of caste, gender, religion, sexuality, indigeneity, and class that calls into question the freedom that decolonization was supposed to herald. Taking the 70th anniversary of the independence of India and Pakistan from Britain as its point of entry, this preconference returns to the category of “decolonization,” to interrogate it as a historical event as well as a social process.

The preconference aims to delineate the multifaceted nature of the concept by examining its imprint in historical, literary, theoretical, and cultural texts from the nineteenth century to the present. It wishes to understand how these texts conceived of “decolonization” as the category was forged in the crucible of British colonialism. It also seeks to illuminate – just as crucially – how the term was understood, articulated, and deployed in the post-colonial era, across the nation-states of South Asia. How have these texts understood “freedom”? And freedom from what, and for who? How, in particular, have questions of gender, caste, indigeneity, labour, and capital been taken up and addressed in these texts? What are the relations between decolonization and political utopianism (or, utopian politics)? In sum, the preconference seeks to renew our understanding of the concept, and query its relevance for our contemporary moment.

Please send 300 word abstracts and a brief (2 or 3 sentences) biographical note to with “Madison Preconference Proposal” as subject by 1 July 2017. We hope to have a mix of early career and more established scholars across disciplines. Decisions will be made and notifications sent by 15 July 2017.

The Pre-conference is scheduled for Thursday, 26 October 2017.


Sandeep Banerjee, McGill University

Sreya Chatterjee, University of Houston

Auritro Majumder, University of Houston

Henry Schwarz, Georgetown University