Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, English, Vanderbilt University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, University of Minnesota / Twin Cities
Vernacular Englishes: Language, Translation, and Democratic Politics in Post-Liberalization India

My project explores the relationship between language and democracy in post-liberalization India through a study of the expanding presence of English in India. It asks: what is the place of English —as a language and as a symbol– in claims for representation and power by hitherto-marginalized castes, classes and language groups within India today? What, whom and how does the English language claim to represent? Through an analysis of Hindi newspapers, Bollywood film and Hindi and Indian English writing, I argue that it is no longer possible to view English as merely a colonial legacy to be opposed or simply a language of global capital to be embraced. Through close textual analysis and archival research, my work establishes that the "foreign" provenance of English in India opens it to interpretation and continually invests it with newer political meaning. Coupled with Hindi in "vernacular hybrids," English interrupts Hindi to reveal dissatisfactions with India's post-independence nationalist agenda. I approach the English-Hindi hybrids used in multiple media contexts as overlooked acts of translation that modify the way a language is written and spoken. English enables class, caste and gender mobilities, facilitates "social and political translation" of their speakers, and ultimately alters the complexion of democratic inclusion in India. My project emphasizes the transformative role of global media in shifting our understanding of language itself and, consequently, of the political. Transnational market imperatives and considerations of diverse audiences have, globally, infused our idiom with more and more global brand names, and multilingual references. My analysis reckons with everyday linguistic inventiveness as decisive political strategy, and inaugurates a novel approach to study instances of global englishes across the world.