Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, English, City University of New York (CUNY) / Bronx Community College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Literature, University of Washington
Shakespeare on Page in Colonial India, 1870-1947

My project examines the manifold ways in which Shakespeare was recreated and reproduced on the page in India during British rule from 1870 to 1947. By doing so, it tries to understand the social and political uses of Shakespeare made by the British and the Indians during the anti-colonial nationalist movement. Through multi-sited archival research, I examine the historical moment when Shakespeare was introduced to the colonial curriculum in the nineteenth century, how his plays were edited as college textbooks and selectively deployed in shaping a new class of English-educated Indian elite, and how the latter co-opted the plays to address issues of national identity, to bring in social reforms, and to dominate ideologically over native minorities. Through this analysis, I draw attention to the contradictions in the reception of Shakespeare in India, aspiring to move beyond the normative framework in studying the subject, articulated within the binary of British imperial coercion and heroic Indian resistance through subversive appropriation. The prevalent scholarship, I argue, leaves unanswered the vital question why many Indians took to Shakespeare with evident enthusiasm, paradoxically during a time of intense anti-colonial feelings and an increasing demand for vernacular education. Taking a number of previously unexamined sources as my points of entry, I analyze British motivations and the indigenous hierarchies of power and class conflicts which facilitated the consolidation of Shakespeare in India. Finally, I interrogate the playwright’s continued presence in the curriculum since independence so as to map the contours of the intertwining of cultural politics and social struggle in contemporary India. Combining the most recent contributions to literary, historical, South Asia and textual studies, the project will offer new insights into how a canonical English author has been reinvented in India under political and social exigencies peculiar to the colonial state.