Parallel panels, session 2

Thursday, May 13, 2:50 pm (UTC+2)

Setup phase for presenters starts at 2:30 am.

2.1 – Imperial Knowledges

Rajani Sudan, Southern Methodist University:
Mines, Minerals, Mimesis, and Memory

I will address the relationship between transnational electronic technology and its contemporary mining practices to an early modern moment when mining and technology coincided with such force that it altered the landscape of global economy. Much of the language generated by transnational corporations celebrates electronic technology as a “greener” system for exchanging knowledge. I claim that this language duplicates the language of earlier colonial and imperial resource extractions and knowledge exchanges. I examine four themes in this linguistic nexus: extraction, inflation, ecology, and work. Eighteenth-century Britain fantasized about inexhaustible troves of bullion in the Americas in spite of the fact that scarcity, not abundance, creates value. Ideologies of scarcity and abundance led to technological development and managerial reorganization, established a new expertise of extraction, promoted the fiction of wealth in excess of labor, and displaced an aristocratic ethos onto a putatively sustainable venture capitalist economy. In the face of Spain’s command of New World bullion—pieces of eight, fashioned from bullion mined in their holdings in New Spain and Peru, were the first example of global currency—Britain created the South Sea Company that gambled on the false reports of limitless troves of gold and silver, and that eventually collapsed as a bubble. Imperial ideologies of mining and its language of scarcity and abundance–for example, lode, extraction, and work–also define global electronic technology, particularly computers and other forms of wireless exchange that by circulating knowledge and wealth, including Bitcoin, also create it. Rare earth minerals, for example, are in fact quite abundant on earth and in every computer, as one can learn by Googling the term. But they are difficult to isolate, used in minimal amounts, and are thus rare, controlled by a few nations and corporations at great human and environmental cost. Notions of scarce and abundant minerals, vital to wireless technologies are largely responsible for the many civil wars waged in Africa and labor abuses in Asia, much as were gold, diamonds, and oil in past colonial settings. While we think the ecological solutions to global problems like climate change rest in more and better digital and computer technology just as earlier societies believed that more gold would solve their problems, our technology comes out of the earth with all the material and ecological implications of the past.


Rajani Sudan holds a PhD from Cornell University and is now professor of English at Dedman College, SMU. Trained as a romanticist, her work focusses on the global encounters of the first British Empire. Her first book, Fair Exotics: Xenophobic Subjects in English Literature traces the simultaneous fascination with and fear of foreign people, a twin sensibility that underpinned Romantic subjectivity. Her second book, The Alchemy of Empire: Abject Materials and the Technologies of Colonialism, examines the non-European origins of that quintessential European era, the Enlightenment. Currently, she is working on her third book, The Dirt in the Machine: A Place History of the Internet.

Rovel Sequeira, University of Pennsylvania:
Scandals of the State: Prison Architecture and the Sciences of Pederasty in Late Colonial India

Testifying before the Indian Jails Committee in 1919, the medical officer John Mulvany stunned the colonial administration by accusing the Inspector-General of Bengal Prisons of coercing him to end his research on sodomy/pederasty in Calcutta’s jails since “it was a subject about which the Government desired to know nothing.” Because Mulvany’s “investigations had made him extremely unpopular and his life had been attempted more than once,” he seemingly desisted, while secretly continuing his “experiments” at the New Alipore Central Jail which he designed in 1913. By 1919, he publicly exposed the scandal, showcasing intercepted love-letters between prisoners as exemplary evidence for prison pederasty’s ubiquity. Taking this previously unstudied scandal as a provocation, I examine the early-20th-century Indian prison as a colonial sexological laboratory, arguing that it grounded a spatially-governed sexual science tied to the science of confinement. I will show, first, that Mulvany’s experiments on subaltern sexual deviants helped reconstitute the architecture of the prisons he administered. Instrumentalizing racialized criminological theories about Indian prisoners’ affinity for sociability over privacy, he isolated sodomites in cellular confinement instead of in association wards to correct, not cure, their deviance. Second, I will show how Mulvany’s investigations shifted from foregrounding anatomical observation to documenting prisoners’ voices through intercepting their letters, but paradoxically, negated the individuality of his subjects—provoking assaults on him by his resistant subjects. Instead of localizing sodomy as the interiorized truth of the individual prisoner’s self, his experiments helped shift the imagination of pederasty/sodomy from repeated criminality to a moral/cultural notion of habitual excess. Finally, I will document how the state prevented the circulation of Mulvany’s studies, anticipating outcry about exposing Indian political prisoners to sexual abuse. The state’s coding of Mulvany’s studies as unscientific, even as it prevented it from circulating, continued to enable its disciplinary and repressive exercises of power.


Rovel Sequeira is a doctoral candidate in English, with an affiliation in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He was a Harry Ransom Center Dissertation Research Fellow in 2019 and is currently a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow. He is completing his dissertation project on the colonial histories of sexual science and literary forms in turn-of-the-20th century India. His interests include the global genealogies of queer politics, the history of science, and literary modernisms in the post/colony. His work on the now-defunct HIV/AIDS/Sex Museum, Antarang, in India for sex workers has appeared in Routledge’s Museums, Sexuality and Gender Activisms reader. A further article on the nascent genre of hijra autobiographies and global/Indian NGO activisms is forthcoming in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society in 2021.

Andrew Ash, University of Alabama:
How the Present Is Translated Into the Future: Bhabha, Achebe and Latour

My presentation will show that there is a significant and previously unremarked parallelism between the theory of cultural hybridity as developed in the writings of Homi K. Bhabha and Chinua Achebe, and Bruno Latour’s description of how new scientific theory comes into being, and I will argue that this parallelism has significant consequences for philosophy, political theory and literary studies generally. The presentation has three main parts: I will first demonstrate that Bhabha’s description of what happens broadly at the intersection of heterogeneous cultures is remarkably similar to Achebe’s description of how he understands his role as a writer negotiating a future out of his dual African and British colonial past. In each case, random elements of two disparate cultures are conjoined to create something entirely new: what Bhabha calls the “third space,” and what Achebe envisions as a postcolonial African culture that moves beyond the either/or of pre-colonial tradition or colonial rupture. Each of these views is predicated on the idea that what happens at the intersection of culture is the translation of non-congruent concepts in two disparate cultures into a third language of a new culture. I will then show that in the field of science and technology studies, Bruno Latour’s concept of how new scientific theory is developed is likewise based on the idea of heterogeneous elements brought together to form a new conceptual unity. In language strikingly similar to that of Bhabha and Achebe, Latour argues that new scientific practice in the laboratory brings something new into the world: the construction, out of disparate elements having no prior connection with each other, of new objects of scientific theory embodied in unprecedented language and cultural practice. Lastly, I will show that a similar idea of the combination of disparate elements informs the poetics of twentieth century poets T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens and Hart Crane, as well as work in post-critical literary theory by John Hollander, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Virginia Jackson. In short, new poetry is made in much the same way as culture and science generally. I will conclude by arguing that these parallel theories provide the basis for a unified, interdisciplinary understanding of how new language and culture come into being. I will briefly discuss certain broad implications of this view for philosophy, political theory and literary criticism.


Andrew Ash is a PhD student in English Literature at the University of Alabama. His research focus is poetry, poetics and the theory of reading.

2.2 – Science in Speculative Fiction II: SF and Indigenous Epistemologies

Alessandra Boller, University of Siegen:
“I’m a patented new fucking life form”- Material Practices of Knowing and Becoming in Larissa Lai’s Speculative Fiction

Employing a new materialist approach, my proposed talk reads storytelling and experimenting as material practices and discursive performances that imbue reality with meaning and thus have tangible effects on discourses and practices in a material-semiotic world. Hence, instead of adhering to Anthropocene discourse, which is informed by western grand narratives and the paradigm of modernity with its ideas of progress and of knowledge production as being effected by neutral scientific research, I follow Karen Barad, who regards knowing as a matter of responsiveness and intra-acting, an ongoing performance of the world that always involves diverse practices. On this basis, I argue that speculative fiction narratives incorporate the potential to contribute to epistemological reconfigurings and thus re-worlding by imagining a form of knowing that entangles culture and bio-scientific technologies. Read through a new materialist lens, such narratives challenge and transcend the optimistic eco-modernist mentality of Anthropocene discourse and experiment with ideas of how to re(al)locate agency, dissolving boundary-making practices that produce grievable and agential subjects on the one hand, and exploitable, ‘bare’ lives on the other. I will approach Larissa Lai’s speculative fiction, particularly her novel Salt Fish Girl, as narratives that engender a reflection on the trajectories of neo-/bio-colonialism and on knowledge-making practices that are neither neutral nor independent from discursive practices. Despite its bleak scenario, which centres on the impact of capitalist and neo-/bio-colonialist discourse and practice on lives produced as not sufficiently human, the novel points towards u(s)topian possibilities of re-worlding, providing strategies for narrating non-anthropocentric and non-Eurocentric realities. By foregrounding material practices of knowing and becoming, it joins commonly separated discourses in a speculative fiction contact zone and thereby imagines how a collaboration of the disenfranchised tells big-enough, sympoietic stories of de-colonisation.


Dr. Alessandra Boller is the author of Rethinking ‘the Human’ in Dystopian Times (2017) as well as co-editor of Dystopia, Science Fiction, Post-Apocalypse: Classics – New Tendencies – Model Interpretations (2016) and Canadian Ecologies Beyond Environmentalism – Culture, Media, Art, Ethnicities (2020). She is currently working as a researcher and lecturer at the University of Siegen, Germany. Her research interests include ecocriticism, biotechnology and bioethics, post-colonial narratives, dystopian narratives, gender studies and feminism, Irish and British short fiction. She has published articles and book chapters on speculative fiction, dystopian novels and drama, and contemporary Irish literature. She is currently working on a project tentatively titled “‘New Narratives’: Feminism, Posthumanism and Speculative Fiction” and on a study that analyses the intertwined developments and dynamics of an emerging Irish literary market, nationalist discourses and the beginnings of the Irish short story in the 1820s and 30s..

Julia Gatermann, University of Hamburg:
Bodies of Knowledge – Discredited Sciences and Technologies of Resistance in Larissa Lai’s The Tiger Flu

The hegemonic discourse of Western science, supposedly neutral and value free, has increasingly come under scrutiny – not only in academia by interdisciplinary fields such as postcolonial science and technology studies but also in a larger public through cultural artifacts that open up the topic to a wider societal negotiation. In my contribution, I analyze how Lai’s novel The Tiger Flu (2018) critically engages with (neo-)colonial oppression and a science discourse instrumentalized to aid in this process. In her dystopian world, the reign of Western science, blinded by notions of its own exceptionalism and superiority and too fraught with neoliberal capitalist interests, has come to an end. In order to survive in her dystopian world, rendered inhospitable by climate change, scarcity, and a global pandemic called the tiger flu that has brought humanity close to extinction, adaptability becomes key, and new and dynamic solutions are needed. These solutions, the novel suggests, can be found in alternative, indigenous knowledge traditions that, by creatively adapting Western science and technology to its own, more holistic approach, can make life sustainable again. Lai unsettles and upends the pervasive trope of techno-Orientalism in her novel and employs it to suggest creative postcolonial processes of a syncretization of different knowledge traditions and transgressive ways to re-think human identity as the way towards a more equal and egalitarian future. What is striking here is that a successful resistance against neo-colonial oppression seems to require a profound transformation, a hybridity that Lai envisions on a level deeper than the skin, a transcendence of the human as we know it which is closely tied to alternative (scientific) knowledge traditions.


Julia Gatermann is a PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Hamburg where she is currently writing her dissertation with the working title “Representations of Fluid Sexuality and Gender Identity in Contemporary American Culture.” She works as a researcher at the University of Bremen for the interdisciplinary research project “Fiction Meets Science II” with the subproject “Science in Postcolonial Speculative Fiction: Nature/Politics/Economies Re-imagined.” From its inception in 2010 to 2020, she served as a member on the board of the Gesellschaft für Fantastikforschung (German research association for the fantastic in the arts).

Christina Slopek, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf:
Specious Species Taxonomies: Porosity and Interspecies Constellations in Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber

Cogito ergo sum, 17th century French philosopher Descartes famously proclaimed. By anchoring being in thinking, he placed emphasis on sentience and reason. Reason became one of the central pillars of Western science (cf. Stengers 1993, 21). As a consequence, the thrust of Western notions of science devalued non-Western systems of meaning-making or sciences (and continues to do so) (cf. 24). Furthermore, the emphasis on narrowly defined sentience as a criterion of being contributes greatly to anthropocentrism (cf. Oppermann and Iovino 2017, 12). Especially in the last few decades, theorists have questioned the Cartesian legacy. To name but a few: Haraway’s cyborg, “a hybrid of machine and organism” (1985, 65), serves as a foil for more parity in an ideal world, undoing distinctions between organic and digital being(s) in its stride. In the same vein, Haraway’s later “oddkin” (2016, 2) as a rally cry for interspecies connections and Derrida’s revision of the animal as category (cf. 2006, 8) demand greater recognition of other(ed) species. Nalo Hopkinson’s Afrofuturist novel Midnight Robber (2000) is a stellar example of postcolonial science fiction which imagines such productively unconventional connections between “humans and other animals” (Wolfe 2013) as well as between humans and digital entities. I argue that the ties that develop between species in tandem with the novel’s cyborg characters showcase the “porosity” (Stein 2017, 140) of boundaries between forms of being and thus revise anthropocentrism from a postcolonial perspective, affirming non-Eurocentric and non-anthropocentric forms of knowing the world. The novel’s entanglements of the human and the more-than-human powerfully deconstruct the otherness of animals, incorporating interspecies connections within the frame of porosity. Moreover, in Midnight Robber, one of the more-than-human species takes on the role of the colonized (cf. Langer 2011, 67). Therefore, the novel’s negotiation of species taxonomies is indissolubly tied to postcolonial criticism.


Christina Slopek has recently finished her master’s program at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf with a thesis on queerness and porosity in contemporary transcultural novels. She is a soon-to-be postgraduate assistant and PhD student in the department of Anglophone Studies and Literary Translation at HHU Düsseldorf, where she is currently employed as a graduate assistant and lecturer. Prominent among her research interests are postcolonial, queer and trauma studies. At the moment, she is teaching a bachelor seminar on non-human influences in anglophone fiction and co-authoring an article on psychiatry in the anglophone novel.


2.3 – Science, Technology, and Postcolonial Nationalism

Lucy Gasser, University of Potsdam:
Reaching for the Stars: Postcolonial ‘Science’, Progress and Irony

Scholars have long acknowledged the imbrication of scientific discourse with the violence of colonialism (Mudimbe 1991). The emergence of science fiction is similarly interwoven with such discourses, and embedded in histories of imperialist expansionism (Rieder 2004). Narratives of progress are a significant feature of the confluence of colonialism and science fiction. Scientific discourse enabled the construction of the colonial Other as primitive and in need of the “progress” (scientific and otherwise) brought by colonisers, serving the violent erasure of Indigenous epistemologies rendered untenable by the civilising mission’s will to exclusivity. An investment in progress (often technological) is also crucial to the envisioning of futures and alternative presents common to science fiction narratives. The linearity of these progress narratives produces a particular temporality. In science fiction narratives, the present is often rendered as the past of a prefigured future. In the figuration of traditional colonial anthropology, the colonised Other’s present is the coloniser’s past. In 1964, anticolonial struggle fighter Edward Mukuka Nkoloso was the self-appointed head of the Zambia National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy’s space programme. Zambia’s space programme, much-ridiculed at the time, is an ambivalent phenomenon, refracted in contemporary newspaper reports, later photo and video installations, and most recently in Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift (2019). In contrast to the colonial-racist framing of many early responses to it, the space programme can also be read as canny instrumentalisation by Zambians of the “science” taught by colonisers, in an anticolonial feint mobilised to mimic a desire to participate in a prescriptive trajectory of progress – deemed out of their league – while in fact animated in the name of a different “progressive” goal. In this paper, I consider the Zambian space programme at the nexus of scientific discourse, narratives of progress, and irony.


Lucy Gasser is lecturer in Anglophone literatures at the University of Potsdam. She was a doctoral fellow with the Research Training Group Minor Cosmopolitanisms from 2016 to 2019, and a visiting researcher at Delhi University in 2017. She completed her undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Lucy has published on world literature, South-South relations, and postcolonial perspectives on the Cold War, and is co-founder of, a bilingual platform for postcolonial literatures. Her book East and South: Mapping Other Europes is forthcoming with Routledge in July 2021.

Fabian Hempel, Forschungszentrum Ungleichheit und Sozialpolitik; Krutika Patri, University of Bremen:
Manu Joseph’s Serious Men as a Subaltern Prism on Modern Science and Indian Society

In our presentation we propose an intersectional reading of Manu Joseph’s Serious Men to explore the relationship between modern science and contemporary Indian Society. Cast in the realist aesthetics of modern Dalit literature, we consider the novel as a critical narrative representation of the institution of science in India that allows to rethink the multi-layered role of science in postcolonial settings, especially with regard to the cultural understanding of the autonomy of science and against the standard account of science as a pure social force that triggers and sustains the social development of societies in the Global South. The novel reflects, among other aspects, on the Janus-faced impact of the institutionalization of science in modern India from a subaltern perspective. In that regard, Joseph’s story about the co-dependency of a lower-class, Dalit assistant and an upper-class, Brahmin director of a fundamental research institute in Mumbai offers two interpretative angles: 1. A hegemonic position of collision avoidance as indigenous forces re-direct the organization of science to preserve/entrench the traditional social order. 2. A subaltern position that attempts to break the wheel of conservative and contemporary social stratification as characters excluded from institutional positions of power exercise their agency to manipulate the political strife within their workplace. In the first reading, the autonomy of science degrades into social irresponsibility; in the second, the autonomy of science is used, for right or for wrong, as a weapon against multiple structures of oppression. Based on both angles, the novel sheds new light on the conventional view of an autonomous science as a self-evident component of the “package” of (apparently postcolonial) modernities.


Fabian Hempel is a sociological research fellow at the University of the Armed Forces Munich and a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Bremen. A graduate in Modern South Asian Studies with a focus on Science Studies from Humboldt University of Berlin, his dissertation project examines the cultural differences in the conceptions of the autonomy of science. Both are associated with the Fiction Meets Science research program that explores sociocultural and literary aspects of novels and other forms of storytelling about science, paying particular attention to narratives that reflect the global dimensions and diverse regional contexts of science.


Krutika Patri is a doctoral researcher in English Studies at the University of Bremen. Her master’s was acquired in European Studies with an area focus of European Literature and Culture from Manipal University, India. Her PhD project concentrates on the multimodal representation of the ‘genius’ scientist in television serials.

Souvik Kar, Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad:
The Empire Bombs Back: The Indian Nuclear Tests of 1998 and the Curious Case of Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran (2018)

Few technologies lend themselves to visual imagination as much as nuclear weapons. Nuclear testing, during the Cold War, concretized the idea of the mushroom cloud as an icon of technocratic mastery, correspondingly translated into political capital in Western cinema as Joyce A. Evans (1998) showed. While nuclear weapons have been celebrated as part of Indian postcolonial recovery, Raminder Kaur (2013) showed that the usual formula for depicting nuclear issues in Indian cinema has been nuclear terrorism and the Indian state’s successful countering of such. Otherwise expansive, this analysis requires to be updated with respect to renewed cultural interest in India, (in the wake of the return to power of the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who had originally overseen the 1998 tests) about a different nuclear theme-nuclear tests. I will argue that the Bollywood movie Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran (2018), dramatizing the 1998 Pokhran-II nuclear tests, stages a new direction for Indian nuclear culture in its historiographic, avowedly nationalist exercise, locating the bomb as a valorized object at the heart of its project of “bombing back to the empire”, in a postcolonial game of evading (and thereby defeating) American satellite surveillance (and non-proliferation coercion). Parmanu’s showcasing of the intriguing entanglements of the discourses of family, Hindu mythology and postcolonial science with the cultural discourse of the Bomb call for critical attention to the gaps and fissures that mark these entanglements and the way they disintegrate under tensions generated by the Bomb. Decolonizing what is still a largely US, Europe and Japan-centric nuclear criticism, my paper will also thus critically analyse the way the movie occludes the Indian state’s internalization of a “nuclear neocolonialism”, with respect to both local narratives of ecological disruption and radiation poisoning (such as of the Bishnoi tribes indigenous to the area of the tests) and other critical cinematic depictions of the tests (such as Anand Patwardhan’s documentary Jung aur Aman (War and Peace, 2002)).


Souvik Kar is a PhD Scholar in the Discipline of English, Department of Liberal Arts, at Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad, India. He writes and performs his poetry, and is interested in nuclear studies, apocalyptic literature and postcolonial Indian science fiction.


2.4 – Under Construction II

Fabienne Blaser, University of Berne:
Trouble in Paradise: The Beach as the Site of Disaster. Coastal Disaster Representations in Contemporary Anglophone Fiction

Current disaster research in the humanities has largely ignored the significance of the coast even though these areas are disproportionately affected by disasters and are inhabited by half the earth’s population (Gillis 2012, 1). While many scholars include what I would call coastal disaster representations (e.g. Rigby 2020; Rastogi 2020; O’Loughlin 2015), they do so from a cause-related point of view, as examples of one kind of “natural” disaster (e.g. flood, tsunami). Contrarily, I propose “coastal disaster” as a category that allows us to categorise and analyse literary disaster representations differently, namely from a spatial perspective. Such an approach allows for a more fluid definition of disaster, which emphasises connections rather than separations. Drawing on theories of ecocriticism, disaster studies and postcolonial studies, I aim to focus on the multiple meanings and effects the coastal setting has on postcolonial disaster narratives. The coast is prone to many different disasters: particularly in the Global South, oil spills, tsunamis, cyclones and flooding affect communities repeatedly. Often, these disasters interconnect, making it hard to disentangle “natural” or “human” causes. The examined texts underline the multi-layered impact and long-lasting consequences of disasters. The categorisation into a presupposed normality (“before”) and a return to everyday life (“after”) is questioned: pre-existing vulnerabilities blur the lines of the beginning of the disaster, while grief and ongoing destruction question the disaster’s end. By using recurring places to reconcile the timelines of “before” and “after”, disaster narratives depict disaster as a process rather than a rupture, as entangled rather than isolated. Thus, focusing on coastal disaster representations is an opportunity to address intersecting vulnerabilities, and expand and question extant disaster definitions.


Fabienne Blaser is a PhD student and Directors’ Assistant at the University of Bern. She was selected as one of two doctoral students to be part of the SNSF-funded project The Beach in the Long Twentieth Century, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Virginia Richter and PD Dr. Ursula Kluwick. Fabienne Blaser is working on her dissertation, which examines representations of coastal disaster in contemporary anglophone literature and is methodologically situated at the intersection of disaster studies, ecocriticism and littoral studies. She previously completed her MA in English at the University of Bern. Her research interests are contemporary anglophone literature, postcolonial literatures, ecocriticism, disaster studies, blue humanities, the beach in literature and spatial studies.

Indrani Karmakar, TU Chemnitz:
Mother in the Making: Commercial Surrogacy and the Politics of Motherhood in the Fictions of Two Indian Women Writers

A contested terrain within feminist discourse, motherhood has garnered wide critical attention lately, owing to the flourishing of Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART). On the one hand liberal, pro-choice discourse advocates for surrogacy on the basis of choice and agency, and on the other hand the feminist ‘ethnographic approach’ brings to the fore the often-abject lived experiences of surrogate mothers of the Global South. This paper considers this increasingly contentious concern through the lens of fiction by two contemporary Indian women writers, Kishwar Desai and Meera Syal. As such, through their fictions, the paper investigates how the politics of motherhood shapes and is reshaped by ART in the context of a staggeringly unequal, class-and-caste-ridden India. While Desai’s novel, Origins of Love (2013) uses the generic conventions of a crime thriller to focus intensely on uncovering the complex web of criminality surrounding commercial surrogacy in India, Meera Syal’s The House of Hidden Mothers (2015) comes closer to domestic fiction in its delineation of ageing, female body and the reconfigured colonizer/colonized relationship in the surrogacy industry. Both the novels present many of the pressing concerns which accompany such a booming and exploitative industry operating within a capitalist market, while also excavating the affective aspects of individual choices. Drawing on such feminist thinkers as Banu Subramanian and Alison Bailey, the paper first examines the issues raised in the novels in the light of the feminist debates around commercial surrogacy. Second, I explore the ways in which the fictions illustrate a contingent nature of agency in relation to motherhood and the appropriation of the maternal body. The paper concludes with the argument that the literary representations of surrogacy suggest a constructedness of notions of motherhood, an idea that has profound and ambivalent implications in the Indian context.


Dr Indrani Karmakar has recently joined Chemnitz University of Technology as an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow. Her research project focuses on non-normative mothering modes in South Asian women’s writing. Her research interests include postcolonial literature; motherhood; gender and sexuality; migration and diaspora. She is the social media editor of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature.