Visibly Invisible: Capitalism and World Literature

Tuesday Seminar
Event Speaker: 
Kumkum Sangari
Event Time: 
03:30 PM to 05:00 PM
Event Venue: 
HSS Committee Room (MS 610)

Is world literature, given the conditions of its emergence and as an always partially visible totality, an analogue of capital? How did colonialism and capitalism connect diverse histories and at the same time mystify connections as singular local histories? Given that neither 'world' nor 'literature' were or are settled or stable concepts, and that the category 'world literature' is beset with controversies and demands for inclusion, how might it be approached? For instance, can texts from different part of the 'world' be connected only through transnational circuits or also in other ways?

The late 19th and early 20th century offers some illumination. This was a period of the export of modernity even as Europe and England were themselves 'becoming modern.' Diverse anti-colonial and anti-patriarchal energies were erupting in speech and writing from connected and seemingly unconnected colonial and metropolitan sites. I gather some multi-generic forms from India and England that hover between the literary and not-quite-literary to sketch a (non)literary and anti-patriarchal formation across the colonial divide. These texts imagine transitions and reversals, seem to bond through similar concerns and narrative figuration but refuse to transcend their respective


Kumkum Sangari is the William F. Vilas Research Professor of English and the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has been a Professorial Fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Studies, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi; a Visiting Fellow at Yale University, Delhi University and Jadavpur University; and a Visiting Professor at University of Chicago, Central European University, University of London (SOAS), University of Erfurt and Ambedkar University. She has published extensively on British, American and Indian literature, the gendering of South Asian medieval devotional traditions, nationalist figures such as M.K.Gandhi, Bombay cinema, televisual memory, feminist art practice, and several contemporary gender issues such as personal law, widow immolation, domestic labour, the beauty industry, son selection, commercial surrogacy, and communal violence. She is the author of Solid Liquid: A transnational reproductive formation (2015) and Politics of the Possible: Essays on Gender, History, Narratives, Colonial English (1999). She has co-edited several books including Recasting Women and, most recently, has edited Arc Silt Dive: The Works of Sheba Chhachhi (2016) and Trace Retrace: Paintings, Nilima Sheikh (2013).