Fellow 2016-17

Manisha Basu


Basu imageUneasy Presents, Unrequited Pasts: South Africa and India in Contemporary Non-fiction

This project studies, in a comparative framework, the recent burgeoning of Anglophone non-fictional works in the contemporary South African and Indian literary contexts. It argues that creative non-fiction writers from India and South Africa are beginning to express a similar idea, albeit in different ways. This is the idea that non-fiction, rather than imaginative fictional work, is increasingly the most viable platform from which the current configurations of these two societies may be explored. It is in relation to such a claim that this book project seeks to investigate, through the lens of their historical genesis, present-day resonances between the South African and Indian situations. Both India and South Africa are today powerful political, economic, and cultural presences in their respective regions. They are characterized by an escalation in deregulated markets, the accelerated spread of smart technologies, and an increasing privileging of urban-metropolitan life.

Despite such celebrated ‘advances,’ both South African and Indian societies continue to be characterized by gross inequities of income and state-led divisions based on racial, tribal, caste, and religious identities. What then is it about creative non-fiction that lends itself to a conversation with such enforced apartness and ongoing inequality, and in what way does this favoring of creative non-fiction speak to the long history of anti-colonial dissent that characterizes both the Indian and South African contexts? This book project seeks to situate and unravel these questions in the context, on the one hand, of what in the twenty-first century has come to be referred to as a ‘new scramble for Africa’ and, on the other, of what is possibly the space for a radical dialogue between Southern nations that may in fact shape an emerging configuration of global powers.