CSPS Book Discussion: Narratives of Trauma in South Asian Literature

The Centre for Studies of Plural Societies (CSPS) organised an online book discussion on Narratives of Trauma in South Asian Literature edited by Dr Goutam Karmakar and Dr Zeenat Khan. The event was chaired by Prof Mohd Asaduddin, Advisor to the Vice Chancellor for Academic and Research at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

Dr Karmakar initiated the discussion by introducing the book and emphasised on the eurocentrism of the literary theories; almost all the trauma theories have their origins in the West. The edited described the attempt and intent on their part towards decolonisation of the trauma theories and tried to build theories on indigenous traumatic experience throughout South Asia, ranging from 1947 partition to 1971 Bangladesh war, Kashmir conflict, and Tamil-Sinhalese conflict. The editors clarified that this book is not an exhaustive account of the subject due to the project’s constraints.  Only chapters that matched the project’s goals and objectives were included in this volume. Dr Karmakar hoped that this book will influence readers and academicians to take the research forward.

Dr Khan, the second speaker, explained that the motive of the book is to highlight the multiple traumas that have occurred in South Asia. She attempted to look beyond the physical perspective of trauma to a psychological perspective while discussing the goal and vision of the book and the meaning of the term trauma, which has a recent history; in doing so, she cited Sigmund Freud and Foucault, among others. She emphasised the need to bridge the gap between western literature and post-colonial literature. This book has attempted to provide a cross-cultural perspective on trauma, and it looks through and beyond the western framework. Thus, Universalisation and homogenisation are contested in this book as it strives for pluralism and diversification. It is merely an effort to further the project of pluralistic trauma theory. She also cautioned the scholars who wishes to embark on this journey about the risk of homogenising trauma. She stressed that the plurality of pain and trauma must be maintained to avoid homogenising problems.

Prof Asaduddin appreciated the commendable job that had been done by bringing together the contributors for the book. He asserted that after traumatic events, creative expression or articulation requires some time; one cannot anticipate all the literary writing to happen immediately after the event. By appreciating the efforts of the editors and authors of this volume, Prof. Asaduddin emphasised that decolonisation cannot happen overnight; rather, it is a slow process, and this book will serve as steppingstones towards decolonisation in South Asia.


Dr Goutam Karmakar is an NRF Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Education at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. He is one of the editors of the Routledge book series on South Asian literature. His areas of research are South Asian literature and culture, women and gender studies, postcolonial and decolonial studies, and environmental studies. His forthcoming and recently published edited volumes are Nation and Narration: Hindi Cinema and the Making and Remaking of National Consciousness (Routledge, forthcoming), Modernist Transitions: Cultural Encounters between British and Bangla Modernist Fiction from 1910s to 1950s (Bloomsbury, forthcoming), Narratives of Trauma in South Asian Literature (Routledge, 2022), The City Speaks: Urban Spaces in Indian Literature (Routledge, 2022), and Religion in South Asian Anglophone Literature: Traversing Resistance, Margins and Extremism (Routledge, 2021). He has also published articles in over a dozen academic journals.

Dr Zeenat Khan is Sr. Assistant Professor at Post-Graduate Department of English and Research Centre, Mehr Chand Mahajan DAV College for Women, Chandigarh, India. She is also an IUC-Associate with the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. She was a Summer Institute Fellow 2021 with Holocaust Educational Foundation Northwestern University, Illinois USA. She is a member of the Board of Studies at Panjab University, Chandigarh, and is also on the editorial panel of many international journals. Apart from publishing and presenting several research papers, she also has published three books, titled An Exordium (2011), Culture and Identity: Illustrations from the Select Works of M G Vassanji (2019), and Simmering Silences and Beneath: An Anthology of Gender Issues in India (2021). Her areas of research interest are postcolonial literature, gender studies, trauma literature, and environmental humanities.


Prof Mohd. Asaduddin is a Professor of English and Advisor to the Vice Chancellor for Academics and Research. His specialisation is in Comparative Literature, World Literature, Theory and Practise of Translation, Twentieth Century Fiction (English and Indian), Translation Studies, Postcolonial Literature and Theory, and Premchand Studies. Prof. Asad’s research interest lies in World Literature (in Original and Translation), Literature and Culture in Islam, Dalit Literature, Urdu Studies, Literary Historiography, Language Politics and Language Issues.

The report is prepared by Mohammad Wali Akhtar, a research intern at CSPS.