Arpita Mandal Awarded 2019 Dissertation Writing Fellowship

Ruptured Belonging: Postcolonial Perspectives on Witnessing Violence

My dissertation is a literary project wherein I employ an interdisciplinary juncture of literary human rights theory, recognition theory, and postcolonial theory to interrogate representations of marginality, vulnerability, political voice, and citizenship in novels of conflict in postcolonial anglophone literatures. My work is situated at the intersection of three significant historical events: the histories of decolonization after WWII, the Cold War’s influence on nationalism with a resulting increase in internecine conflicts, and the birth of human rights in the form of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In reading the violence of political changes in decolonizing spaces of the era as a rupture in the ideological fabric of nationalism, my dissertation explores the human rights violations that result from these ruptures and appear in postcolonial novels as narratives of trauma, pain, and displacement from the body politic. My work responds to issues of political marginalization by exploring narratives of internecine violence in decolonizing and postcolonial spaces. I am interested in issues of representation in these narratives and in exploring who is represented and how they are represented. Thus, I draw attention to marginalized voices that challenge official narratives of the nation. I am invested in how narratives politicize voices as those of agents and subjects as opposed to that of victims of violations, a common feature of human rights reporting. Building upon this work, I frame misrecognition as promoted by exclusionary violent and gendered nationalisms as a human rights issue of political marginality. My project argues for a reconceptualization of postcolonial violence as predominately a human rights issue.

Arpita Mandal is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of English at University of Connecticut. Her research interests are in areas of human rights, postcolonial theory, decolonization, displacement and refugees, global anglophone literatures, and trauma theory.