This project is a comparative study of twentieth and twenty-first century Indian English novels, Hindi novels, diasporic and Bollywood films, hybrid Hindi-English prose of Hindi newspapers, and India’s language policy. The field of world literature thus far has upheld two problematic divisions of “world” and “literature”: first, it has positioned the world against the “provincialism” of national and local contexts; second, it has engaged with globally circulating literatures as unrelated to globalizing media cultures. In contrast, I show that to fully grasp the cultural hegemony of world languages and literatures, scholarship must reckon with their heterogeneous linguistic environments and their political and economic ambits of circulation. Through an expansion of literary space, “Vernacular Englishes” recasts debates in world literature and postcolonial studies that rely too neatly on the vernacular to challenge global, transnational, and national frames of analyses. I argue that meanings of a colonial and global “English” are forged within an interplay of translatability and untranslatability with “the vernacular.” To this end, I highlight the legislation of English as India’s associate official language: one that appeases linguistic minorities (who have protested the upper-caste Hindu bias of Hindi, India’s official language) and secures the (neo)imperial democratic character of the postcolonial state. I also draw attention to the fact that marginalized castes, classes, and language groups have routinely used the “elite” language of English to make political demands on the state. This representative power of English in postcolonial India, its imagined and desired capacity to speak for other vernaculars, in effect, vernacularizes English itself. The growth of mass media after the 1990s neoliberal economic reforms in India has further popularized English words and phrases in Hindi language media. In its recent availability outside of traditional privileges of class, urbanism, and education, the English language accumulates meaning as both a globalizing and a vernacularizing force.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2016. Major: Comparative Literature. Advisor: Shaden Tageldin. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 307 pages.
Vernacular Englishes: Language and Democratic Politics In Post-Liberalization India.
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