Punjab Research Group

CFP:Bharat Britain South Asians Making Britain, 1870–1950

Posted in Conferences by Pippa on September 14, 2009

13/14 September 2010, British Library Conference Centre, London

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Dr Florian Stadtler on f.c.stadtler@open.ac.uk, with ‘MB conference’ in the subject line, by 30 September 2009.

In what ways did South Asians impact on Britain’s cultural and political life between 1870 and 1950? To what extent did South Asian intellectuals and activists interact and exchange ideas with their British counterparts? What are the legacies of this early diasporic community?

This conference will explore the manifold ways in which the presence of South Asians in Britain during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries impacted on Britain and influenced the shaping of the nation. It will map out the various networks and affiliations South Asians and Britons formed across boundaries of ‘race’, ‘nation’ and ‘class’. These can be traced in different areas of cultural and political life, from the elitist literary and artistic circles of Bloomsbury where friendships were forged between poets and painters; to the anticolonial organisations which brought South Asian and British activists together in the lead up to Independence; to the battlefields of the two world wars where Indian sepoys and volunteers fought alongside Britain’s youth. Yet these interactions were also, at times, marked by hierarchies and dissent, with South Asians facing barriers in this chapter of their journey to negotiate the peripheries of Britain as well as its ‘centre’. Whether through riot, strike or petition, they struggled for their rights as imperial citizens, shifting ideas of ‘Britishness’ in the process.

Held in partnership with the British Library, the conference will address the ways in which South Asians – whether writers, politicians, students or lascars – positioned themselves in Britain during this period, and, in turn, how they were depicted by the British public and in British culture. Further, it will examine the significance of their activities and their influence on the cultural-political make-up of Britain, the ways in which their interventions challenged the national imaginary, and how debates about citizenship and Britishness during the period continue to resonate with contemporary preoccupations regarding Britain’s multi-ethnic identity.

Invited plenary speakers include: Humayun Ansari, Antoinette Burton, Chandani Lokugé, Nayantara Sahgal, Amartya Sen, A. Martin Wainwright, Rozina Visram, with more to be announced.

This conference arises out of the 3-year AHRC-funded project ‘Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad, 1870–1950’. Please see the project website for further details: http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/south-asians-making-britain/

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