School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Staff Profile

Professor Neelam Srivastava

Professor of Postcolonial and World Literature

Background

Qualifications


Laurea in Lettere (BA MA in Humanities) (Universita` di Roma "La Sapienza")

M.Phil. in English Literature, 20th Century (Oxford)

D.Phil. in English (Oxford) 

Previous Positions

Lecturer in Commonwealth Literature and Literary Theory, University of Cambridge

Memberships

American Comparative Literature Association


Research

Research Interests

I am interested in re-thinking center-periphery models of world literature by exploring the vital alliances that permitted the formation of “literary internationals” in the period of decolonization and after—alliances that appear to have been largely forgotten in contemporary theorizations of the world-literary field. My work engages with literary transnationalism across Anglophone writing in diverse locations and periods: including Pan-Africanism of the interwar period (Claude McKay, George Padmore, CLR James), the South Asian Anglophone novel (Salman Rushdie, Mohsin Hamid, Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh), and British interwar writing about empire (Sylvia Pankhurst, George Steer, Evelyn Waugh). 

My co-edited volume, Indian Literature and the World: Multi-lingualism, Translation and the Public Sphere (Palgrave, 2017), expands the scope of contemporary Indian literature beyond the well-known Anglophone canon, by examining translated texts and offering comparisons of works across English and different Indian languages. Troubling Eurocentric genre distinctions and the split between citizen and subject, it approaches Indian literature through its constant interactions between private and public narratives, thereby proposing a method of reading Indian texts that goes beyond their habitual postcolonial identifications as “national allegories”.

My second monograph, Italian Colonialism and Resistances to Empire, 1930-1970 (Palgrave, 2018), argues that Italy’s empire transforms our understanding both of colonialism and of resistance, moving beyond British and French imperial models. A part of my book examines Pan-Africanist responses to Italian imperialism. I read Claude McKay and C.L.R. James’s work as texts that “write back” to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia of 1935, constructing an Afrocentric narrative of black liberation that is equally critical of Western powers and the Communist International. Alongside this recuperation of Italian colonialism as central to the history of modern imperialism, I also examine its counter-hegemonic counterpart, Italy’s powerful, if neglected, strand of anti-colonial thought, represented by thinkers such as Antonio Gramsci and the film-maker Gillo Pontecorvo, director of The Battle of Algiers (1966). For Robert Young, “This is a book we’ve been waiting for: a history of Italian colonialism and anti-colonialism […] a must-read for anyone interested in the history of modern empires and how they were made to fail”. Erica Bellia remarks that this “necessary” book “rejects suffocating identities and transgresses disciplinary boundaries […] considering events from a global and reticulated perspective”.


Current Projects


I am currently working on two book projects. The first, entitled Being Filthy Poor in Rising Asia: Precarity, Globalization, and the Global South Asian Novel, explores the evolving representations of precarity in South Asian writing from the 1990s to the present, in order to examine the continuities and disruptions in narratives of inequality, peril, life uncertainty, and oppression in South Asia, with an eye to how the narrator-reader relationship evokes that between citizen and state. While 1990s novels like Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines, and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things present precarity from the perspective of an upper-caste narrator, twenty-first century fiction like Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger and Mohsin Hamid’s How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia narrates inequality through the sensibilities of a radically poor Asian “everyman”, with an experimental use of the second person and a confrontational interpellation of the implied middle-class reader. The global South Asian novel in English is juxtaposed with subaltern life-writing in translation by Dalit and laboring-class authors, including Om Prakash Valmiki, Baby Halder, and Baby Kamble. I gauge the differing effects of inner focalization on poverty and precarity in translated autobiographies vis-à-vis globally acclaimed, prize-winning fiction in English from the subcontinent.

 The second book project, entitled A History of the Partisan, builds on my second monograph, and develops the concept of the partisan as a heuristic term for understanding resistance to empire across metropole and colony. Partisans are characterized by a taking of sides, a commitment to a political cause that does not come from a filial relationship to one’s culture or nation but from an affiliative one, a form of deliberate empathy, as it were. By reversing the negative connotations of “partisanship”, I examine the values of a political affiliation, shared by many anti-colonial activists, that “sidesteps assimilability within the major forms of the political” (Gandhi 2006). The partisan has been defined by Carl Schmitt as an irregular combatant, who has an essentially defensive and territorial stance, as he protects his nation or homeland. This book offers an internationalist, rather than nationalist understanding of partisanship, seeking to highlight the connections between anti-colonial and anti-fascist commitment in specific moments of a transnational history of empire. This study will include readings of books and broadsheets by Sylvia Pankhurst, feminist, anti-fascist, and anti-colonial campaigner; Claude McKay’s writings on African-American support for Ethiopia’s resistance against Italian imperialism (see his recently discovered novel Amiable with Big Teeth); Nancy Cunard’s pioneering and controversial anthology of black writing, Negro (1934); and The Prison Notebooks by Antonio Gramsci, one of the most prominent anti-fascist partisans, though he never saw active combat. Retrieving such a history of metropolitan anti-colonialism shows us the ways in which these activists, born within the imperial culture, nevertheless displayed a radical commitment to the colonized and were influenced and inspired by their struggles, undergoing what Leela Gandhi calls a process of “self-othering”, and help to displace notions of empire as monolithic formations where citizens' allegiances and support were always unwavering. 


Research Leadership

I am co-convenor of the Postcolonial Print Cultures International Network (https://postcolonialpc.com/) together with Professor Rajeswari Sunder Rajan from New York University. This network brings together world experts in colonial and postcolonial print cultures (periodicals, ephemera, archival material) of the twentieth century, with a specific focus on South-South connections. Members are based at Newcastle, New York University, Yale, Rutgers, Amherst, King’s College, London, SOAS, and Jadavpur University. 

I am currently PI for a Leverhulme Visiting Professorship for Stephanie Newell, Professor of English at Yale University, world-leading scholar in the field of African literature and African print cultures. Her proposed research at Newcastle in 2019-20 is core to the themes covered by the network, which will provide the opportunity for a crucial knowledge exchange around the emerging field of postcolonial print cultures, and will bring great visibility to the field of postcolonial studies at Newcastle. I will be working closely with Professor Newell to 1) catalyze and complement research in postcolonial literature and the history of popular print at Newcastle; 2) to help develop the Postcolonial Print Cultures network.

Postgraduate Supervision

I would be interested in considering PhD and MLitt. proposals on the following topics (but not only): world literature in English, South Asian literature in English and in translation, Italy and postcoloniality, Antonio Gramsci and the postcolonial world, Third-Worldism and its impact on the literary sphere. 

I am currently supervising two PhD projects:

Rebecca Latcham-Ford, "Travelling to Italy: Italy in the Anglophone Postcolonial Imagination"

Marco Medugno, "Writing Diasporic Identities: Somali Voices in Postcolonial Literature"

International Recognition 

I have held visiting scholarships at Brown University and at New York University. 

I am Associate Editor of Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, and I sit on the editorial board of From the European South

In 2018-19 I delivered invited talks and book presentations at New York University, Stony Brook University (US), Concordia University (Canada), University College Cork (Ireland), the University of Venice, the University of Genoa, the University of Udine, Villa Romana (Florence, Italy), King’s College London, SOAS, and the University of Cambridge.


External Funding

Leverhulme Visiting Professorship for Stephanie Newell, Yale University, to visit Newcastle University for one year (2019-20). Value of award: £146,813. 

Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, "Decolonizing Europe: Italian Colonialism and Resistances to Empire", 2012-2013. Value of award: £41,000.  

Principal Investigator: international research network funded by Leverhulme Trust, on "Postcolonial Translation: The Case of South Asia". Value of award: £65,072. Length of project: 2008-2011.



Teaching

Undergraduate Teaching


Fictions of Migration, Stage 2 module

Writing the Postcolonial Nation: Literature from the Indian Subcontinent, Stage 3 module


Post-graduate Teaching


Literary Geographies, MA in English Literature

 

 

Publications