How does one think about the scientific nature of the detective narrative genre in the context of the colonial peripheries, spaces that are not imagined as the centres of modern techno-science? My work is in conversation with that Joseph Agassi's paper, The Detective Novel and Scientific Method. This paper analyzes the science and the scientific method in the Byomkesh Bakshi series by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, which is produced between 1930s-1970s in India. It approaches Agassi’s idea of the eurocentric scientific method with Indian forms of knowledge. The central question that it attempts to answer is do peripheral forms of science find their way into the Indian detective novel? How are representations of local forms of knowledge framed within this euro-centric scientific approach that is thought to be pertinent to the detective novel? Does it change the genre itself or there is an Indianisation of these methods? My objects of enquiry of cocaine and snake poison have long histories and associations in 20th century India. They were also widely researched by Indian doctors who published both case studies and original research in the Indian Medical Gazette. I attempt to answer these questions with a study of these histories along with their representation in the detective series. My attempt is to think about ‘peripheral science’ and how its representation in Indian detective fiction moulds and subverts the representations of modalities of the science of the scientific metropole.
How Tintin became Bengali? Herge's Afterwork in India | The Society of French Studies Postgraduate Conference 2022: After Work/Après Le Travail, May'22
Belgian-French cartoon character Tintin is one of the most recognizable media icons of the 20th century. One look at the first page of Tintin albums shows us how far and wide it has travelled, and how many countries it has been published in. Global cultural phenomena usually either allow for a large-scale absorption of the original material or allow for a localization of its features that can fit into a multitude of contexts. Tintin is one that falls into the second category, with many ‘un-official’ homages coming to the character from all over the world. In this paper, I am particularly interested in its after-work and afterlife in West Bengal, India. It is here that the first South Asian translation of Tintin is produced by Nirendranath Chakraborty and Ananda Publishers. In the forthcoming years it becomes very popular within West Bengal’s cultural landscape, the legacy of which still lives on. I first study the vernacularization through Tintin’s translation into Bengali and how that itself is an after-work on the original comics. Here I would be in conversation with Mariam Hansen’s idea of vernacular modernity to understand how these translations function to create a vernacular after-life for Tintin. I then look at readership to see how Tintin is read in Calcutta and what sort of allegories it produces in Bengali children’s culture. Here I study memoirs, interviews, and other fictional narratives that cross-reference Tintin. Finally, I look at its contemporary life-- at its modern representations and meanings. I will be in conversation with Laura Doyle’s idea of horizon reversal, to see how Tintin becomes a Bengali cultural icon. This paper aims to study how Herge is ‘working’ far from home and long after his death to create new forms of representations within Indian Bengal.
Snakes and their Poison: A Microhistory of Snake Research in the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine | Animals and South Asian History International Symposium, Dec'21
Snakes have an important place in the culture and mythology of Bengal, and a strong presence within folklore and religious worship. Historical evidence for this can be found in literature and artistic representations of early modern and modern Bengal. What happens when they encounter Western medicine? This paper takes a microhistory approach to the animal-human interaction to study the relationship that snakes and their poison have with two doctors at the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine-- R.N. Chopra and G.S. Chowhan. These two colonial doctors spent significant years of their careers working with snakes and their poison, between the 1930s and 1950s. They start their research on the antidotes for snake bite, moving to full-scale research on developing therapeutics from snake poison. They work with several kinds of snakes in their research and look at their place in both Indian and western religious and mythic traditions. This paper will look at this evolving medical history largely through a variety of scientific publications, primarily published in the Indian Medical Gazette. The work of Chowhan and Chopra is not just scientific but is heavily mitigated through the literature and cultural traditions in relation to snakes. This paper is an attempt to look at the history of animal-human interaction in the medical realm, and how medicine itself interacts with culture. It is an attempt to decentralize the discourse of animal histories from wild or domesticated animals to one that lies in between.
Tintin in Asia: Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Colonial Gaze | 23rd Biennial New Zealand Asian Studies Society International Conference, Victoria University, Wellington. Nov’ 19
The Adventures of Tintin are a set of 24 comic books written by Georges Remi (pseudonym Herge), originally published in French, that have since become a global cultural icon as a harmless children’s comics, due to the absence of sexual tension in them. They are immensely popular in India, especially in Bengal. However, a discourse that has been often ignored about the comics is the colonial gaze and colonial framework within which the comics were conceived and written. One-third of the comics are set outside the Western world, with a considerable amount of them set in Asia, in areas like West Asia, India, China, and Tibet. This discourse is also crucial as the comic book is a unique form coming from a Western literary tradition, which combines both the textual and the visual mode simultaneously to build a narrative. Hence, to historicize Tintin, and subsequently the origins of post-colonial comic writing, understanding the gaze becomes extremely crucial. My paper, therefore, explores the question, “How is Asia represented in The Adventures of Tintin, and in what manner does the colonial gaze manifest itself?” The paper is a largely comparative spatial analysis of the comics, which also draws upon the representation of Africa and Europe in Tintin. This paper will also try to find the fault lines within the inward colonial gaze and see if it is somehow returned by the colonized through an analysis of Tintin’s translation in Bengali.
The program of the conference can be found here.
Mapping the Colonial Gaze in the Adventures of Tintin | Third Undergraduate Research Conference, OP Jindal Global University. Apr’ 19
The Adventures of Tintin are a set of 24 comic books written by Georges Remi (pseudonym Herge). These were originally published in French between 1930 and 1969 in Belgium and since then have gained widespread popularity all over the world. The series has been translated into over 60 languages, which include languages from Europe, Africa and Asia. It has gained resounding popularity as harmless children’s comics, due to the absence of sexual tension in it. It is also something that has captivated the mind of the young reader through a sense of travel. It is immensely popular in India, especially in Bengal where it has become a part of the cultural phenomenon. However a discourse that has been often ignored about the comics, is the colonial gaze and colonial framework within which the comics were conceived and written. This discourse is also crucial as the comic book is a unique form coming from a Western literary tradition, which combines both the textual and the visual mode simultaneously to build a narrative. Hence, to historicize Tintin, and subsequently the origins of post-colonial comic writing, understanding the gaze becomes extremely crucial. The question that my paper will address is, “In what manner does the colonial or white gaze manifest itself in The Adventures of Tintin?” This uses the theories of ‘Orientalism’ by Edward Said to do a spatial analysis of the world of Tintin. The devices of my analysis are characterization, which would involve names, dialogue, and illustrations; materiality, which would involve the presence and absence of technology; and finally, the use of the environment and animals. This paper will also try to find the fault lines within the inward colonial gaze and see if it is somehow returned by the colonized through an analysis of Tintin’s translation.
The program for the same can be found here.