My Master's thesis is based on the topic of the 'bizarre' in the realist narratives of Calcutta. Titled, Ghosts (of) in Calcutta: Nature, Science and (Post)Colonialism, the dissertation will focus on the ideas of spectrality and its relationship to urbanity in Calcutta, and will attempt to answer the question, How does the Calcutta Narrative deal with the trauma of colonisation, the extremely violent decolonial process and then the reducing importance in a post-liberalised open economy? It tries to think about how the three narratives use spectrality to deal with dissonance, and how the modern Calcutta Narrative is using ghosts to cope with the loss and trauma of decolonisation and post-colonisation. This work is interested in the various types of bizarre and how they relate to urban imaginations of the city of Calcutta. It is being supervised by Professor Rahul Parson at the University of California, Berkeley. My other committee members are Professor Andrew Jones and Professor Sukanya Bannerjee.
I am continuing to work on my research on Tintin under Professor Andrew Jones through a variety of Independent Studies. I am currently interested in the motifs of colonization and anti-colonization in the album and how this shift happens. I continue to be interested in the variety of translations of Tintin. The project is currently titled, How Tintin became Bengali?-- which was also presented at the British French Society's Postgraduate Conference in Summer 2022.
I have completed my fieldwork in Calcutta k for both of these projects, which is funded by the Centre for Contemporary India Rapid Response Grant.
I have completed my senior thesis titled 'Poison, Cocaine, Byomkesh: A Case Study in the History of Science'', which deals with the history of science in the detective novel through specific objects, and looks at at how material objects serve as an instrument for crime, the associated history of those objects, and the unique innovation that is implemented on them to commit the crime. My thesis lies in the confluence between science and culture and looks at the presentation of science in culture. My approach to the Byomkesh series lies on the premise that the series serves as a repository of history, and understand the science and the associated material history in 20th century Bengal. My thesis serves as an exploration of this scientific and material culture in literature and wants to take the conversation of the social studies of science beyond just the realm of society, into the realm of culture. My advisor was Professor Aparna Chaudhuri. Professor Kapil Raj of École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales was my second grader.
Previously I completed a junior or undergraduate thesis, titled 'A City of Democracy: Nehru and The Making of Chandigarh', which looks at the making and the early history of Chandigarh. Chandigarh, one of the first large cities in post-independence India was built through the 1950s. This city, along with the Bhakra Nangal Dam project, came to be one of the most ambitious projects of the Indian Government in Nehru's early years of Prime Ministership. The project was headed, at different points of time, by two architects-- the American architect Albert Mayer, and the world-famous French architect Le Corbusier. It was a largely administrative city, which was to serve as the capital of the State of Punjab. My thesis aims to see how the city became a symbol of democracy for Punjab, for India, and also for the world. The post-colonial period is marked with not only changes in the political and social system but is also a re-imagination of previously colonized spaces. My thesis looks at the process of imagination and making of a space, and how that is a manifestation of power and ideology. Chandigarh is a symbol of change. It is a shift from the colonial cities that have been built throughout the early 20th centuries. It is a shift in the type of people working on the project, and therefore what a city like this would symbolize. My thesis aims to capture this change and tries to locate that into the process of democracy that is key to the idea of post-colonial India. My thesis looks at how Chandigarh is a manifestation of democracy and self-determination for India. It also looks at how Chandigarh was imagined as this catharsis for the Partition and how it manifested, and how much of this healing was done by building a city that represented democracy in Punjab. My advisor for the same was Professor Mahesh Rangarajan and my thesis reader was Professor Srinath Raghavan.
My other significant research project has materialized in a paper called, 'Tintin in Asia: Constructing and Deconstructing the Colonial Gaze' , which looked at the implicit and explicit colonial gaze in the Adventures of Tintin. 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 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. As Tintin has a reach to a very wide audience and has been translated into multiple languages, it is also important to study Tintin as a history of translations. This paper also tries 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. This paper was presented at the 23rd Biennial New Zealand Asian Studies Society International Conference at Victoria University, Wellington. The paper has been converted to a newspaper article and has been published in Scroll with the title, 'On his 112th birth anniversary, would Hergé have acknowledged the racism in his Tintin comics?'.
Photo credits: Daksha