INTERVIEWS

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ARUNA CHANDRASEKHAR

CLIMATE CHANGE, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM, COASTAL DISPLACEMENT, DIASPORIC DISTANCE, POWER, PARACHUTING, FOREST COLLECTIVE, COVID, FREELANCING, HEALTH WORKERS, MINING.

Aruna Chandrasekhar is an independent journalist and a writer from India, currently at the University of Oxford. Her interests in work dwell on themes of corporate accountability, climate change, indigenous rights and resistance, environmental law, energy, conflict, gender and public health. Her stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, New Internationalist, BuzzFeed, and many other outlets.





PARTHA MITTER


Partha Mitter is an Emeritus Professor at Sussex University, a Member at Wolfson College, Oxford, and an Honorary Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. He’s held fellowships from Churchill College and Clare Hall, Cambridge, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the Getty Research Institute, and others. He was a Radhakrishnan Memorial Lecturer at All Souls College, Oxford. His books include Much Maligned Monsters: History of European Reactions to Indian Art, The Triumph of Modernism: India’s Artists and the Avant-Garde 1922-1947, and others. He works with the Bauhaus Foundation in Berlin and Dessau.





NIDA KIRMANI


Nida Kirmani is Associate Professor of Sociology in the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. She is also Faculty Director of the Saida Waheed Gender Initiative. Nida has published widely on issues related to gender, Islam, women’s movements, development and urban studies in India and Pakistan. She completed her PhD in 2007 from the University of Manchester in Sociology. Her book, Questioning the ‘Muslim Woman’: Identity and Insecurity in an Urban Indian Locality, was published in 2013 by Routledge. Her current research focuses on urban violence, gender and insecurity in the area of Lyari in Karachi.





CHANDRAMOHAN S


VERNACULAR LANGUAGE LITERATURE, INTERNATIONALIST SOLIDARITY, DALIT-BLACK SOLIDARITIES, O.V. VIJAYAN, DALIT LITERATURE, AJAY NAVARIA, MAULANA RUMI, LOVE AFTER BABEL, AVANT-GARDE AND FORM, DEEPAK UNNIKRISHNAN 

Chandramohan S is a Dalit Indian poet, short story writer and social activist based in Thiruvandanapuram, Kerala. Chandramohan is a member of the P.K. Rosi Foundation, a cultural collective that seeks to demarginalise Dalit-Bahujans. His poetry collections Warscape Verses and Letters to Namdeo Dhasal, were shortlisted for the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize and the Harish Govind Memorial Prize, and his collection Love After Babel was recently published by Daraja Press. In 2016 Outlook Magazine listed him as Dalit Achiever of the Year.





MANAN AHMED


Manan Ahmed is an Associate Professor of History at Columbia University. He is a historian of South Asia and the littoral western Indian Ocean world from 1000-1800 CE. His areas of specialization include intellectual history in South and Southeast Asia; critical philosophy of history, colonial and anti-colonial thought. His forthcoming book is The Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India. He is also the co-founder of the Group for Experimental Methods in Humanistic Research, which focuses on “mobilized humanities” and innovations in scholarly methodologies.





JENNY BHATT


Jenny Bhatt is a writer, literary translator, and literary critic. She is the host of the Desi Books podcast. Her short story collection, Each of Us Killers, will be out on Sep 8, 2020, with 7.13 Books. Her literary translation of Gujarati short story writer Dhumketu’s best short fiction will be out in late-2020. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in various venues in the US, UK, and India, including The Atlantic, NPR, BBC, Washington Post, Literary Hub, Longreads, Poets & Writers, Scroll.in, and more. Her fiction has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes and the 2017 Best American Short Stories. She was a finalist for the 2017 Best of the Net Anthology. Having lived and worked her way around India, England, Germany, Scotland, and various parts of the US, she now lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas.





MEENA KANDASAMY


Meena Kandasamy is an East London-based sociolinguist, poet, translator, and novelist whose writing portrays and embodies the Indian subcontinent’s many struggles for social justice. Her debut collection of poems, Touch (2006) was themed around caste and untouchability, and her second, Ms Militancy (2010) was an explosive, feminist retelling/reclaiming of Tamil and Hindu myths. Her critically acclaimed first (anti)novel, The Gypsy Goddess, (2014) smudged the line between powerful fiction and fearsome critique in narrating the 1968 massacre of forty-four landless untouchable men, women and children striking for higher wages in Tamil Nadu. Her second novel, a work of auto-fiction, When I Hit You: Or, The Portrait of the Writer As A Young Wife (2017) drew upon her own experience within an abusive marriage to lift the veil on the silence that surrounds domestic violence and marital rape in modern India. It was selected as book of the year by The Guardian, The Observer, Daily Telegraph and Financial Times; and was shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2018 among others. Her third novel, Exquisite Cadavers, a work of experimental fiction was published in the UK in November 2019, and is forthcoming in the US in November 2020. 





ALADDIN ULLAH


BANGLADESH & SOUTH ASIA, STAND-UP COMEDY, SOUTH ASIAN THEATER, AVIJIT ROY, WORKING-CLASS, DIASPORIC STORIES, AUGUST WILSON, AMIRI BARAKA, BENGALI HARLEM, DISHWASHER DREAMS, MEL WATKINS, LORRAINE HANSBERRY.  

Aladdin Ullah is a playwright, comedian, and performer based in New York City. He is a pioneer of the past decade as one of the very first South Asians to perform stand-up comedy on national television on networks such as: HBO, Comedy Central, MTV, BET, and PBS. He was the co-founder and host of the multi-ethnic stand-up show Colorblind, a member of Joseph Papp's Public Theater's Inaugural Emerging Writers group where he wrote and developed Indio during the Spotlight Series and workshops at Joe's Pub. He was also a part of the New York Theater Workshop Residency at Dartmouth, and Halal Brothers directed by Liesel Tommy (The Labyrinth's Barn Series at Public Theater). Aladdin has had staged readings/workshops of his plays at New York Theater Workshop, Cape Cod Theater Project, Classical Theater of Harlem, Lark Play Development Center, Shakespeare in Paradise Festival (Bahamas) Labyrinth, and 1 Solo Festival. His acting career includes American Desi, and the award-winning animated film Sita Sings The Blues. Aladdin is a Recipient of the Paul Robeson development grant to produce a documentary called In search of Bengali Harlem, which inspired the recent book Bengali Harlem by Vivek Bald. His most recent play is Dishwasher Dreams, a one-man show drawn from the story of his father’s migration from Noakhali, East Bengal, to New York City.





SUDIPTO MONDAL


Sudipto Mondal is a Bangalore-based investigative journalist who reports on caste, communalism and corruption. A graduate of the Asian College of Journalism, he was a former reporter with The Hindu, and the Dalit Camera. Currently he is writing a book on the death of the Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula and the 25-year history of the organisation to which he belonged, the Ambedkar Students' Association (ASA). His reporting has appeared in The New York Times, Al-Jazeera, The Hindu, The Print, Hindustan Times, and many other outlets.





FIZA PIRANI


Fiza Pirani is an independent journalist, writer and editor based in Atlanta, Georgia. She's also the founder of the award-winning immigrant mental health newsletter Foreign Bodies, born in 2018 from a reporting fellowship with The Carter Center. Her interests in writing and journalism largely center themes of mental health and radical vulnerability, of living within manmade borders and the search for footing in an ever-changing world. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, Teen Vogue, Electric Literature, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution among several others.





HANA SHAFI


QUEERNESS, SMALL, BROKE, AND KIND OF DIRTY, CENTERING THE SILLY, FRIZZ KID ART, THE VALUE OF HUMOR, AFFIRMATION ART SERIES,STANDARDS OF SUCCESS, BODY POLITICS, POLITICS & ART, KINDNESS AS POLITICS, VULNERABILITY.  

Hana Shafi is a National Magazine Award nominated artist, writer, journalist from Toronto, who illustrates under the name Frizz Kid. Both her art and writing explore themes of feminism, body politics, racism, and pop culture. A graduate of Ryerson’s journalism program, she has published and been featured in Hazlitt, This Magazine, Torontoist, Huffington Post and others. Her latest book, Small, Broke, and Kind of Dirty, will be out Sep 22nd, 2020, with Book Hug Press.





FAWZIA AFZAL-KHAN


TRANSNATIONALISM, SCHEHEREZADE GOES WEST, PERFORMANCE STUDIES, PARALLEL THEATRE MOVEMENT OF PAKISTAN, NON-REALIST PLAYS, SUFISM, AJOKA THEATRE,WOMEN SINGERS OF PAKISTAN, SPLIT BRITCHES, MADEEHA GAUHAR, SHAHID NADEEM, NATIVE INFORMANTS, AVANT-GARDE & AUTHENTICITY.  

Fawzia Afzal-Khan is Professor of English and former Director of the Women and Gender Studies Program at Montclair State University. Dr. Afzal-Khan received her BA from Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore, Pakistan, and her MA and PhD in English Literature from Tufts University. Holding the title of University Distinguished Professor, she has received numerous accolades for her work, which include three monographs, two edited volumes, and extensive public intellectual writing, contributing to numerous conversations in postcolonal studies, feminism, and political Islam. Trained as a literary critic but also a performer, a trained vocalist in the north Indian classical tradition, actress, playwright, and critic. She is engaged in Pakistani theater and performance, in musical worlds, and performance studies in the Western academy.





PAKISTAN'S FEMINIST WAVE: A PANEL


MOTORWAY INCIDENT, WOMEN DEMOCRATIC FRONT, BODY POLITICS, VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, AWAMI WORKERS PARTY, FEMINISM AND THE LEFT, NIRBHAYA, PUBLIC/PRIVATE, GIRLS AT DHABAS, WOMEN’S ACTION FORUM (WAF), PUBLIC SPACES, KHWAJA SIRAS.  

Amna Chaudhry is a writer and activist based in Lahore. She also teaches creative writing and runs an Instagram account @ThisIsTheModSquad which covers feminism and ethics in the fashion industry.

Zoya Rehman is a feminist researcher, writer and organizer who works as a program manager at Media Matters for Democracy. She has a background in law and completed her masters at SOAS in London as a Chevening scholarship recipient. She has been working on feminist and legal issues through her writing, research and practice, and is currently a member of the Women Democratic Front.

Tooba Syed is a grassroots political organizer and gender researcher. She has been organising for almost a decade with grassroots movement of peasants, urban working class, students and women. She is the secretary information and publishing of the feminist organization Women Democratic Front and Awami Workers Party, Punjab. She teaches as faculty at Centre of excellence for Gender Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.





MEGHA MAJUMDAR


A BURNING, THE FULLNESS OF CHARACTERS, ENGLISH AS CLASS SIGNIFIER, LIFE UNDER HINDU FUNDAMENTALISM, NATIONAL BOOK AWARD LONGLIST, WEST BENGAL POLITICS, HUMOR & JOY, ENTERTAINMENT, THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB. 

Megha Majumdar is the author of the New York Times bestseller and Editors’ Choice A Burning, recently longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction, as well as The JCB Prize for Literature. She was born and raised in Kolkata, India. She moved to the United States to attend college at Harvard University, followed by graduate school in social anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. She works as an editor at Catapult, and lives in New York City. A Burning is her first book.





MIMI MONDAL


Mimi Mondal is a Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated author of science fiction and fantasy. Her novelette His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light was shortlisted for the Nebula Award in 2020. Her first book, Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, co-edited with Alexandra Pierce, received the Locus Award in Non-fiction and was shortlisted for the Hugo Award in Best Related Work and the British Fantasy Award in Non-fiction, among others. She is the recipient of the Immigrant Artist Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2017, the Octavia E. Butler Scholarship for the Clarion West Writing Workshop in 2015, a Commonwealth Shared Scholarship at University of Stirling in 2013, and the Poetry with Prakriti Prize in 2010. She has written both sci-fi and fantasy, as well as columns about being a Dalit woman, Indian fantasy genres, the #MeToo movement in India, and more.





AMIT CHAUDHURI


Amit Chaudhuri is the author of seven novels, the latest of which is Friend of My Youth. He is also an essayist, poet, musician, and composer. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Awards for his fiction include the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Encore Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, and the Indian government's Sahitya Akademi Award. In 2013, he was awarded the inaugural Infosys Prize in the Humanities for outstanding contribution to literary studies. His first novel, A Strange and Sublime Address, is included in Colm Toibin and Carmen Callil's The Modern Library: the 200 best novels of the last 50 years, and his second novel, Afternoon Raag, was on the novelist Anne Enright's list of 10 best short novels for the Guardian. Its 25th anniversary edition appeared last year with a new introduction by the critic James Wood. 
He is a highly regarded singer in the Hindustani classical tradition and has been acclaimed as a pathbreaking composer and improviser who performed, most recently, at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. In 2017, the government of West Bengal awarded Chaudhuri the Sangeet Samman for his contribution to Indian classical music.
He is Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia, and was University College London's Annual Visiting Fellow in 2018. That year, he was also an inaugural fellow at the Columbia Institute of Ideas and Imagination in Paris, and in 2019 became an honorary fellow at Balliol College, Oxford.





GAIUTRA BAHADUR


Gaiutra Bahadur is an essayist, critic and journalist who writes frequently about literature, history, memory, migration, race and ethnicity and gender. She is the author of Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture, a personal history of indenture shortlisted in 2014 for the Orwell Prize, the British literary prize for artful political writing. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the New York Times Book Review, New York Review of Books, The New Republic, The Guardian, The Nation, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Lapham’s Quarterly, Dissent, The Boston Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Ms. Magazine, Foreign Policy, The Washington Post and The Griffith Review. Gaiutra was born in Guyana and emigrated as a child to Jersey City, NJ, where she currently lives. She teaches writing and journalism as an assistant professor in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at Rutgers University in Newark.





ALI SETHI


Ali Sethi is a musician, and writer. He grew up in Lahore, and majored in South Asian Studies at Harvard University, before publishing The Wish Maker in 2009. He has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times, and Caravan, among others. He was formally apprenticed with Master Moin at age 17, then to Ustad Naseeruddin Saami at age 24. He has also practiced Bandish and Ghazal music with Farida Khanum rigorously for the last 4 years. He made his singing debut on the soundtrack of The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2013), and his Coke Studio debut on Season 8 (2015), performing in five subsequent season. Last year, he was a soloist at Carnegie Hall, singing two classical ragas. For the last year and a half he has been making original music within the raga and tasawwuf traditions with Grammy-winner Noah Georgeson.





AQUI THAMI


COMMUNITY-OWNED FEMINIST LIBRARY, DECOLONIZING LIBRARIES, FEMINIST & INDIGENOUS SPACES, KOCHI-MUZIRIS BIENNALE, ZINESSISTER LIBRARY, DHARAVI ART ROOM, SUPPORTING THE COMMUNITY IN A PANDEMIC, SUPPORT SISTER LIBRARY, SISTER RADIO, BOMBAY UNDERGROUND, INDIGENOUS ART PRACTICE.

Aqui Thami is an artist, activist, scholar doctoral candidate, and founder of Sister Library, South Asia's first community owned feminist library space.





DISCOURSES ON KASHMIR: A PANEL


Huma Dar’s paternal family was ethnically-cleansed from Srinagar, Kashmir in 1948 for demanding plebiscites under the UN Resolutions. Her maternal family, exiled from Kashmir after accepting Islam during the Dogra regime, fought for Independence from the British. With a background In interdisciplinary Studies, Dar lectures in the departments of Gender & Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies at University of California at Berkeley and in the Department of Critical Studies and Philosophy at California College of the Arts. Dar’s work is focused on the intersections and co-formations of race, religion, class, caste, gender, sexuality, and national politics of South Asia and South Asian diasporas, centered on intellectual and political activism for social justice, especially in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Her published work includes “Cinematic Strategies for a Porno-tropic Kashmir and Some Counter-Archives” in the Journal of Contemporary Theory and pieces in several edited volumes focused on South Asia. Dar is a feature writer at Pulse Media, a collaborative political, activist, and academic weblog, and is a published poet. She is a founding member of the working group on “Muslim Identities & Cultures,” and organized the feminist conference, Boundaries in Question on the theme of Women and War, both at UC Berkeley.

Hilal Mir is a freelance Srinagar-based journalist. He has previously reported for Greater Kashmir, Hindustan Times and Kashmir Reader.

Ather Zia, Ph.D., is a political anthropologist, poet, short fiction writer, and a columnist. She teaches at the University of Northern Colorado Greeley. Ather is the author of Resisting Disappearances: Military Occupation and Women’s Activism in Kashmir (June 2019) and co-editor of Can You Hear Kashmiri Women Speak (Women Unlimited 2020), Resisting Occupation in Kashmir (UPenn 2018) and A Desolation called Peace (Harper Collins, May 2019). She has published a poetry collection The Frame (1999) and another collection is forthcoming. Ather’s ethnographic poetry on Kashmir has won an award from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. She is the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit and is the co-founder of Critical Kashmir Studies Collective, an interdisciplinary network of scholars working on the Kashmir region.





AMITAV GHOSH


Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He studied in Delhi, Oxford and Alexandria and is the author of The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, and The Ibis Trilogy, consisting of Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke and Flood of Fire. The Great Derangement; Climate Change and the Unthinkable, a work of non-fiction, appeared in 2016. The Circle of Reason was awarded France’s Prix Médicis in 1990, and The Shadow Lines won two prestigious Indian prizes the same year, the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar. The Calcutta Chromosome won the Arthur C. Clarke award for 1997 and The Glass Palace won the International e-Book Award at the Frankfurt book fair in 2001. In January 2005 The Hungry Tide was awarded the Crossword Book Prize, a major Indian award. His novel, Sea of Poppies (2008) was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, 2008 and was awarded the Crossword Book Prize and the India Plaza Golden Quill Award. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. He holds two Lifetime Achievement awards and four honorary doctorates. In 2018 he was awarded the Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary honor. He was the first English-language writer to receive the award. In 2019 Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the most important global thinkers of the preceding decade. His latest novel, Gun Island, was published in 2019.





VIJAY IYER


Vijay Iyer is a composer-pianist who has been described by The New York Times as a “social conscience, multimedia collaborator, system builder, rhapsodist, historical thinker and multicultural gateway.” He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a United States Artist Fellowship, a Grammy nomination, and the Alpert Award in the Arts, and was voted Downbeat Magazine’s Jazz Artist of the Year four times in the last decade. He has released two dozen albums, including The Transitory Poems (ECM Records, 2019) in duo with pianist Craig Taborn; Far From Over (ECM, 2017) with the Vijay Iyer Sextet; A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke (ECM, 2016) in duo with composer-trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith; Break Stuff (ECM, 2015) with the Vijay Iyer Trio; the live score to the film Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi (ECM, 2014) by filmmaker Prashant Bhargava; and Holding it Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project (Pi Recordings, 2013) with poet-performer Mike Ladd. Iyer is the Artistic Director of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. He teaches at Harvard University.





MANU SAMRITI CHANDER


Manu Samriti Chander is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Newark Chapter of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT. He is the author of Brown Romantics: Poetry and Nationalism in the Global Nineteenth Century (Bucknell UP, 2017). He is currently working on The Collected Works of Egbert Martin, with the support of a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant and his current project Browntology is under contract with SUNY Press.