Colloquium Series: Inside My Grandfather’s Army:1946-74

2019 Mar 29, Friday
Seminar Hall, 10th Floor, Pixel A (Azim Premji University)

About the Lecture

What was it like to be a young recruit in the Indian Army in 1947 on the eve of Independence? What is the social life of army officers like? And what does it feel to be in war, on the frontline, trapped in sand? These questions animate “Inside My Grandfather’s Army,” a project-in-progress that seeks to understand the lived experience and cultural history of Indian army officers in the first few decades following the transition to sovereign nationhood (1946-1974). Through oral history interviews, family photographs, and personal archives on the one hand, and official military histories, autobiographies and government archives on the other, it explores the tensions between individual stories and the macro-history of nation-building. My talk will discuss the genesis of the project, methodological challenges, interdisciplinary crossings between literary narratives, ethnography and oral history, and the many genres in which such a project can find form (archive, album, monograph).


About the Speaker

Ayesha Ramachandran is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and an affiliate of the Programs in Renaissance Studies and the History of Science and Medicine at Yale University. A literary and cultural historian of early modern Europe, she pursues interdisciplinary research on literature, philosophy, cartography, visual culture and the history of science, focusing on the long histories of globalization and modernity. Her first prizewinning book, The Worldmakers (University of Chicago Press, 2015) provides a cultural and intellectual history of “the world,” showing how it emerged as a cultural keyword in early modernity. She has also published on Spenser, Lucretius, Tasso, Petrarch, Montaigne, on postcolonial drama and on the histories of religious fundamentalism and cosmopolitanism in various journals and volumes including NLH, Spenser Studies, MLN, Forum Italicum and Anglistik. Together with Melissa Sanchez, she is the co-editor of a special issue ofSpenser Studies on “Spenser and The Human” which explores the poet’s complex relationship to the category of "the human," by drawing on current discussions of humanism, posthumanism, and animal studies. Her current projects range from new research on early modern and contemporary South Asia to work comparative philology, cartography, oral history, and lyric studies. Her new book manuscript in progress tentatively entitled, Lyric Thinking: Humanism, Selfhood, Modernity considers lyric’s entanglements with philosophy, history and the emergence of the modern ideal of individual autonomy. With the help of a Mellon New Directions Fellowship (2016), she aims to pursue research on cross-cultural contacts between Europe and the Indo-Islamic world in the early modern period. Recently, her interest in worldmaking has extended into the twentieth century: she is also working on a project to capture the experience of commissioned officers in the Indian army between 1945 and 1975 and their service both within India and across the world.