Rashmi Dube Bhatnagar who was at the Centre for Contemporary Theory on a Senior Fellowship under the South Asia Program delivered two lecture titled “Against Linguistic Essentialism: Towards a Vernacular Centered Theory of World Literature” on 11 July 2012 and Invisibilizing Feminisms while Talking about Gender Violence in Aamir Khan's Satyamev Jayate (May 6, 2012 Episode) on 13 July 2012 respectively. These lectures were part of the occasional lecture program jointly organized by the Forum and Balvant Parekh Centre.
In her first lecture Rashmi drew attention to how the linguistic turn in poststructuralist theory has trained us to conceive of language not only as the medium or the outer dress of creative and philosophical-scientific works, but rather as the very thing that constitutes our ideas and determines our grounding suppositions. Language not only determines human thought, language passes through us and is not fully subject to human intentionality. She emphasized that vernaculars are not part of the background but in fact occupy the foreground of creative and expository works in colonial and postcolonial societies and when brought to the foreground of critical debate as an object of inquiry, non-European vernaculars are all too often treated reductively as a locus for authenticity and nativist truth through the politics of regionalism and chauvinism. The exponent of modernity emphasizes the enabling violation of colonialism in forming a class of educated professionals for whom European languages occupy the place of mother tongue and who can therefore compete on terms of equality in the global economy. In her first talk Rashmi Dube Bhatnagar examined both positions of the traditionalist and the modernist in order to complicate these positions and also to note the common ground between them.
Dr. Rashmi Dube Bhatnagar’s second talk updated her co-authored book Female Infanticide in India: A Feminist Cultural History (2005) by discussing possibilities and limitations in Aamir Khan's opening episode of the television serial Satyamev Jayate. In particular she looked at how Khan's longstanding engagement with the popular achieves a commercial and critical success in his state centered and statist representation of gender violence in foeticide. She observed that in crucial respects Khan's analysis fails to take cognizance of the archived colonial history of female infanticide and remains oblivious of folkloric and bhakti early modern idioms of contestation between daughter devaluing and daughter cherishing traditions. In her opinion, by relegating to the margins the Indian women's movements, the woman activist and long standing vernacular traditions of protest Satyamev Jayate constructs an impoverished portrait of popular will as articulated in the democratic processes of the state by making women memoryless, passive and the subject of rescue through top down state and non-state institutions.
Rashmi offered a course titled The “Vernacular” in a Comparative Frame during the X Theory/Praxis Course of the Forum. Rashmi is currently Visiting Scholar at the Humanities Center at the University of Pittsburgh and has taught in three American universities (University of Pittsburgh, Boise State University and University of Nebraska at Lincoln) as well as at Indraprastha College for Women and SGTB Khalsa College at the University of Delhi. Among her publications are the co-authored book Female Infanticide in India: A Feminist Cultural History (SUNY, 2005), interviews in The Postcolonial Critic (1990, republished in Polish 2010), Meera’s lyric (boundary 2, 2004) Bhats and Charans (Subaltern Studies vol. XII, 2005), Forum devoted to Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s Influence ( PMLA, 2008) Bhartendu Harischandra (Critical Quarterly, 2010) Rushdie’s Urdu (Interventions, 2010) Premsagar (boundary 2, 2012) and “A Conversation with Satya Mohanty on Indian Literature and World Literature” (Frontline, Mar 24, 2012). She is co-founder of the Hindi Urdu workshop series. Currently she is completing a book entitled World and Bhasha Literatures: Revolutions in Philology.