The Visceral Logics of Decolonization

Book Pages: 200 Illustrations: Published: February 2020

Author: Neetu Khanna

Asian Studies > South Asia, Cultural Studies > Affect Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Postcolonial Theory

In The Visceral Logics of Decolonization Neetu Khanna rethinks the project of decolonization by exploring a knotted set of relations between embodied experience and political feeling that she conceptualizes as the visceral. Khanna focuses on the work of the Progressive Writers' Association (PWA)—a Marxist anticolonial literary group active in India between the 1930s and 1950s—to show how anticolonial literature is a staging ground for exploring racialized emotion and revolutionary feeling. Among others, Khanna examines novels by Mulk Raj Anand, Ahmed Ali, and Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, as well as the feminist writing of Rashid Jahan and Ismat Chughtai, who each center the somatic life of the body as a fundamental site of colonial subjugation. In this way, decolonial action comes not solely from mental transformation, but from a reconstitution of the sensorial nodes of the body. The visceral, Khanna contends, therefore becomes a critical dimension of Marxist theories of revolutionary consciousness. In tracing the contours of the visceral's role in decolonial literature and politics, Khanna bridges affect and postcolonial theory in new and provocative ways.


“In this fascinating study of complex psychosomatic responses in modernist Indian literature, Neetu Khanna shows how the attempt on the part of Marxist writers associated with the Progressive Writers' Association to ‘think with the visceral’ repeatedly brought them to questions of time. The Visceral Logics of Decolonization makes a striking and original contribution to the study of affect and anticolonial politics, deepening our understanding of ‘corporeal aesthetics.’” — Sianne Ngai, University of Chicago

“Neetu Khanna's turn to the visceral aesthetics of anticolonial struggles is timely in its call for a renewed attention to the affective logics of revolutionary writings. Such a calibration directly confronts critical disavowal of multiple visceral archives that are so central to the Marxist consciousness of colonial and postcolonial thinkers. Khanna's introduction of ‘colonial affect’ in this provocative book makes an important contribution to affect studies.” — Anjali Arondekar, author of For the Record: On Sexuality and the Colonial Archive in India


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Neetu Khanna is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. The Visceral Logics of Decolonization  1
1. Agitation  35
2. Irritation  60
3. Compulsion  85
4. Evisceration  109
Coda. Explosion  132
Notes  151
Bibliography  161
Index  175
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0817-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0773-9