CALLIOPE on the road: Postcolonial Studies Association Convention

The Postcolonial Studies Association (PSA) Convention 2019 was held at the University of Manchester on 11-13th September 2019. The special topic this year was Justice.

CALLIOPE postdoctoral researcher Esha Sil presented her paper "Towards a Radical Capitalist Work-Ethic: Adda, Social Justice, and ‘A Certain Liberation’" in the convention. The abstract is as follows:

My paper examined the conceptual premise of ‘justice’ via the popular Bengali pastime, adda, which may be best described as a long, informal talking session, interspersing intellectual discussion and debate with gossip and rumour. It demonstrated how adda’s quotidian communal space can generate what I have theorised as a ‘radical capitalist’ work-ethic of leisure. To that end, I deployed the adda sessions of a Bangladeshi Hindu ‘madwoman’, Gurudasi Mondol, the subject of Yasmine Kabir’s 2003 documentary film, A Certain Liberation, as my primary case-study. I thus explored how adda’s radical capitalist thesis might offer a challenging epistemological alternative to the Western capitalist world-order, by proposing a subaltern discourse of social justice, which, to draw upon an observation from John Hutnyk’s The Rumour of Calcutta (1996), does not fall prey to the Western capitalist strategy of doling out the surplus reserves of the so-called ‘First World’ to keep marginalised peoples and classes ‘in the state of an impoverished and disenfranchised recipient of limited “aid” rather than as partners in redistribution and just exchange’.

A tragic survivor of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, and a member of a Bengali Muslim nation-state’s Hindu minority, Gurudasi earns a living for herself by roaming the streets of her native village-town, Kopilmoni, engaging in lively addas with the local populace, and taking money from them at will. My paper explicated how the leisurely work-ethic of Gurudasi’s everyday addas advances an alternative postcolonial imaginary of social justice, to facilitate an equitable redistribution of capital for the economic emancipation and welfare of peripheral subjects like herself. My final analysis thereby delineated the radical materialist philosophy mobilising Gurudasi’s subaltern practice of capitalism, to establish how the insurgent agency of her addas powerfully subverts the Western capitalist regime and its hegemonic axioms of private ownership and profit accumulation.