• March 10, 2011

An Urdu Novelist’s Journey and the Making of a Post-Partition Muslim

HUF students and faculty joined the wider UT community to hear UT’s own Afsar Mohammad present his recent work on counter-narratives to nationalism in Deccani Urdu fiction. The talk, entitled The Making of a Post-Partition/Postcolonial Muslim: A Novelist’s Journey in Times of Violence, provided a fascinating look at Deccani Urdu literature, an important vein in the Urdu tradition.

Afsar Mohammad
Afsar Mohammad teaches South Asian literature and Telugu language at the University of Texas at Austin

According to Mohammad, “using one Deccani Urdu and Telugu  post-partition novel, my research focuses on a counter-narrative to the idea of the nationalism. The novel written first in Deccani Urdu and later translated into Telugu challenges newly drawn borders and boundaries of language, cultures and histories and critique the new framework of secular modernity.  I argue that these borderlines which serve the frameworks of nationalism and the derivative version of the Western secularism fail to grasp the dynamic patterns of vernacular literary culture in this case Telugu and Deccani Urdu. In the process, I endeavor to retrieve the literary and cultural memory of Partitions which was deliberately erased by the post-Independence and the post-Telugu linguistic historians in an effort to construct a singular history of local literatures.  I argue that there was a consistent resistance to the creation of such boundaries and the contestation of a singular and linear narrative of the local cultural history. These writings point out the failure of the secular modernity and openly depict the invasion of religious nationalism into the public spaces, and redefine the politics of literature in the post-Partition/post-colonial period. This aspect of redefining the politics of literatures extends further when even most of the Progressive writers resist the canon of the Progressivism and dictums of the Communist party to articulate the fluidity of contemporary life.”

Afsar Mohammad completed his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He teaches South Asian literature and Telugu language at the University of Texas at Austin.

Mr. Mohammad is a published writer in India. He has published three poetry collections, one short story collection and one book on modern literary theories. He has received many awards and honors including the Ugadi National Integration Honor from the Madras Telugu Academy. In 1991 he was awarded the Free Verse Front Award for the best poetry volume of the year. In 2007, he won the prestigious Bhaasha Samman Award from the Government of India for his collection of poems in Telugu.