Against a groundswell of critiques of global English, this book argues that literary studies are yet to confront the true political import of the English language in the world today. A comparative study of three centuries of English literature and media in India, the book tells the story of English in India as a tale not of imperial coercion, but of a people’s language in a postcolonial democracy. Focusing on experiences of hearing, touching, remembering, speaking, and seeing English, the book delves into a previously unexplored body of texts from English and Hindi literature, law, film, visual art, and public protests. It reveals little-known debates and practices that have shaped the meanings of English in India and the Anglophone world, including the overlooked history of the legislation of English in India. It also calls attention to how low castes and minority ethnic groups have routinely used this elite language to protest the Indian state. Challenging prevailing conceptions of English as a vernacular and global lingua franca, the book does nothing less than re-imagine what a language is and the categories used to analyze it.
Akshya Saxena is assistant professor of English at Vanderbilt University. She works on 20th and 21st century Anglophone world literature, film, and media, with a focus on South Asia. Her areas of interest include: critical translation studies, postcolonial studies, media studies, critical theory, and politics of caste in South Asia. Vernacular English: Reading the Anglophone in Postcolonial India is her latest book. Research for this project has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Social Science Research Council.