Cartographies of engagement : the parallels and intersections of Latin American and South Asian literature in the twentieth century
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“Cartographies of Engagement: The Parallels and Intersections of Latin American and South Asian Authors,” establishes comparisons between Latin American authors who lived in South Asia and their South Asian contemporaries from 1906 to the present. Working in South Asian literatures in English, Hindi and Urdu, and Latin American literature in Spanish, this project recovers a century-long literary exchange between two previously unassociated regions and suggests a shared trajectory of professionalization for authors in the Global South. In the first half of the twentieth century, authors from both regions traveled abroad as a means of supporting themselves – whether through cultural exchanges, diplomatic postings, or in visiting positions with foreign universities. I suggest that their growing commitment to transnational solidarity was not a precondition for these travels, but the product of them. In the second half of the century, authors from both regions experienced a radical shift as their writing gained cache in the global north. I therefore conclude by demonstrating the connections between the emergence of Latin American Boom literature and its translation into English in the 1960s, its influence on the subsequent generation of South Asian Anglophone writers, and their own emergence as a global phenomenon beginning in the 1980s with Midnight’s Children. In bringing together two world areas that are rarely associated, it reveals a paradox in contemporary methods of comparative literary scholarship: even as disciplines expand to accommodate an ever greater diversity of language traditions, the frameworks for comparing those traditions remain remarkably narrow. In mapping the circulation of authors and texts around the globe, literary scholars have typically relied on just two different types of what I call “literary cartographies.” First, “cartographies of domination,” describe historical relations of power, as elaborated in postcolonial and decolonial theories. Second, “cartographies of contiguity,” describe relations based on physical proximity and historical routes of exchange, such as area studies designations or the more recent “oceanic turn.” By contrast, this project carves out methodological space for “cartographies of engagement,” which highlight the routes of authors and texts that contravene larger patterns of political domination and economic exchange.