Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Violence and Belonging, History and Literature in a Transnational World

Prof. Kavita Daiya.

Here, I examine literature and film that represent ethnic violence and displacement, in an interdisciplinary conversation with historical and anthropological approaches to them. In doing so, I complicate and develop received theories about the workings of ethnic violence, refugee experience, and national belonging in the modern world.

Dominant social scientific approaches to ethnic violence, especially in the case of South Asia, often claim that discourses of “ethnic community” and “nation” work in identical ways to produce belonging and violence. I engage recent revisionist Subaltern Studies historical and feminist anthropological work on ethnic violence (especially during the Partition of India in 1947) that often targets women. Such work turns to survivors’ oral recounting of the remembered violence, and tends to explain violence against women as engendered by discourses and ideologies about male, communal/ethnic and national honor. To complicate and develop further this understanding of violence and its relationship to the formation of identity and belonging, especially for the new refugees it creates, I turn to literature and film in transnational public spheres.

These texts uncover voices and scenes that remain occluded by social scientific work; these voices not only imagine and devise strategies to resist ethnic violence, but also suggest, that our contemporary social scientific explanations often risk problematically conflating the workings of community and nation, eliding the differences between them. Moreover, the methodological focus on community and nation can render invisible the violence against women that is intra-community, and articulated with desire, affect, class and race.

Thus, by linking diverse moments of violence – from the 1947 Indian Partition to the racial violence that followed Sept. 11, 2001 in the United States –, I argue that in an increasingly globalized and violent world, an interdisciplinary and transnational approach to violence is imperative. Our textual scenes of racial, gendered, intra-ethnic and sexual violence, for which there are often no archival and few oral histories, can enable us to better understand and address in the future, violence and its displacements.


Prof. Kavita Daiya  (United States)
Assistant Professor of English
English Department
George Washington University

Kavita Daiya is currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Postcolonial Theory in the Department of English at the George Washington University in Washington DC. Prof. Daiya is also an affiliated faculty member of the Women's Studies Program at GWU. She teaches on Postcolonial and Feminist Theory, Colonial and Postcolonial Literature and Film, Gender Studies and Transnationalism. Professor Daiya received her PhD from the Department of English at the University of Chicago in 2001. In the same year, she co-founded the interdisciplinary, Washington DC area, Asian American Studies Faculty Working Group. She is currently working on her book "Violent Migrations and Belongings: Gender, Nation and Citizenship in Postcoloniality".

  • Theories of Violence
  • Gender, Race and Ethnicity
  • National Belonging
  • Refugees and Citizenship
  • Mass Migration
  • Transnationalism and Globalization
  • Interdisciplinary approaches
  • Public Spheres
  • Literature and Film

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)