ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

29 – Travelling stories, bodies and genres and the making of communities

This panel explores forms of storytelling in South Asia, to make sense of how the past becomes embedded in the present. As people move, we ask how stories, that also travel, make communities and impact social realities; what gets carried over, what is lost; what changes and what stays the same?


Kavita Bhanot - University of Leicester, Literature, Leicester, United Kingdom
Tannishtha Bhattacharjee - University of California, History, Santa Barbara, United States
Anshu Malhotra - University of California, History, Santa Barbara, United States
Inderpal Grewal - Yale University, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, New Haven, Connecticut, United States

Long Abstract

We create stories to make our lives meaningful; stories make communities and are life-affirming. Stories also divide and oppress, carrying ideologies that resist or ratify dominant perspectives. South Asia has a rich tradition of storytelling, spanning many genres, written and oral. This panel seeks to explore forms of storytelling such as folktales, myths, music as well as non-traditional storytelling such as petitions to the government, to make sense of the processes by which the past becomes embedded in the present. Stories have been at the heart of various forms of popular expression, such as music – from bhatiali to kirtan to sufi qawwali, from folk songs to protest songs to music for cinema. We see narratives in art, in performance for stage, film and television, in novels, short stories and poems, and even in loan applications to the government. Crucial to a culture’s efflorescence or survival, stories travel through time and through space as people move, migrate or are exiled. In today’s globalized world, with instant communication, the dissemination of stories does not even require literal movement in time and space. As these stories travel, we ask what gets carried over and what is lost? How do these stories change and how do they stay the same? What do they make and un-make? And how do they form, impact or transform identity and social reality?

We invite scholars to reflect on stories and the myriad forms of storytelling, the relationship between them and the histories they represent, and the ways they encompass or represent our historical, cultural, social and psychological selves. We particularly welcome innovative forms of presentation, including media, music and performance.