Liberation books

10th March 2020

News, Student news

Focusing on literature from the Indian subcontinent, a new selection of Liberation Books is now available in Wadham Library.


  • Liberation book display
  • Liberation book display

Selected by Wadham Student Union People of Colour representatives Zehra Munir (History, 2018) and Henna Khanom (History, 2018) the books demonstrate the history of the Indian subcontinent from a number of different perspectives.

Explaining the thinking behind their choices Henna and Zehra write: “Recent years have seen a rise in the idea of ‘diaspora’ or ‘second-gen’ literature. This is the poetry and fiction of those who have immigrant parents (usually from the Global South, low and middle income countries located in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean), but have grown up in the West.

“Often, this poetry speaks of torn identity, of lives impacted by the cultural and religious traditions of one’s parents. This genre of writing is one that tries to unpack the immigrant experience, and often seeks to embrace it. Many poets speak of being teased in playgrounds for eating ‘odd-smelling’ packed lunches, or being told to ‘go back home’ by racist bullies. These narratives are sad reminders that despite clamours from government officials and pundits about Britain being a ‘lovely, tolerant’ country, this was not the reality for many growing up.  

“One of the tools in our arsenal when trying to fight back against such myths is knowledge, and history. A common racist refrain is that the countries where immigrants come from are uncivilised, dirty, lacking in a glorious past (unlike the Brittania of yore). With our latest display, we attempt to rectify this fabrication, mostly in the context of the Indian subcontinent. We do not seek to craft an illustrious past that wasn’t always there. Rather, the books, novels and poetry we have picked for this issue are ones that demonstrate the complexity of the region’s history. Here you will find ardent anti-nationalists like Tagore nestled with patriotic thinkers like Jinnah. There is poetry that speaks of the brutality of Empire, as well as fiction that reminds us of the senseless violence of Partition. The point of this display is to demonstrate that this region did have a past, before, after, and during colonialism.  

“As hate crimes against people of colour increase, and immigrant communities are under attack once more, it is vital to remember that racist thinking is based on false premises. It alleges that some people are genetically ‘inferior’, that some cultures are ‘barbaric’, and that the Empire was undoubtedly A Very Good Thing. Here you can debunk some of those claims. Read Said’s ‘Orientalism’ to understand how literature lets you grow up thinking of some people as ‘Other’, then follow that up with Darlymple’s ‘The Anarchy’ to understand the East India Company as one of the first big (ruthless) multinationals.  

“By ordering in these books for Wadham, we are not saying that we agree with everything in them. Rather, we are encouraging you to step outside of your curriculum, and delve into a culture that is configured as ‘inferior’. Fake news abounds, but these books will certainly dispel a few of the myths you grew up with.” 

Liberation reading list 2

Shadow Lines - Amitav Ghosh 

The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy 

Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India - Urvashi Butalia

The Home and the World - R. Tagore

Hind Swaraj - Gandhi 

Kim - Rudyard Kipling 

Women Writing in India (eds. Susie Tharu and K. Lalitha, 1993)

Literature & nation : Britain and India 1800-1990 - Richard Allen and Harish Trivedi 

Vishnu's Crowded Temple - Maria Misra

Imperialism and Post-Colonialism: (History, Concepts, Theory, Practice) - Barbara Bush

Inglorious Empire - Shashi Tharoor

Nationalist Thought in the Colonial World - Partha Chatterjee 

Postcolonial Theory and the Spectre of Capitalism - Vivek Chibber 

Mapping Subaltern Studies and the PostcoloniaI - Vinayak Chaturvedi 

The Intimate Enemy - Ashis Nandy 

Imaginary Homelands - Salman Rushdie 

Delusions and Discoveries: Studies on India in the British Imagination, 1880-1930 - Benita Parry

 En-gendering India:  Colonial and Postcolonial Narratives - Ray, Sangeeta

The Caste Question - Anupma Rao 

The Indian English Novel - Priyamvada Gopal 

The Great Partition - Yasmin Khan 

Borders and Boundaries - Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin

Discovery of India - J.N. Nehru 

Nationalism and Cultural Practice in the Postcolonial World - Neil Lazarus 

Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags: A Critique of the Hindu Right (1998) - T. Basu et al (eds)

The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India (1999) - T. Hansen

The Doctor and the Saint - Arundhati Roy 

Capitalism: A Ghost Story - Arundhati Roy

The Anarchy – William Dalrymple


Ordered and hopefully coming soon:

Partition Dialogues: Memories of A Lost Home - Alok Bhalla

Mottled Dawn (trns. Khalid Hasan, 2008) - Sadat Hasan Manto

Kanthapura - Raja Rao 

Subaltern Studies IX (1996) - Shahid Amin and Dipesh Chakrabarty (eds)


Ordered and arriving in March:

Freedom’s Cry : The Popular Dimension in the Pakistan Movement and Partition Experience in NW India - I. Talbot

Memoirs of a Dalit Communist - Anupma Rao 

Another Lonely Voice: The Urdu Short Stories of Saadat Hasan Manto - L.A. Flemming

In Another Country: Colonialism, Culture and the English Novel in India - Priya Joshi

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