Against a groundswell of critiques of global English, Vernacular English: Reading the Anglophone in Postcolonial India (Princeton UP, 2022) 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, this original and provocative 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, Akshya Saxena delves into a previously unexplored body of texts from English and Hindi literature, law, film, visual art, and public protests. She 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. She 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, Vernacular English does nothing less than reimagine what a language is and the categories used to analyze it.
Akshya Saxena is Assistant Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. She studied English literature at the University of Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University in India, before earning her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. Her areas of study are 20th and 21st-century literature and media of the English-speaking world, with a special interest in the racialized and caste-marked practices of mediation that shape language.
Saronik Bosu (@SaronikB on Twitter) is a doctoral candidate in English at New York University. He is writing his dissertation on literary rhetoric and economic thought. He co-hosts the podcast High Theory and is a co-founder of the Postcolonial Anthropocene Research Network.
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