Postcolonial Little Magazines in India : ’Signatures of Dissent’ and Worldliness Chapitre d’ouvrage - 2023

Laetitia Zecchini

Laetitia Zecchini, « Postcolonial Little Magazines in India : ’Signatures of Dissent’ and Worldliness  », in Toral Jatin Gajarawala, Neelam Srivastava, Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, Jack Webb (ed.), The Bloomsbury Handbook of Postcolonial Print Cultures, 2023, pp. 39-56. ISBN 9781350261754. 〈〉


In this essay, I will focus on several Indian little magazines published in English during the 1950s-1970s (such as Vrishchik, Poetry India, damn you, ezra, Contra 66, Quest and Waste Paper) to argue that these alternative publishing spaces were both one of the privileged mediums of modernisms in India, and a privileged site of postcolonial print cultures, where many writers honed their creative and critical voices, gave shape to the debates and (formal, political) struggles of the time, worked and connected with each other. Because this period was characterized by its tremendous transnational and translational vitality, and by creative traffics across languages, genres, and disciplines, I argue for a connected history of the Indian little magazines published in English. These were foundationally connected to what was happening in magazines published in other languages (especially Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati) ; to what was happening in the visual arts (hence, if I return to the importance of poetry and poets in these magazines, I also discuss the interplay of textual and visual cultures in journals founded by artists such as Vrishchik or Contra 66) ; to an international counter-culture and /or a transnational network of ‘small publications’. I would also like to argue for a connected history of the hand-crafted, anti-establishment little magazines like damn you or ezra, with apparently more conformist or official magazines such as Nissim Ezekiel’s Poetry India, or the CCF-sponsored Quest (at a time when the ‘little magazine’ was also coopted by Cold War politics). In different ways, these magazines can be read as space-clearing gestures, and manifestations of independence. How was the medium of the magazine (and its ‘littleness’), integral to its agenda ? By what means could some of these magazines travel the world ? What were the communities, fraternities or ‘conspiracies’ which they contributed to create ? And since these little magazines have been interpreted as embodying the spirit of rebellion of a whole generation of writers and artists, what were the different modalities of this rebellion ? How do you make sense of the interplay of the littleness and the ‘wordliness’ in these magazines, and of the defiant marginality of many of the writers at the time, with their relative canonical/established status today ? Finally, how can a closer attention to the little magazine print cultures both present us with a more complex map of ‘world literature’ and ‘postcolonial literature’ where centers, corners and peripheries are realigned or eroded, and also offer an alternative genealogy of ‘literary activism’ in/from India (both defined as activism on behalf of, and through literature)

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