Insurgent Imaginations: Culture, Postcolonial Planetarity and Maoism in India

Date of Award

June 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Crystal Bartolovich


Communism, culture, imagination, India, nationalism, postcolonialism

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


This dissertation, Insurgent Imaginations: Culture, Postcolonial Planetarity and Maoism in India, provides the first book-length study of the literary and cultural representations of the Maoist Naxalite movement in India. I highlight the centrality of literary and cultural texts, and their attendant questions of form and genre in negotiating planetary imaginaries of solidarity. The dissertation illuminates the wide-ranging political and cultural networks that came to inform Naxalism -- such as early 20th century internationalist autobiography and autobiographical fiction of M.N. Roy and Claude McKay; post-1950s New Left conversations on urbanity in the Global North and South; cross-cultural aesthetic interactions involving indigenous South Asian prose and theatrical forms (naksha and jatra), 1960s pan-Africanist Black Power and Black Arts movements in the US, African decolonization, Latin American Third-Cinema and contemporary South Asian Anglophone fiction. I draw on a number of key representations of the Naxalites across a broad spectrum of cultural forms (novels, plays, film, satire, and autobiography), by globally-known Anglophone authors such as Aravind Adiga and Arundhati Roy, as well as relatively neglected but major cosmopolitan figures such as Utpal Dutt, Mrinal Sen and M.N. Roy. Elaborating on the interactions of the indigenous and the local with the transnational in these texts, I uncover little-known genealogies of planetary solidarity engendered by the Naxalites. My dissertation thus locates the development of Naxalism in India within broader conversations on modernity and insurgency spanning over a century, mapping an alternative history of emancipatory politics and elaborating the role of literary texts in the envisioning of collective liberation.


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