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Sukanya Banerjee on Transimperial Ecologies, with Michael Tondre

Please join us for our next p19 works-in-progress meeting on Friday March 19th at 4:30 pm Eastern as we welcome Sukanya Banjerjee for a discussion of transimperial ecologies based on her recently-published article

“Ecologies of Cotton”

with a response by Michael Tondre

Please note the unusual day and time

The article is available in the newly-published issue of *Nineteenth-Century Contexts, edited by Brianna Beehler, Grace Franklin, and Devin Griffiths. If you need a copy of the article, please contact me.

Please RSVP here if you plan to attend and we will send you the Zoom link on November 11th.

Sukanaya writes:

By focusing on the nineteenth-century cotton trade, this essay examines how the circumstances affecting the cultivation of the cotton plant and consequently its manufacture into yarn and cloth – the ecologies of cotton, in short – variously inform literary and cultural texts that have hitherto been read as discrete and disconnected. Analyzing aspects of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848) and a poem/song by the late nineteenth-early twentieth-century Bengali poet-songwriter, Mukunda Das, the essay situates British industrial fiction alongside the literary and cultural production of the Indian swadeshi movement, which by the turn of the twentieth century, rejected the use of industrially-manufactured British products, particularly cotton textiles. In reading these texts alongside each other, the essay considers the importance of a denotative reading practice to ecocriticism. As the essay argues, twinning an ecological reading practice with one that is denotative is critical for several reasons, not least of which is that such a reading lays bare the transimperial nodes of labor and resource expropriation, the contingencies and specificities of which also significantly reconfigure our literary maps.​

Sukanya Banerjee works on the literature and culture of Victorian Britain and its empire. More broadly, she is interested in postcolonial studies, ecology, studies of transnationalism and diaspora, political theory, and South Asia. Her book, Becoming Imperial Citizens: Indians in the Late-Victorian Empire (Duke University Press, 2010), which was awarded the NVSA Sonya Rudikoff Prize for best first book in Victorian studies, locates the liberal discourse of citizenship outside the conventional frame of the nation-state by studying how colonial subjects formulated claims to citizenship in late nineteenth-early twentieth- century Britain and its empire. Emphasizing the narrativity of citizenship, the book examines the literary and cultural registers that enabled such formulations. Banerjee is a coeditor of New Routes in Diaspora Studies (Indiana University Press, 2012). She is currently working on a book tentatively titled “Loyalty and the Making of the Modern: A Transimperial System” and is also looking toward a future book-length project on Victorian ecocolonialisms. Banerjee joined the English department at Berkeley in 2020 after teaching for nearly two decades at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she was a recipient of the UW-Milwaukee Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award (2016).

Michael Tondre is Associate Professor of English at Stony Brook University (SUNY) and author of The Physics of Possibility: Victorian Fiction, Science, and Gender (2018). His writing has appeared in PMLA, ELH, Victorian Studies, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Nineteenth Century Literature, and has recently received the Nineteenth-Century Studies Association article prize and the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts essay prize. He is currently completing a monograph titled Refinement: Oil, Aestheticism, and the British Atlantic World, 1800-1930.

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