Organized Panel Session
This multidisciplinary panel proposes to examine the various ways in which religion in South Asian urban contexts is represented in the work of contemporary novelists. The settings include major cities in India and Pakistan, with themes ranging from digital instantiations of Hinduism in a Gurgaon call center to religious cosmopolitanism in Mumbai, from the construction of religious identity in a Jewish community in Kolkata to the textual representations of non-Muslim minorities and the spatialization of Islam in Pakistani cities. The panel's relevance spans several disciplinary fields: literature, South Asian studies and urban studies. In the panel's first paper, Manisha Basu discusses Chetan Bhagat's 2005 novel One Night @ the Call Center, in which Delhi's modern satellite township becomes the site where divine power manifests itself through the cellular phone, intervening in the lives of young professionals in crisis. István Keul's presentation looks at Kiran Nagarkar's trilogy Ravan & Eddie (1995), The Extras (2012) and Rest in Peace (2015) and everyday cross-religious interactions in culturally mixed residential constellations in Mumbai. The panel's third paper, by Mara Matta, is an analysis of Jael Silliman's novel The Teak Almirah (2016), a reflection on the history of the Baghdadi Jewish community and a cognitive mapping of Kolkata's urban spaces. Cara Cilano examines in the final presentation fictive portrayals of non-Muslim characters' abilities to inhabit and move through urban spaces, based on Nadeem Aslam's Season of the Rainbirds (1993), Saad Ashraf's The Postmaster (2004) and Sorayya Y. Khan's Five Queen's Road (2009).