Organized Panel Session
This panel explores the evolution of contemporary Bhutanese literature, including genres and works in Dzongkha and English. While Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan, linked to Tibetan as a lingua franca for Buddhists across Himalaya and Central Asia, English has served as a medium of classroom instruction since the 1960s and connects Bhutanese writers to a broader South Asian literature in English as well as an international readership. The papers on this panel treat different aspects of contemporary Bhutanese literature, including (1) the translation and publication of oral and traditional works during the period of British colonial expansion and consolidation of Bhutan as a modern nation in the first decade of the twentieth century; (2) transformations in the Dzongkha genres of stories and biographies from their traditional Buddhist inspiration to more contemporary, secular themes starting in the 1960s; (3) the impact of revisions to the Bhutanese national syllabus for schools in 2006 to include literary works in English by Bhutanese authors, thereby shaping a new 'national' literature; and (4) the emergence of Bhutanese women writers in the last two decades who combine current gender issues with Buddhist themes of renunciation and karma in their short stories, children's books, and novels. Through these topics, the panel delves into the relationship, transformations, and tensions between oral and literary forms, colonial and post-colonial influences, religious and secular themes, and national and international languages in the context of a multilingual population and the development of a distinctly Bhutanese body of contemporary literature.