Anticolonial Literature and Transnational RefractionManan Desai
The United States of India shows how Indian and American writers in the United States played a key role in the development of anticolonial thought in the years during and immediately following the First World War. For Indians Lajpat Rai and Dhan Gopal Mukerji, and Americans Agnes Smedley, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Katherine Mayo, the social and historical landscape of America and India acted as a reflective surface. Manan Desai considers how their interactions provided a “transnational refraction”—a political optic and discursive strategy that offered ways to imagine how American history could shed light on an anticolonial Indian future.
Desai traces how various expatriate and immigrant Indians formed political movements that rallied for American support for the cause of Indian independence. These intellectuals also developed new forms of writing about subjugation in the U.S. and India. Providing an examination of race, caste, nationhood, and empire, Desai astutely examines this network of Indian and American writers and the genres and social questions that fomented solidarity across borders.
“ A fascinating study, at once rigorously theoretical and appealingly anecdotal, that adds to and reshapes the growing field of South Asian American Studies. Cogent and well-organized, The United States of India exhibits a truly interdisciplinary scope, encompassing insights from literary studies, visual culture, legal history, and postcolonial theory.”—Dohra Ahmad, Professor of English at St. John’s University and editor of The Penguin Book of Migration Literature
“ Manan Desai has written a much needed textual analysis of some of the seminal texts of early South Asian American history. An important contribution that asks us to consider how America’s promises and limitations can be revealed and interrogated through the anticolonial struggles that animated this historical period.”—Seema Sohi, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder and author of Echoes of Mutiny: Race, Surveillance, and Indian Anticolonialism in North America
"In this era, Desai's...book (is) not just (an) inadvertently timely intervention in the sociology of race, but also in academia more generally. (It) show(s) the necessity that our work is engaged with the world we are studying, in the hope that we can collectively make a better world for all."
" Desai’s book is grounded in archival research.... It is enhanced by visual anecdotes that effectively situate the reader in the early-twentieth century cross-cultural encounter between India and the United States. His criticism is nuanced, measured, and self-reflexive.... Desai’s work is timely and unflinchingly, albeit implicitly, sheds light on historical crossfires in relation to those of our time."
— Journal of Asian American Studies
" (A)ccessible and compelling, The United States of India is a valuable resource for scholars of American, ethnic American, Asian American, South Asian, postcolonial and global studies.”
—South Asian Review
Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong and Linda Trinh Võ, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.