May 1, 2024 – States of Disconnect: The China-India Literary Relation in the 20th Century

3:00 – 4:30 pm | Register Here | flyer PDF

In an interconnected world, literature moves through transnational networks, crosses borders, and bridges diverse cultures. In these ways, literature can bring people closer together. Today, as hopes for globalization wane and exclusionary nationalism is on the march, can literature still offer new ways of relating with others? Comparative literature has long been under the spell of circulation, contact, connectivity, and mobility—what if it instead sought out their antitheses?

States of Disconnect examines the breakdown of transnationalism through readings of literary texts that express aversion to pairing ideas of China and India. Focusing on practices of comparison, Adhira Mangalagiri considers how these texts articulate the undesirability or impossibility of relating with national others, tracing portrayals of violence, silence, and distance. She proposes the concept of “disconnect”: a crisis of transnationalism perceptible in moments when a connection is severed, interrupted, or disavowed. Despite their apparent insularity, texts of disconnect offer possibilities for relating ethically across national borders while resisting both narrow nationalisms and globalized habits of thought. Reading a variety of largely untranslated twentieth-century Chinese and Hindi short stories, novels, and poems, Mangalagiri charts a path for cultivating with literary texts a critical sensibility for making sense of a world rife with division.


Adhira Mangalagiri is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at New York University. She is the author of States of Disconnect: The China-India Literary Relation in the Twentieth Century (Columbia, 2023). Her research has appeared in Comparative Literature Studies, the Journal of World Literature, China and Asia, The Yearbook of Comparative Literature, among others. She has (co)edited special issues on China-India studies for the International Journal of Asian Studies (2022) and Crossroads (2022). She is a member of the British Academy-funded “Chinese Global Orders” research project. She currently serves as a general editor for Comparative Critical Studies, the house journal of the British Comparative Literature Association.

Moderator: Anna Stirr, Director, Center for South Asian Studies (CSAS), UHM.

Discussants: Nandini Chandra, Associate Professor, English Department, UHM; Krista Van Fleit, Associate Professor of Chinese Literature and Language, University of South Carolina.

Co-sponsors: UHM English Department, East Asian Languages and Literatures Dept and CSAS.