India in fiction 

Caroline Herbert is at Concordia on a year long Canadian Commonwealth Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship.

“I came to Concordia from the U.K., to work specifically with Jill Didur, as our research interests in contemporary South Asian literature and culture and in issues of secularism and Hindu nationalism intersect so closely,” she said in an email. “I was familiar with her work from my own reading.”

Herbert did her PhD at the University of Leeds. Her thesis looked at the work of novelists Rohinton Mistry and Salman Rushdie, and how they represented the relationship between the migrant and the nation, particularly in Bombay, now called Mumbai.

Herbert said Bombay has been seen in literary and visual works for many years as a place of both possibility and crisis. It was thought to be inclusive, a symbol of India's secular, cosmopolitan modernity, but the city was rocked by the rise of Hindu nationalism in the 1990s, and the great gulf between rich and poor is still evident.

Herbert is interested in how creative writers and filmmakers are responding to this apparent change in Bombay — the increasing violence in public places and the uneven experiences of globalization and modernity.

For example, Rushdie’s novel The Moor's Last Sigh “tracks the transformation of the city from a secular, cosmopolitan space into a city marked by communal violence, gang violence, and uneven experiences of global capital. Jill's work on this novel is illuminating in terms of the questions Rushdie is asking as to whether secularism remains an appropriate response.

“More recent work is the fiction of Mistry, who is based in Toronto. By writing about Bombay's small Parsi community, Mistry offers an interesting perspective on how the rise of Hindu nationalism has a specific impact on minority communities within the city.”


Concordia University