Vernacular Englishes: Language and Democratic Politics in Post-liberalization India


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature


This project examines the role of language in democratic politics in post-1990s India. It asks: does English—as a language and as a symbol—facilitate political claims by hitherto-marginalized castes, classes, and language groups? How does English itself get (re)constituted in this process? English, in addition to Hindi, was made the official language of India post-independence. Legislating its usage combined with the new economic order of the 1990s popularized English and made it a “local” challenge to elite Hindi dominance. Through critical analyses of post-1990s journalistic, cinematic, and literary texts, this project shows that informal access to English in vernacular media catalyzes sociopolitical changes that are increasingly altering the complexion of Indian democracy.