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What Was So Obscene About Ismat Chughtai’s ‘Lihaaf,’ the Role of Literature in Nationalist Discourse and More With Dr. Geeta Patel

Jan 16, 2023

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In this episode, gender and language studies scholar Dr. Geeta Patel discusses why Ismat Chughtai’s Lihaaf was charged for obscenity, the ‘homely’ girl in matrimonial ads, and challenging notions of respectability in Indian society.

‘In Perspective’ is The Swaddle’s podcast series where academics reveal little-known facts about Indian history, society and culture. 

Notes: 

00:00:53:00- What role did modern Indian literature play in nationalist discourses in the 20th century? How does the work of Meeraji (Mohammad Sanaullah Dar) help us conceive of new modernizing nationalisms in this context? 

00:09:54:04- What is ‘homeliness?’ How have linkages between domesticity and a woman’s identity been forged since 19th century India? Is this changing today? 

00:16:16:03- Why was Ismat Chughtai’s 1942 short story ‘Lihaaf’ charged for being obscene? What do the narratives around that story tell us about the Indian state’s perceptions of gender and sexuality at the time?

00:19:52:21- What is the heteronuclear family? In what ways do we see the ideal of the heteronuclear family propagated in advertisements post independence in India? 

00:24:57:15- What are the problems with how we understand sex and desire in popular discourse in India today? What does reclaiming narratives around pleasure and desire entail?

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