Assembling the field: literary journalism about marginalised subjects by Indian writers

Basu, Maitrayee Basu (2018) Assembling the field: literary journalism about marginalised subjects by Indian writers. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

The increasing economic and cultural influence of an English speaking, inquisitive, middle class has been a spur to a growth in non-fiction writing in India (Jack, I. in an interview, 2015). The new Granta India is-sue, edited by Jack and celebrating this trend, carries longform or narrative journalism works written by journalists like Aman Sethi, Samanth Subramaniam, Katherine Boo. Gupta (2009: 163) and Brouillette (2007: 37) both contribute a diversification of new genres in India to be an effect of the globalisation of the publishing industry. In spite of the pervasiveness of this form of writing in India in recent times, it is still quite a new genre; and the field of production it involves is therefore still in the process of being solidified.

One of the processes involved in the concretization or solidification of the field is the struggle to define the dominating illusio, or the underpinning ideology, in the field. This thesis explores this struggle using conceptual tools from Bourdieusian field theory in the context of literary journalism writing about margin-alised subjects. It draws on various contemporary works, article-length, book-length, photojournalistic, etc. from online and print platforms thus representing the heterogeneity of the genre in India. In this thesis, therefore, I pose the question of how the authority to represent the marginalised is assembled by these journalist-writers in a field where relations of power are still quite fluid and not yet concretized. More spe-cifically, it questions which institutions or ideologies these writers look to align themselves with or against in their self-positioning and struggles of legitimacy.

This thesis examines the reflexivity the writers exhibit textually and discursively through their engagement with political and social issues, and other sociotechnical elements of the public space, such as social media. By doing so my thesis describes how these writers negotiate the neoliberal expectations of their middle class audience and their own illusio, which consists of a feeling of responsibility to represent the voices of the subaltern to transnational audiences. Three case studies are used to illustrate and critically engage with some of these issues: Sonia Faleiro’s Beautiful Thing, Aman Sethi’s A Free Man, and a longitudinal study of the Twitter posts and conversations of three writers - Sonia Faleiro, Shivam Vij and Neha Dixit. For each of these case studies I look at some of the linguistic, narrative and discursive strategies the writers use to position themselves firstly, on social media platforms like blogs or Twitter, secondly, within the narra-tive and around the discussions regarding their book or other literary journalistic writing, and lastly, in their engagement with global and local public issues and politics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Media
B. > Theses
Item ID: 26361
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 09 Apr 2019 12:41
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2019 15:17
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/26361

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