My research begins with the First World War, reading intimate life-writings of nurses, and expands to consider the figure of the colonial subaltern in the complex trajectories of imperial warfare; volatile colonial spaces as points of affective, interracial contact; and ends with analysing feminist subversion in postcolonial worlds.
My first monograph Nursing the Body in First World War Life-Writing analyses the life-writings of nurses and female ambulance drivers such as Vera Brittain, Mary Borden, Ellen N. La Motte, Helen Zenna Smith, Enid Bagnold, and unpublished writings by women held at Imperial War Museum, Wellcome Collections and Australian War Memorial, to understand how they represented bodies (both their own and those of the soldiers they treated) in their published and unpublished writings. Expansive in breadth, Nursing the Body covers writings by Anglophone women across the Western Front, the Eastern Front, Mesopotamia, North Africa, and India. With chapters on depictions of intimacy, physical illness, and war neuroses, the first section of the book uncovers the representations of nurses’ experiences of embodiment. The role of women as witnesses to war is the focus of the second section, which delves into their writings on witnessing pain, representing the mutilated soldier’s body, and writing about their lovers’ wounded bodies.
I place myself at the heart of the First World War community and I am constantly interested in new research in the discipline. Consequently, I have co-organised two large interdisciplinary conferences on the First World War recently.
My first postdoctoral research project, part of the AHRC-funded project ‘Literature, Psychoanalysis and the Death Penalty 1900–1950’, focused on literary and cultural representations of colonial court-martial. Reading canonical texts by major Indian modernist and postcolonial writers such as Mulk Raj Anand and Amitav Ghosh, as well as drawing on from archival research carried out at the India Office Records of the British Library, I argue that colonial court-martial is the means of the necropolitical state’s assertion of power and is usually ascribed along racial lines. I call for a critical outlook beyond colonial mimicry to identify the imperial state’s culpability in the regulation of life and death among its colonised subjects. As part of this project, I have co-organised a three-day international conference called ‘Literature, Law and Psychoanalysis 1890–1950’ and have co-edited a special journal issue on this theme for Open Library Humanities.
I am preoccupied with the colonised subject/body throughout my research. My next monograph project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, conducts an empirical research on the kind of medical treatment meted out to Indian soldiers of WWI and uses critical race and postcolonial theories to demonstrate how whiteness perpetrated the medical care system in wartime and how such care was experienced and represented in the life-writings of both the medical personnel and their patients of colour. I have already begun publishing from this project: for more information, check my Publications page.
My interest in colonialism automatically leads to my curiosity about postcolonial cultures. I am interested in voices of dissidence and resistance in subaltern feminism, and I have edited a major collection of essays on this theme, entitled Subaltern Women’s Narratives: Strident Voices, Dissenting Bodies, to be published by Routledge in the ‘Advances in Feminist Studies and Intersectionality’ series in December 2020. The focus of the book is two-fold: to look at the lived experiences of women as they negotiate their lives in a world of political flux and conflicts; and to examine women’s dissenting practices as recorded in texts and archives. Subaltern Women’s Narratives adopts a global feminist approach to engage with larger questions underpinning dissent, such as epistemology, embodiment, and performance. The value in such a transnational focus is the necessity to identify women’s dissent as a global, political movement, which originated as forms of anticolonial struggle but did not recede with decolonisation. Instead, this dissent adopted newer forms in the postcolonial world, addressing newer crises and adapting means and methods of dissidence with the passage of time.