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Troubling Conjugal Loyalties
December 12, 2016 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
UW System Fellow (2016-2017)
How is it that monogamy came to serve as one of the markers of “modern” marriage? Which nineteenth-century literary genres did it play on? What kind of a transimperiality does conjugal loyalty, as defined along a register of monogamy, engender?
In addressing these questions, Sukanya Banerjee will draw from her current book project, “Loyalty and the Making of the Modern.” The project focuses on the under-read category of loyalty, arguing for the centrality of loyalty to figurations of modernity. But rather than focus on political loyalty alone-a context in which loyalty gets most prominence-, Banerjee examines interlocking formulations of loyalty across three evolving sites of modernity in nineteenth-early twentieth-century Britain and its empire (particularly in South Asia): that of the state, the family, and the economy. In querying how and why ideas of loyalty were idealized at a moment marked both by massive industrialism and high imperialism, she studies literary and cultural modes that stabilize the seemingly counterintuitive relation between loyalty and modernity. In so doing, she also identifies the “transimperial” as a heuristic for studying the expansive yet connected multilingual literary systems of empire.
Sukanya Banerjee is Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She works at the intersection of Victorian studies, postcolonial studies, and studies of South Asia. She is the author of Becoming Imperial Citizens: Indians in the Late-Victorian Empire (Duke, 2010), which was awarded the NVSA Sonya Rudikoff Prize for the best first book in Victorian studies (2012). She is co-editor of New Routes for Diaspora Studies (Indiana, 2012), and her essays have appeared in journals such as Victorian Studies, Victorian Literature and Culture, Prose Studies, and Diaspora. A recipient of a previous fellowship at the IRH, she has also received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.