Yoruba Women and Gelede

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The Yoruba The Yoruba are one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, concentrated in the south of the country.  Archeological evidence suggests that the Yoruba have lived in the general area since prehistoric times. The Yoruba kingdom was of considerable power and importance and it was broken up through a series of wars […]

Yeats, W.B. and Postcolonialism

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Which Yeats? There are many versions of William Butler Yeats (b 1865  d 1939),  Ireland’s most famous poet, dramatist, critic, and Senator. Variously claimed by nationalists, occultists, fascists, modernists, Romantics, and postcolonialists, Yeats’s life and work are open to many interpretations. As a writer who devoted himself to building Irish culture and literature, Yeats’s position as […]

Women, Islam, and Hijab

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Background The practice of hijab among Muslim women is one based on religious doctrine, although the Qur’an does not mandate it. Instead, it comes from the Hadith of Sahih Bukhari. The Hadith, the “tradition of Mohammed,” reveals the teachings of the Prophet to believers. Bukhari’s version of this text is generally regarded as the standard […]

Victorian Women Travelers in the 19th Century

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Why Women Began To Travel Women began to travel in the nineteenth century for many personal and political reasons. Some women sought to further a cause, like missionary work, while others traveled to satisfy personal curiosities of “exotic” lands. Most women, however, traveled to escape gender oppression in Europe (Stevenson 2). One form of gender […]

Sepoy Mutiny of 1857

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The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, turning from its home, where it assumes respectable forms, to the colonies, where it goes naked. Did they not, in India, to borrow an expression of that great robber, Lord Clive himself, resort to atrocious extortion, when simple corruption could not […]

Nuclear Proliferation in the Third World

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Introduction Monday, May 10, 1998 marked a day that will not soon be forgotten. It was the day India began nuclear testing, much to the horrified shock of the U.S. and Western European superpowers. According to Arundhati Roy, a widely and extensively lauded and criticized Indian author, it is a day that will live in […]

Goshthi, Mushaira

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  This page was developed to mark the establishment of a multilingual, multi-religious poetry club for the community in Atlanta, and for faculty and students  at Emory University. The club is no longer active, but this page has been retained to furnish introductory information about the traditions of Mushairas and Goshthis in the Indian subcontinent. […]

Kerala and The God of Small Things

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A full understanding of and appreciation for Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things requires that the reader be well acquainted with the land and culture through which Roy weaves her tale. Roy achieves the rich descriptive texture and vivid imagery of her novel by writing about something with which she is intimately familiar; […]

Jews in India

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A unique and multicultural group of people, the Jews of India add exciting flavor to India’s already diverse population. Centered in three main communities in Bombay, Calcutta, and along the Malabar Coast, these unusual sects of Jews have combined many of their ancient Israelite customs with traditional Indian lifestyle, and have created a rich culture […]

Homophobia and Postcolonialism

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Let the Americans keep their sodomy, bestiality, stupid and foolish ways to themselves, out of Zimbabwe.  – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe Frantz Fanon, one of the earliest and most influential postcolonial theorists, saw homosexuality as a sign of psychological distress, exclusive to Western peoples (that is people of western/Caucasian racial stock) and directly related to […]

Gandhi’s Salt March to Dandi

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The Salt Tax After proclaiming the Declaration of Independence of India on January 26, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi came to an impasse in his political career focused on freeing India from British rule. A new anti-government campaign was imperative for achieving the secularization of India for its people; it remained unclear, however, to Gandhi what form […]

Divorce in India

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The Law All major religions have their own laws which govern divorces within their own community, and many have separate regulations regarding divorce in interfaith marriages in India. Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains in India are governed by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; Christians by the Indian Divorce Act, 1869; Parsis by the Parsi Marriage […]

Christianity in India

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Introduction Christians constitute the second largest religious minority in India next to Islam. The 21 million Christians in India account for 2 percent of the total population. With 16.5 million adherents to the faith, Roman Catholics form the largest single Christian group in India. There are approximately 4.5 adherents to the Protestant faith (Europa 1740). The […]

Caste System in India

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Background The caste system in India is an important part of ancient Hindu tradition and dates back to 1200 BCE. The term caste was first used by Portuguese travelers who came to India in the 16th century (See Spice Trade in India). Caste comes from the Spanish and Portuguese word “casta” which means “race”, “breed”, […]

Arranged Marriages, Matchmakers, and Dowries in India

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Arranged Marriages in India Arranged marriages have been part of the Indian culture since the fourth century. Many consider the practice a central fabric of Indian society, reinforcing the social, economic, geographic, and the historic significance of India (Stein). Prakasa states that arranged marriages serve six functions in the Indian community: (1) helps maintain the social […]

Nettleford, Rex

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The power to create and innovate remains the greatest guarantee of respect and recognition. (Nettleford Mirror 227) Biography: The Formation of a Caribbean Intellectual Rex Nettleford, a leading Caribbean intellectual visionary and renaissance figure, was born on February 3rd, 1933 in the rural town of Falmouth, Jamaica. Enveloped by the folklore of of Jamaica and the natural integration […]

Memmi, Albert

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Introduction Born in Tunisia, a Jew in a predominately Muslim colony, Albert Memmi writes that he was “sort of a half-breed of colonization, understanding everyone because I belonged completely to no one” (xvi). Memmi’s 1957 book, The Colonizer and the Colonized (part of which has also been published under the title, Portrait of the Colonizer), is one of […]

Anderson, Benedict

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Biography Benedict Richard O’Gorman Anderson was born on August 26, 1936 in Kunming, China to James O’Gorman and Veronica Beatrice Mary Anderson. James was an officer in the Imperial Maritime Customs in China and according to his son, a Sinophile; he was also of mixed Irish and Anglo-Irish descent, and his family had been active in […]

Vargas Llosa, Mario

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Biography Peruvian novelist, essayist, journalist, literary critic, and recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa was born in Arequipa, Peru, in 1936. He attended Leoncio Prado Military Academy from 1950 to 1952 and Colegio Nacional San Miguel de Piura in 1952. From 1955 to 1957, he studied Literature and Law at the University […]

Tharoor, Shashi

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“In writing of Indian culture, I am highly conscious of my own subjectivity; arguably, there is more than one Indian culture, and certainly more than one view of Indian culture.” – Shashi Tharoor (HAPR) Introduction As a diplomat and writer, Shashi Tharoor has explored the diversity of culture in his native India. By exploring the themes […]

Soyinka, Wole

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Biography Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian born writer of international renown, is an artist proficient in multiple genres. Soyinka has written in the modes of drama (Death and the King’s Horseman and Madmen and Specialists), poetry (Idanre and other Poems), autobiography (Ake: The Years of Childhood), the novel (The Interpreters), literary and cultural criticism (Myth, Literature and the […]

Smith, Zadie

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Biography Zadie Smith grew up in Willesden Green, England. She was born into a mixed race family; her mother is from Jamaica, and her father is English. She has two brothers, both younger than she, and two older half-siblings. Smith began writing poems and short stories when she was six. In addition to writing, she loved […]

Sidhwa, Bapsi

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Biography Bapsi Sidhwa is Pakistan’s leading diasporic writer. She has produced four novels in English that reflect her personal experience of the Indian subcontinent’s Partition, abuse against women, immigration to the US, and membership in the Parsi/Zoroastrian community. Born on August 11, 1938 in Karachi, in what is now Pakistan, and migrating shortly thereafter to Lahore, […]

Shaarawi, Huda

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Huda Shaarawi (1879-1947), a feminist nationalist activist, is considered to be a central figure in early twentieth century Egyptian feminism. Born into a very wealthy family, Shaarawi spent her early years in the harem, an experience described in her memoirs, Harem Years. Philanthropic Work Shaarawi was involved in philanthropic projects throughout her life. In 1908, she created […]

Seth, Vikram

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Biography A small, wiry soap opera enthusiast with well-defined features and a ready smile, Vikram Seth was born in Calcutta in 1952 (also the home of Indian literary giant Rabindranath Tagore). Throughout Seth’s childhood, his father Prem Seth was a shoe company executive and his mother Laila Seth served as a judge. Vikram Seth is […]

Selvadurai, Shyam

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“The magic of fiction seems to be the more specific you are, the more universal you end up becoming.” – Shyam Selvadurai, in an Outlines Interview, May 1996. Biography If postcolonialism is the Empire writing back, many Sri Lankans have had to write back to an Empire in which they now reside. Emigrating to the United Kingdom, […]

Schreiner, Olive

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Biographical Overview On March 24, 1855, Olive Emilie Albertina was born the ninth of twelve children to Gottlob and Rebecca Schreiner. Her German father and English mother, both missionaries in South Africa, provided a household grounded in a strict Calvinist tradition. Gottlob Schreiner’s failures in mission work as well as a number of businesses prompted […]

Rushdie, Salman

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Biography Salman Rushdie was born in Bombay in 1947, just months before the Partition of British India. His father, Ahmed, was a businessman and his mother, Negin, was a teacher. He grew up loving the escape literature and film offered, and he wrote his first story when he was ten years old. He encountered some […]

Roy, Arundhati

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The information provided on this site for Arundhati Roy is spread across multiple entries. Please click on the following entries for more information about Roy and her most famous novel, The God of Small Things. Kerala and The God of Small Things Caste System in India Christianity in India Communism in India Divorce in India Kathakali

Ondaatje, Michael

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Biography Michael Ondaatje was born on September 12, 1943 in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The son of Mervyn Ondaatje, a tea and rubber plantation superintendent and Doris Gratiaen, a part-time dancer inspired by Isadora Duncan. As a result of his father’s alcoholism, Ondaatje’s parents eventually separated in 1954 and he moved to England with […]

Nasrin, Taslima

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Introduction “She is either the bravest or most foolish person I’ve ever met,” a friend of Nasrin’s is quoted as saying (Weaver 49). There is no question about the bravery of Taslima Nasrin — the daughter of a county physician father and a devoutly religious mother, who was suddenly thrust into the spotlight after the angry […]

Naipaul, V.S.

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Biography Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was born in Chaguanas, Trinidad, on August 17, 1932. His Hindu grandfather had emigrated to Trinidad from West India as an indentured servant. His father, Seepersad (1906-53), was a journalist, whose literary aspirations were inherited by V.S., and his brother, Shiva. The family moved to Port of Spain, where Naipaul attended […]

Mistry, Rohinton

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Biography Rohinton Mistry was born in 1952 in Mumbai and is of Parsi descent. He earned a B. A. in Mathematics and Economics at the University of Bombay. In 1975, at the age of 23, he immigrated to Canada where he studied at the University of Toronto and received a B. A. in English and […]

Mehta, Deepa

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Biography Canadian-based filmmaker Deepa Mehta was born in Amritsar, India in 1949. She received a bachelors and masters degree in philosophy from the University of New Delhi, where she met her husband, Canadian filmmaker and producer Paul Saltzman. Shortly after getting married, she immigrated to Canada in 1973. However, the marriage was short lived, and […]

McGuckian, Medbh

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“I know being a woman for me for a long time was being less, being excluded, being somehow cheap, being inferior, being sub. I associated being a woman with being a Catholic and being Irish with being from the North, and all of these things being not what you wanted to be. If you were a […]

McEwan, Ian

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Biography Ian McEwan was born in 1948 in Aldershot, England. His father was an officer in the British Army and McEwan spent his early childhood in various places throughout the world, including Libya and Singapore. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Sussex and an M.A. in creative writing from the University of East […]

Lee, Li-Young

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Family History Li-Young Lee was born in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1957, the son of exiled Chinese parents. His mother came from a noble family; her father Yuan Shi-kai was the first president of the Republic of China. Lee’s father, Lee Kuo Yuan, came from a family of gangsters and entrepreneurs. Their marriage received official disapproval; moreover, […]

Kipling, Rudyard

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Take up the White Man’s burden– Send forth the best ye breed– Go, bind your sons to exile To serve your captives’ need; On fluttered folk and wild– Your new-caught sullen peoples, Half devil and half child. – Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden” Biography This famous writer was born Joseph Rudyard Kipling in Bombay on […]

Khan-Din, Ayub

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Biography “This was our Pakistani life; this is how we existed outside Salford. A life none of my friends knew or could understand…I think in [East is East] I came as close as possible to understanding my father’s motivation in the way he tried to bring us up,” explains Ayub Khan-Din with regard to his […]

Hulme, Keri

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Biography Keri Hulme, a New Zealand native, was born on March 9, 1947, in Christchurch, New Zealand. She is the daughter of John W., a carpenter and businessman, and Mere, a credit manager, and sister to five siblings. Her father died when she was eleven years old. Hulme is descended from a rich background. She […]

Huidobro, Vicente

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Biography Vicente García Huidobro Fernández was born to a distinguished aristocrat family in Santiago, Chile in 1893. In his teenage and early adult years, the works of modernist Chilean writer and poet Rubén Darío inspired him. He praised Darío as “a renovator of poetry” (Camurati 29) and as an homage to him, he began to publish his own work […]

Hossain, Rokeya Sakhawat

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Biography Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain was born into a Bengali Muslim upper-class family in the small village of Pairaband in the district of Rangpur, north of present day Bangladesh, then a part of the colonial British province of Bengal Presidency. Her date of birth is not known. However, a nephew of hers posits Dec. 9, 1880. Her mother was Rahatunnessa […]

Gunesekera, Romesh

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Biography Romesh Gunesekera was born in Sri Lanka in 1954, moving to London in 1972. He grew up speaking both English and Sinhala. Gunesekera won the Liverpool College Poetry Prize in 1972, the Rathborne Prize in Philosophy in 1976, and the first prize in the Peterloo Open Poetry Competition in 1988. Gunesekera’s first book, Monkfish Moon, was […]

Amichai, Yehuda

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Biography Yehuda Amichai, uncrowned poet laureate of the State of Israel, was born Ludwig Pfeuffer to Orthodox Jewish parents in Würzberg, Germany, on May 3, 1924. He received a formal Jewish education rich in the Biblical and rabbinical tradition and became familiar with the Hebrew language through study and prayer. Amichai would later draw on […]