Skip to main content
Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2014 Abstracts

Unearthing Bharat Mata: Utilizing An Ecocritical and Subaltern Focus to Comprehend Modern Indian Identity in English Literature

Mahreen Bashir, University of Utah


A complicated social paradox humanity faces is assessing the union between the seemingly contradictory ideologies of “sustainability” and “growth” into one viable system. Adapting a merger between concepts such as: the retention of cultural values and social systems, industry, urban sprawl, modernity, sanitation, progress and the environment. This objective of this research project centers around using understandings of post-colonial theory to find new connections in South Asian identity through South Asian literature written in English, and the literature’s relationship to ecology. Specifically, it applies the nascent subaltern lens of a historiography that examines South Asia as both a post-colonial subcontinent, and an emerging “superpower,” in the rhetoric of a global economy, to understand a relationship between Indian people and India as place. Questions asked are posed in regard to the affects of orientalism and a cultural infiltration of seeing endemic knowledge to be degenerate in relation to Western academia; Indian-American identity; and the weight of the term “subaltern” through works by South Asian writers. Furthermore, the project uses an ecocritical lens on these works to extract how identity discourse and post-colonialism have created understandings of Indian identity within English literature. The anticipated outcome of this research paper is to create a greater understanding of both emergent academic lenses, and their application in understanding Indian culture and identity as portrayed by works written by Indo-American writers. This research idea was born out of my passion for both ecology and post-colonial studies that I have honed through my studies as an environmental studies and gender studies double major. The main objective is to investigate the plurality of identity, and the ramifications that identity, has on the establishment of more sustainable behavior to counter the impending global crisis the planet is facing in terms of lack of environmental stewardship, and subsequent social justice.