Shobna Nijhawan : Research Interests
1. My ongoing research deals with Hindi women’s writings of the early twentieth century and their role in shaping a Hindi public. Women’s periodicals then (and now) form a particular interest of mine since it is the genre of the periodical that enabled not only professional female and male writers but also an increasing number of laypeople to participate in processes of knowledge production, dissemination and contestation.
Women and Girls in the Hindi Public Sphere. Periodical Literature in Colonial North India, my monograph, investigates how women's and girls' periodicals became a medium for elite and middle-class women to think in new idioms and express themselves collectively in a period of social transition, political emancipation and emerging nationalist-feminist thought. The book systematically traces the development of the women's and girls' periodicals in the early twentieth century and discusses writings from the periodicals (literary and non-literary) authored for and mostly also by women on literature, culture, politics and society.
2. A research interest that emerged from my work on the twentieth-century Hindi public sphere explores medicine in Hindi and Urdu literature. Allopathy in South Asia was ascending in the nineteenth century while indigenous medical systems such as Ayurveda and Unani were being rediscovered and classified as national science. It is the encounter of these different medical systems in Hindi medical journals written for laypeople, pamphlets and novels that I am currently analyzing.
3. Hindi and Urdu writings on nationalism form the subject of a anthology I edited: Nationalism in the Vernacular. Hindi, Urdu, and the Literature of Indian Freedom (Permanent Black 2010) comprises a selection of literary writings in Hindi and Urdu from the second half of the nineteenth century up to Indian Independence. The hitherto unpublished translations shall provide cues as to how nationalism - as a cultural ideology and political movement - was formed in literature while also forming and informing the political.
Scholarship on modern South Asia has in the past decades questioned eurocentric models on nationalist thought and the Western-derived single-nation concept in favor of a more autonomous discourse on Indian nationalism. While Western thought and technologies such as the printing press remain central to the emergence and spread of nationalist thought on the subcontinent, Indian nationalisms also emerged from within indigenous networks of social communication and the public sphere they sought to create. The translations will introduce eminent and lesser-known (female and male) writers from the Hindi and Urdu literary scenes. The anthology thus also combines two vernaculars with a contested relationship that was being consolidated and sealed, even as these texts were being written. The writings stem from journals, literary works as well as pamphlets as they circulated amongst the reading public of the times.
4. Technologies and web-enhanced teaching materials bear a variety of possibilities to deliver course content and enhance student learning. Creating a learning environment that is conducive to technology enhanced learning without loosing out of sight didactic and pedagogical concepts is one of my major goals as teacher of Hindi. I have so far blended my course Introductory Hindi and am in the process of doing so for Intermediate Hindi as well.