Shobna Nijhawan : Research Interests
1. I am fascinated by Hindi periodicals of the early twentieth century 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. My earlier research focused on Hindi women’s writings of the early twentieth century and their role in shaping a Hindi public. 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 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 second research interest of mine has emerged from debates around transnational feminism, to which I have been contributing with case studies of Hindi women writers, editors and activists. My focus lies on the South-South encounters of these women writers as they were establishing links to women from other colonies (Burma, Fiji) and the non-Western world (Japan, China). I have so far published two articles on the topic (Journal of Asian Studies, 2012 and Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 2014) and shared my findings of these hitherto overlooked, but pronouncedly and distinctly transnational feminist networks at five conferences. I have established a network of scholars working on similar questions through case studies from Burma, India, China, India, Korea, Malaya, Singapore and Vietnam, and we continue to engage in academic conversations at workshops and conferences.
3. My current research project revolves around Hindi book publishing in twentieth-century colonial North India. Fundamental to the project is the Indian publisher and writer Dularelal Bhargava (1895-1975), proprietor of the Lucknow-based publishing house Ganga Pustak Mala (est. 1919) and Ganga Fine Art Press (est. 1927). Apart from his role in the Hindi world of commercial publishing from the late 1920s onward, Bhargava edited the Hindi literary periodical Sudha (Nectar, Ambrosia) and I am currently writing a biography of this periodical.
4. Hindi and Urdu writings on nationalism form the subject of an anthology I edited: Nationalism in the Vernacular. Hindi, Urdu, and the Literature of Indian Freedom (Permanent Black 2010). This anthology comprises a selection of literary writings in Hindi and Urdu from the second half of the nineteenth century up to Indian Independence. The fictional and non-fictional writings reflect on nationalism as a cultural ideology and political movement as it was formed in literature while also informing the political. They introduce eminent and marginalized writers from the Hindi and Urdu literary scenes, amongst them women, peasants and Dalit writers. In addition to broadening the literary archive through hitherto unknown translations in prose genres and poetry, the anthology also explores how the contested relationship between the two vernaculars was being consolidated and sealed, even as these texts were being written.
5. Pedagogical and didactical questions surrounding second-language acquisition, especially that of less-commonly-taught languages have been a research interest of mine ever since I began teaching. I make use of technology to benefit from the variety of possibilities to deliver course content and design web-enhanced teaching materials with the aim of improving students' learning experience. I have also created workbooks for use in the Hindi-Urdu language classroom. More recently, I have developed the Hindi-Urdu heritage stream that encourages heritage learners to build on their existing linguistic and cultural skills. Teaching transcultural competence along with linguistic competence are particular concerns of mine.