Nishaant Choksi

Dec 8, 2021

Graphic Politics in Eastern India

Script and the Quest for Autonomy

Bloomsbury 2021

Investigating the communicative practices of indigenous Santali speakers in eastern India, this book examines the overlooked role of script in regional movements for autonomy to provide one of the first comprehensive theoretical and ethnographical accounts of 'graphic politics'.

Based on extensive fieldwork in the villages of southwestern West Bengal, Nishaant Choksi explores the deployment of Santali scripts, including a newly created script called Ol Chiki, in Bengali-dominated local markets, the education system and in the circulation of print media. He shows how manipulating the linguistic landscape and challenging the idea of a vernacular enables Santali speakers to delineate their own political domains and scale their language on local, regional and national levels. In doing so, they contest Bengali-speaking upper castes' hegemony over public spaces and institutions, as well as the administrative demarcations of the contemporary Indian nation-state.

Combining semiotic theory with ethnographically grounded investigation, Graphic Politics in Eastern India: Script and the Quest for Autonomy (Bloomsbury, 2021) offers a new framework for understanding writing and literacy practices among ethnic minorities and points to future directions for interdisciplinary research on indigenous autonomy in South Asia.

Amir Lehman is an MA student in linguistics at UCL.

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