Skip to main content
Browse by:

Susheila Nasta, "The Bloomsbury Indians"

Please join the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute for a lecture by Susheila Nasta.

"The Bloomsbury Indians"

The place where its famous bohemian artists 'lived in squares but loved in triangles', 'Bloomsbury' is frequently represented as a buzzing, dynamic space: crucible for the evolution of Euro-American modernism. It is less well known that in the early years of the twentieth century when Britain was at the height of empire, the area was increasingly inhabited by colonials lured by its reputation for free-thinking, experimentation and dissent. These included numerous Indian students and political radicals whose passages from India to Britain had drawn them to the many universities and lodging houses criss-crossing this cosmopolitan hub.

Extending the parameters of orthodox cultural histories, this talk foregrounds the significant, but hitherto obscured, artistic networks and groupings of South Asian writers, publishers, broadcasters and activists who lived and worked in Bloomsbury in the period following World War 1 and the lead up to Independence, Partition and the decline of empire. Though recent scholarship has drawn attention to convergences between empire and modernism, it has rarely focussed on Britain's empire within, on material histories, local specificities of time and place, on artistic networks and encounters, or the formation of cross-cultural relationships by those who generated such exchanges. Offering a more diverse vista on Bloomsbury, the lecture will expose the often-hidden contours of a differently inflected modernity, situated both within and outside the European body.

Drawing on current work for a collective biography, The Bloomsbury Indians forms part of a wider and lifelong cultural project to change the angle of vision and highlight how Black and Asian writing has long been integral to the formation of British literary culture.

Dr Susheila Nasta MBE FRSL is a writer, presenter, literary activist and Professor Emerita at Queen Mary College, University of London. In 1984 she founded Wasafiri, the Magazine of International Contemporary Writing, one of the first magazines to platform literary voices from Britain's Black British, South Asian, and diasporic communities. As Editor-in-Chief for over three and a half decades, she published 100 issues featuring more than 5000 international writers.