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Cry, Beloved Homeland

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Organizer: bharati jagannathan

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Human beings have always moved from one place to another; the very dispersal of people across the globe is evidence of this historical transhumance. And yet, in much of recorded history, while some people travelled, for conquest, commerce, livelihood, or even, occasionally, for adventure, the majority stayed ‘home’. One of the many changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution was the large scale movement of people from traditionally established ‘homes’ to new areas. The modern age is witness to great movements, across geographic and national frontiers, so much so that diaspora literature is a well-established genre. Nostalgia for a lost homeland, wonder and delight at a new land which is not home but is becoming one, conflicting loyalties towards new and old homelands, and interrogating the very idea of home and homeland are familiar themes of this literature in the last couple of centuries. What, however, were the notions of homeland in the pre-modern age? Was there a notion of homeland at all? How did those who ventured from ‘home’ speak about the land they had left behind? What were the markers of ‘home’ and ‘abroad’? In a world before nation states, did travellers and migrants speak of home with political tones besides linguistic, religious and social? Travel and migration need not necessarily take persons to unfamiliar language and cultural scapes; home and displacement can be felt within a much smaller geographical zone, inside an area of shared languages. This panel would like to explore the ideas of home, of creations of new homes, of articulating homes and homelands in a wide variety of registers from the pre-modern world. The voices of travellers, i.e those who might expect to return are as welcome as of those wanderers who are perhaps eternally parted from their ‘home’. These insights may come from autobiographical, biographical and descriptive literature, as well as from poetry, drama and even religious literature of the pre-modern world.

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