Image taken by Nukhbah Taj Langah


Religion, Secularism and Nationalism: Literature of South Asia”

Guest Editors: Nukhbah Taj Langah and Goutam Karmakar

The history of colonization has significantly impacted the understanding of three key terms within the context of South Asia: religion, secularism, and nationalism. Considering the fact that the idea of civic nationalism as a political formation is arguably a Western liberal construct that is intricately linked to imperial legacies, the overarching question remains how religion has convoluted the secular and nationalistic perceptions within the South Asian context. Religion and nationalism in South Asia are frequently determined by the racist rhetoric of certain communities and the extremist rhetoric of fundamentalism and religious fanaticism; minority politics; issues of caste, class, and ethnic identity; border politics; pseudo-secular overtones coupled with liminality; rhetoric of war and violence; right-wing politics; defensive strategies and essentialism; and diaspora and ambivalence, among others.

Based on such a convoluted context, this special issue seeks to explicate how the rich religious, political, and cultural dynamics of South Asia remain entwined with questions such as: how can democratic processes be implemented in independent states by separating politics from religion? How do certain literary texts depict the notion of nationalism expanding beyond the concept of a single nation due to the intricate ethnic, regional, and cultural offshoots? How does the idea of nations within a (independent) nation create the need for a broader understanding of nationalism? How does religious mobilization in South Asian literary narratives become a carrier of culture within and beyond South Asian countries? How can (mis)conceptions regarding religious fundamentalism be understood through the policies and politics of secularism and postcolonial nationalism? In what ways does religion in the South Asian literary landscape play a significant part in the creation of political structures and secular democracies in South Asia?

Addressing these pertinent questions, this SARE special issue aims to explore the representation of "Religion, Secularism and Nationalism" in contemporary South Asian literature. This special issue aims to investigate the extent to which religious and national identities are regarded as potent dimensions of social participation in South Asian literature. This special issue also intends to probe deeper into literary and theoretical studies of particular authors and writings to locate how religions in South Asia enhance cohesiveness among all creed-sharing adherents, regardless of their geopolitics, and how countries assert a unity of those sharing attributes, such as linguistic, racial, and ethnic diversity, within a particular geo/demography. The crucial questions raised above evidently invite us to explore the layers of identity and representation issues deeply rooted in the highly charged historical and political context of South Asia. This can be approached through the literary and cultural analysis of diverse literary productions. Contemporary South Asian literature remains significantly impacted by this dense socio-political and cultural context. Hence, themes concerning nationalism, evolving identity concerns, and resistance are reflected in the works of many South Asian writers, including: Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Rabindranath Tagore, Khushwant Singh, Rabisankar Bal, Taslima Nasreen, Kazi Nazurul Islam, Saadat Hasan Manto, Bapsi Sidhwa, Fehmida Riaz, Jameel Ahmed, Kamila Shamsie, Mohammad Hanif, Sri Nissanka, Lakdasa Wikkramasinha, Yasmin Goonerante Manjushree Thapa, Lekhnath Paudyal, Lakshmi Prasad Devkota, Prasad Koirala, Balkrishna Sama, Khaled Hosseni, Husain Salaahuddheen, Bodufenvalhuge Sidi, Ibrahim Shihab, Saikuraa Ibrahim Naeeem, and many more writers belonging to the peripheries.

We invite critical academic debates from scholars interested in exploring such challenges emerging from South Asia as represented through their primary focus on literary discourses. The thematic focus may include but is not limited to the following areas of interest reflecting through South Asian literature:

Evolving dynamics of South Asian identity

Redefining nationhood and nationalism

Tradition vs modern South Asia

Religion vs. nationalism

Place, identity and ethnic nationalism

Gender, religion and identity

Redefining Nationalism(s)

Secularism and the formation of the nation-states

South Asian Diaspora and nationalism

Ethno-nationalism and nationhood

Language, Identity and Nationalism

Religious minorities and politics of otherization

Secularism and postcolonial nationalism

Religious fundamentalism and extremism

Right-wing Politics in South Asia

Religion, war, and nationalism

Articles & Book Reviews

This SARE issue invites scholarly articles (5000 and 7000 words), and book reviews (not more than 1500 words) addressing the themes suggested above.

Creative-Non-Fiction & Poetry

We are also inviting creative prose/non-fiction and poetry (originally written in English and/or translated from other South Asian languages) related to the thematic focus of this issue. Creative non-fiction should not be longer than 4000 words.

Abstracts of 200 words (maximum), along with a 50-word author bio, are to be emailed to Guest Editors, SARE at with a copy to The Editor, SARE at by 15 November 2022.

All decisions about the selection of contributions will be sent out by 30 November 2022.

The deadline for the submission of full papers (5000-7000 words) and/or creative non-fiction/poetry: is 1 March 2023. Submissions should be in English and uploaded to the SARE website through the “Make a Submission” portal at

Publication date: July 2023

If you have any questions related to the special issue, please direct your inquiries to The Editor, SARE at or

About Guest Editors

Dr. Nukhbah Taj Langah, Ph.D. (English) obtained her PhD from University of Leeds, UK in 2008. She started teaching at Forman Christian College University, Lahore (Pakistan) in 2009 while also fulfilling key administrative roles within the domain of Humanities. Her doctoral research is published as a monograph entitled, Poetry as Resistance: Islam and Ethnicity in Postcolonial Pakistan (Routledge, 2011).  She did her post-doc from Center of South Asia Studies (Le Centre d'Études de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud), Paris in 2016-17. As Charles Wallace Fellow (2018) at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, she conducted a project focused on Siraiki Language speakers in Britain : An Ethnographic Study.  Her first edited volume focused on Literary and non-Literary Responses towards 9/11 (Routledge, 2019); she also co-edited two  volumes entitled, Film, Media, and Representation in Postcolonial South Asia (Routledge 2021) and Narratives of Loss and Longing: Literary developments in Post-colonial South Asia with Dr. Roshni Sengupta (School of Modern Media UPES, Dehradun, India). She has co-translated acknowledged Urdu poet, Noshi Gillani’s poems in collaboration with British poet, Lavinia Greenlaw (Poems: Noshi Gillani Enitharmon, 2008) and contemporary Siraiki poetry by  into English for the Poetry Translation Center (London).  She is currently coediting a book focused on marginality and identity in Pakistan with Dr. Goutam Karmakar. She is a freelance translator, a political activist and pursues interdisciplinary approaches in postcolonial studies through her teaching and research. She will be joining the department of English, University of Malaya (Kuala Lumpur) in 2023.


Goutam Karmakar, Ph.D. (English), is an Assistant Professor of English at Barabazar Bikram Tudu Memorial College, Sidho-Kanho-Birsha University, Purulia, West Bengal, India. At present, he is working as an NRF Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. His forthcoming and recently published edited books are Nation and Narration: Hindi Cinema and the Making and Remaking of National Consciousness (Routledge, forthcoming), The Poetry of Jibanananda Das: Aesthetics, Poetics, and Narratives (Routledge, forthcoming), Narratives of Trauma in South Asian Literature (Routledge), The City Speaks: Urban Spaces in Indian Literature (Routledge, 2022), and Religion in South Asian Anglophone Literature: Traversing Resistance, Margins and Extremism (Routledge, 2021). He has been published in journals, including Visual Anthropology, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Intersections, SARE, IUP Journal of English Studies, MELUS, Interdisciplinary Literary Studies, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Comparative Literature: East & West, Journal of International Women’s Studies, South Asia Research, Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, South Asian Review, Journal of Gender Studies, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, National Identities, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, and Asiatic among others.