Date: 18th & 19th March 2023

Time: 9 a.m. CDT/ 7.30 p.m. IST

Location: Zoom, with YouTube livestream

Registration link:

Last Date for Registration: 15th March 2023

Event Description:

This 2 day symposium will bring together papers on the the iterations, manifestations, evocations of play in South Asian children’s literature. Children’s literature and material cultures of childhood have always enjoyed a long-standing relationship. In Anglocentric contexts, it is well studied how toymakers and children’s book editors worked hand-in-hand during the “Golden age of children’s literature” to construct a joint children’s market for books and toys (Masaki 2016; Field 2019). However, even though playing, with its various aesthetic, pedagogic, material and cultural meanings, constitutes an important element of South Asian children’s book cultures as well, this phenomenon has remained rather understudied in the academy. To begin with, Lockean ideas of playful education reached nineteenth-century India as a part of colonial experiments with education. This led to the inclusion of play in the formal curriculum and textbook content during the colonial period in India. Moreover, Indian children’s journals in the 19th and 20th centuries not only extensively advertised toys (of foreign and indigenous make), but also regularly included mental puzzles, analytical games, math problems and visual riddles, thus making ‘playing’ a part of the reading process. Beyond the intended pedagogical objectives focussed on developing particular skill sets, play and playthings are significant instruments through which children are subtly conditioned into their social worlds. Usha Mudiganti’s recent work Toying with Childhood (2022) studies literary references of toys which were used to establish an ideal image of innocent childhood in British and American contexts. This ideal image was of course gendered, and conformed to imperialist notions. However, children, as agential beings, are hardly passive recipients of dolls and other playthings, and the social meanings they carry. It would be curious to see what social scripts (to borrow from Robin Bernstein) tend to emerge from the literary depictions of dolls, toys and games in South Asian children’s texts. Finally, playing, with its emphasis on performance and creativity, could definitely also be a tool by which children resist adult-imposed social and cultural structures. Thus, grounding itself in the geographic area of modern South Asia, this symposium asks the following questions: How does the book as a plaything interact with the pedagogical discourse of colonialism? How do postcolonial children’s books view folk games versus imperial games/sports? How do games and sports in indigenous children’s books negotiate with existing and changing patterns of gender, caste and class? What types of linguistic play and innovations emerge in children’s books as a part of processes of decolonization? What does play mean for marginalized bodies in South Asia, and how does it embody violence?


All times given are in Central Daylight Time with a time-zone converter provided below:

Day 1 (18th March)

9 am : Introductory Speech

9.15 am : Roundable–Depiction of Play and Playthings in Indian Children’s Literature


Subhayan Basu— Depiction of the child’s play in Rabindranath Tagore’s children’s literature

Apoorva Dimri –Mechanical Marvels and the MCC: Colonialism and Children’s Games in R.K. Narayan’s Swami and Friends

Athira Mohan — Toys in Malayalam Children’s Literature: The Case of Caste and Imperialism

11 am : Break

11.15 am : Conversation–Children’s Periodicals and Playfulness


Titas Bose — Manoranjana in Reading: Twentieth-Century Hindi Children’s Periodicals and New Reading Practices

Sudarshana Banerjee –Colonial Childhood and Cultures of Literary Consumption: Reading Juvenile Periodicals from Colonial Bengal

Day 2 (19th March)

9 am: Conversation– Linguistic Play in Children’s Literature


Stella Chitralekha Biswas– ‘Where the Mind is Without Fear’: Laughter and Play in Sukumar Ray’s Abol Tabol

Anurima Chanda— Nanasense in a Runcible Hat: Study of Contemporary Indian English Literary Nonsense

10.15 am: Break

10.30 am: Roundtable: Play, Violence and Marginalized Bodies


Sheenam Batra–(Dis)abling Play through the Monstrous Bodies

Debalina Mondal– Guns, Bullets, and Wood Carvings: Deconstructing the Images of Violence, Suffering and Healing in Malik Sajad’s Graphic Novel

Samarth Singhal— Playing the Picturebook: Bhajju Shyam’s Creation

12 pm: Vote of Thanks

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