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Writing popular culture in colonial Punjab, 1885– 1905
Churnjeet Mahn

This chapter identifies some of the ways a Punjabi literary sphere was (mis)understood in the late-Victorian empire through the curation of a canon of Punjabi folk-culture by R. C. Temple, Flora Annie Steel and C. F. Usborne. These people lived and worked in Punjab as an extension of colonial administration. The chapter offers an overview of a partial and an incomplete project to variously transcribe, translate, curate and analyse a version of 'common' Punjabi culture conventionally divorced from official literary contexts. It does this by analysing the boundary between oral culture and print culture. Temple's three-volume Legends of the Punjab brought together texts that were mostly circulated through performance, but were also appearing in Punjabi print. Based on stories she had heard or collected, Steel published Wide-Awake Stories, which was later published as Tales of the Punjab and From the Five Rivers.

in Interventions

What can culture, and its manifestations in artistic and creative forms, ‘do’? Creativity and resistance draws on original collaborative research that brings together a range of stories and perspectives on the role of creativity and resistance in a hostile environment. In times of racial nationalism across the world, it seeks to connect, in a grounded way, how creative acts have agitated for social change. The book suggests that creative actions themselves, and acting together creatively, can at the same time offer vital sources of hope.

Drawing on a series of case studies, Creativity and resistance focuses on the past and emergent grassroots arts work that has responded to migration, racism and social exclusion across several contexts and locations, including England, Northern Ireland and India. The book makes a timely intervention, foregrounding the value of creativity for those who are commonly marginalised from centres of power, including from the mainstream cultural industries. Bringing together academic research with individual and group experiences, the authors also consider the possibilities and limitations of collaborative research projects.

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Creativity and resistance in a hostile world
Sarita Malik, Churnjeet Mahn, Michael Pierse, and Ben Rogaly

In this chapter we offer the critical and theoretical backdrop to Creativity and resistance, a project designed to understand the connection between creativity and resistance for marginalised communities. We begin by discussing the context of the ‘hostile environment’ in the UK and the rise in xenophobia and racism which has accompanied Brexit. We extend this discussion into a broader consideration of ethnonationalism and histories of racism and empire to understand the value in connecting different geographical case studies in order to read a continuity and commonality between types of artistic resistance. Through a discussion of grassroots creative movements, we consider how different kinds of power structures have the potential to create more inclusive models for society and how creativity can become a crucial tool for enacting social change. Finally, the chapter introduces the chapters in the volume, all of which explore different dimensions of the arguments raised in the introduction.

in Creativity and resistance in a hostile world
Churnjeet Mahn, Sarita Malik, Michael Pierse, and Ben Rogaly

In this chapter we outline the theory and practice that undergirded our solidarity in the project. The chapter contains some of the readings, the references, the routes, that we all brought into the project to understand how creative forms of resistance have responded to hostile environments and why. We consider in particular how our work was inspired by bell hooks’ concept of ‘radical openness’, reflect on border art as resistance and expand on what we mean by interruption. At the end we consider some of the potential contradictions entailed when salaried academics attempt to engage in work that is radically transformational.

in Creativity and resistance in a hostile world
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Michael Pierse, Churnjeet Mahn, Sarita Malik, and Ben Rogaly

The conclusion brings together the range of learning across the book in relation to co-creativity, radical openness and creative interruptions in a hostile world. It suggests where the project has succeeded in developing creative interventions that disrupt the political status quo, while also conceding those areas where its attempts at doing so were scuppered or constrained by ideologies, orthodoxies and material practices. The chapter considers Henry Giroux’s concept of the ‘disimagination machine’ of neoliberalism and how the creative interruptions surveyed create resources and strategies with which to challenge the mechanisms of disimagination; it asks how we have used creativity to envisage alternative futures and connect with radical pasts.

in Creativity and resistance in a hostile world
Creative resistance in Preet Nagar
Churnjeet Mahn, Anne Murphy, Raghavendra Rao KV, Poonam Singh, Ratika Singh, and Samia Singh

In this chapter we focus on creative approaches to understanding what Partition means today in a part of East Punjab close to the Indo-Pak border, more specifically, the village of Preet Nagar. Preet Nagar was founded as an intended community by the Punjabi literary figure Gurbakhsh Singh (1895–1977), a member of the Progressive Writers Association (founded in 1936). The chapter is based on our work in Preet Nagar between 2017–19, which used the village’s history as an artists’ colony with a radical humanist, socialist vision as the starting point for an interruption of mainstream methods in representations of Partition history. The chapter offers an introduction to the importance of the Progressive Writers Association in the 1930s and how the principles of inclusive and co-operative artistic work have, and have not, persisted into the contemporary lives of the residents of Preet Nagar. It argues that while the original vision of Preet Nagar may have been disrupted by the violence and legacy of Partition, there are still vital connections to pre-Partition Punjab which can offer the framework for radical and inclusive arts practice, including art and literature.

in Creativity and resistance in a hostile world