Now online – the 2017 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture, “Retelling Stories, Disrupting ‘the Social’, Relearning the World” by Richa Nagar

The 2017 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture

Retelling Stories, Disrupting “the Social”, Relearning the World

Richa Nagar (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities)

The 2017 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture took place on August 30th at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in London. Those who were there will no doubt agree that it was a great event; those that weren’t can now watch a film of Richa’s presentation here, and access related Antipode papers below.

The dominant landscape of knowledge and policy rests on a fundamental inequality: bodies who are seen as hungry or precarious are assumed to be available for the interventions of experts, but those experts often obliterate the ways that the hungry actively create politics and knowledge by living a dynamic vision of what is ethical and what makes the good life. Such living frequently involves a creative praxis of refusal against imposed frameworks. For Nagar, learning from such refusals requires “hungry translations” that are open and flowing and that are embedded in embodied alliances that require radical vulnerability. Such translations seek to converse across different struggles and meanings in order to co-agitate against universalized languages that erase the vocabularies and visions of those who are reduced to hungry bodies. In reconceptualising politics as a shared and unending labour on an uneven terrain that makes perfect translation impossible, hungry translations trouble inherited meanings of the social, and they make knowledges more humble and more alive to the creativity of struggle. These translations fearlessly search for poetic justice and social justice through a continuously evolving praxis of retelling that animates collective consciousness without compromising the singularities that constitute each community of struggle.

Richa Nagar is Professor of the College in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA, and an Honorary Professor at the Unit for Humanities at Rhodes University (UHURU), Grahamstown, South Africa. Through a variety of inter-woven, creative engagements that have circulated as academic texts, essays, stories, poems, and plays, Prof. Nagar’s work unsettles the privileged location of academic knowledge production, while also using that location to critique the persistence of multiple oppressions in national and transnational feminist movements and in academia.

Nagar’s first monograph, Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism through Seven Lives in India (Nagar 2006), is the outcome of years of collaboration with village-level activists and feminist NGO workers in Uttar Pradesh, India, who were also co-authors of the book (the Sangtin Writers Collective). First published in Hindi as Sangtin Yatra (Anupamlata et al. 2004), the book challenges academic norms of authorship; it also sparked significant controversy in India and beyond over its treatment of casteism and classism in institutionalized feminist spaces. Nagar’s work with Sangtin Yatra (on which see here) contributed directly to the creation of a grassroots movement of peasants and laborers, called the Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, in the same district of Uttar Pradesh. The movement challenged mainstream notions of empowerment, while demanding the Indian state implement its welfare policies.

In 2014, Nagar published Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminisms Across Scholarship and Activism (Nagar 2014). The book reflects on Nagar’s two decades of transnational feminist praxis and grapples with the complexity of working through solidarities, responsibility, and ethics while involved in politically engaged scholarship. Nagar’s work has always mobilized creative genres to overcome the limitations of more “authoritative” knowledge. A recent example is her collaboration with actor and director Tarun Kumar to create a multi-sited theatre project called Parakh. The project brings together amateurs and professional actors to reflect on social issues through literary texts and through their own stories. Nagar writes in Hindi and English; her work has been translated into Bahasa Indonesia, German, Italian, Mandarin, Marathi, and Turkish. Her book, Hungry Translations: Relearning the World Through Radical Vulnerability, is forthcoming with the University of Illinois Press.

As an introduction to Prof. Richa Nagar’s 2017 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture, we have made a selection of recent papers available to readers without a subscription. Together they reflect themes germane to Nagar’s work, especially subaltern knowledge-making, activist-academic collaboration, and feminist theory and praxis. Many thanks from everyone at Antipode to Wiley’s Rhiannon Rees for all her help with the lecture series and virtual issues – nobody does it better!

Marion Werner (University at Buffalo, SUNY), August 2017


Anupamlata, Ramsheela, Ansari R, Bajpayee V, Vaishya S, Shashibala, Surbala, Singh R and Nagar R (2004) Sangtin Yatra: Saat Zindgiyon Mein Lipta Nari Vimarsh. Sitapur: Sangtin

Nagar R with the Sangtin Writers Collective (2006) Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism through Seven Lives in India. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Nagar R (2014) Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminisms Across Scholarship and Activism. Champaign: University of Illinois Press

The papers

World Making, Critical Pedagogies, and the Geographical Imagination: Where Youth Work Meets Participatory Research

Luke Dickens

Unconsented Sterilisation, Participatory Story-Telling, and Digital Counter-Memory in Peru

Matthew Brown and Karen Tucker

Bodies That Walk, Bodies That Talk, Bodies That Love: Palestinian Women Refugees, Affectivity, and the Politics of the Ordinary

Ruba Salih

Hope in Hebron: The Political Affects of Activism in a Strangled City

Mark Griffiths

Alternative Food Economies and Transformative Politics in Times of Crisis: Insights from the Basque Country and Greece

Rita Calvário and Giorgos Kallis

Gramsci and the African Città Futura: Urban Subaltern Politics From the Margins of Nouakchott, Mauritania

Armelle Choplin and Riccardo Ciavolella

Engagement in a Public Forum: Knowledge, Action, and Cosmopolitanism

Jennifer F. Brewer, Natalie Springuel, James Wilson, Robin Alden, Dana Morse, Catherine Schmitt, Chris Bartlett, Teresa Johnson, Carla Guenther and Damian Brady

Epistemological Ignorances and Fighting for the Disappeared: Lessons from Mexico

Melissa W. Wright

Lifetimes of Disposability and Surplus Entrepreneurs in Bagong Barrio, Manila

Geraldine Pratt, Caleb Johnston and Vanessa Banta

Ghosts, Memory, and the Right to the Divided City: Resisting Amnesia in Beirut City Centre

John Nagle

Contesting the Divided City: Arts of Resistance in Skopje

Ophélie Véron

These Bars Can’t Hold Us Back: Plowing Incarcerated Geographies with Restorative Food Justice

Joshua Sbicca

Of Gardens, Hopes, and Spirits: Unravelling (Extra)Ordinary Community Economic Arrangements as Sites of Transformation in Cape Town, South Africa

Emma Noëlle Hosking and Marcela Palomino-Schalscha

Critical Geographies of Education Beyond “Value”: Moral Sentiments, Caring, and a Politics for Acting Differently

Yi’En Cheng

Isolation Through Humanitarianism: Subaltern Geopolitics of the Siege on Gaza

Ron J. Smith

Beyond Tragedy: Differential Commoning in a Manufactured Housing Cooperative

Elsa Noterman

The Activist Polis: Topologies of Conflict in Indigenous Solidarity Activism

Carrie Mott

Decolonizing Food Justice: Naming, Resisting, and Researching Colonizing Forces in the Movement

Katharine Bradley and Hank Herrera