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Either I’m Nobody or I’m a Nation

General Programming

dateApril 11, 2024 timeThursday, 6:15pm EDT location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Columbia University School of the Arts
  • South Asia Institute
  • Institute for Latin American Studies
  • Heyman Center Fellows
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required.

What are the ways in which writers reinforce essentialist ideas or challenge majoritarian views with regard to the nation-state? What are the stories that stand—sometimes silently, but at other times not—besides the dominant or most powerful ones? What constitutes the dynamic interplay between democratic politics and literary forms? In light of these questions, authors Amitava Kumar, Naeem Mohaiemen, and Devika Rege discuss their recently published works, each of which is connected, in one way or another, by the idea of coming together and apart in the same breath.


Amitava Kumar is the author of several works of nonfiction and four novels. His novel Immigrant, Montana was on the best of the year lists at The New Yorker, The New York Times, and President Obama’s list of favorite books of 2018. His 2021 novel A Time Outside This Time was described by The New Yorker magazine as “a shimmering assault on the Zeitgeist.” Kumar’s latest novel My Beloved Life has been described as "extraordinary" by Salman Rushdie. In its starred review, Kirkus calls the novel "an immersive, moving portrait that steadily gathers intensity, vividness, and surprise." Kumar's work has appeared in Granta, The New York Times, Harper’s, BRICK, Guernica, The Nation and several other publications. He has been awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, a United States Artists Fellowship, and is currently a Cullman Center Fellow at the New York Public Library.

Naeem Mohaiemen combines films, photography, drawings, and essays to research lonely families, unstable borders, and leftist uprisings. Several conversations in contemporary museums around “nonalignment” as a concept container for a post-Cold War unstable world pivoted aftwr the premiere of Mohaiemen’s film Two Meetings and a Funeral (2017) at documenta 14 in Germany. He is author of Midnight’s Third Child (Dhaka: Nokta, 2023) and co-editor (w/ Eszter Szakacs) of Solidarity Must be Defended (Budapest: Tranzit, 2023). Mohaiemen is Head of the Photography Concentration at the School of Arts, Columbia University. He was a member of the Society of Fellows from 2020—2021.

Devika Rege's debut novel, Quarterlife, was published in 2023 in India, where it won the Mathrubhumi Book of the Year Award and the Ramnath Goenka Sahitya Samman for Fiction. It will be released in the States and elsewhere in 2024. Rege holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and has received fellowships from Yaddo and MacDowell. She has taught Creative Writing at Azim Premji University and St. Xavier's College, Mumbai. She lives in Bangalore.


Debashree Mukherjee (Heyman Center Fellow 2021-2022) is a scholar of film and media, specializing in modern mass media forms produced in South Asia and its diasporas. She draws methodological insights from film and media studies, feminist decolonial historiography, and environmental humanities. Her first monograph, Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City (Columbia University Press, 2020), presents a practitioner’s eye-view of filmmaking activity in late colonial Bombay, approaching cinema as an ecology of energy relations that connect the studio and the screen. The book investigates the material relations between cinema’s bodies, machines, aesthetics, and environments as they intersected with practices of modernity and freedom in late colonial India. She is currently working on a second book, tentatively titled "Camera Obscura: Media at the Dawn of Planetary Extraction."

Image by Amitava Kumar