Guest lecture by Alex Tickell

Can the Slum-dweller Speak? Katherine Boo and the Postcolonial Politics of Literary Journalism

Do. 08.02.108, 18:00 c. t. – IG 4.201

My paper examines the rise of forms of narrative reportage and creative non-fiction in representations of the city and urban subaltern communities in India. Drawing on my recent research on citizenship, infrastructure and writings on the city, I will discuss the postcolonial ethics and politics of literary journalism with special reference to Katherine Boo’s celebrated account of Mumbai’s Annawadi settlement, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum (2012). My aim is to theorise Boo’s use of first-person narrative voices in this text, and contrast this fictionalising technique with Aman Sethi’s ‘involved’ narrative reportage in his work of the same year: A Free Man: A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi (2012).


Alex Tickell is Senior Lecturer in English at The Open University, UK. He holds a PhD from the University of Leeds and taught at the University of York and University of Portsmouth. He is a literary historian with a special interest in South-Asian and South-East Asian literary cultures, contemporary fiction and conjunctions of writing and politics and the author of Terrorism, Insurgency and Indian-English Literature, 1830-1947 (2012) and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (2007) as well as the editor of the forthcoming 10th volume ofThe Oxford History of the Novel in English: The Novel in South and South-East Asia since 1945.