In this Episode we talk to Ira Raja about her work on how ageing figures might disrupt imaginaries of the nation. The conversation centres on her article titled, “Nation and Ageing: Mother India’s Mutable Body”, from The Handbook to Ageing, forthcoming from Bloomsbury, and that centres on the play by Krishna Vaid ‘Our Old Woman’.  We start from the ways in which imaginaries of the nation are often constructed through motherly figures, and how in India, certain mothers, such as Dalit and Muslim mothers, cannot be abstracted to stand in for the nation. Ira then talks about the ambivalence inherent in the figure of the ageing mother as either a token of postcolonial decline, or in the reading she offers, as having great potential in signalling a nation more porous and open to change, crucial in a time of rampant Hindutva. 


In conversation with:

Ira Raja (The University of Delhi, New Delhi)

Ira Raja is Professor of English at the University of Delhi and she held the Potsdam Postcolonial Chair for Global Modernities in the 2022 Summer Semester. Her primary research interests are postcolonial literature and ageing studies. Her recent published articles focus on the attachment to objects in late life, and literary and cultural narratives of care, illness and death. She is part of the Global Editorial Collective of the journal Postcolonial Studies and co-editor of Thesis Eleven: Critical Theory and Historical Sociology. She also published Grey Areas: An Anthology of Contemporary Indian Fiction on Ageing in 2010. 

Reference List

Read about “Rohith Vemula: The student who died for Dalit rights” here. Farooq, Omer. BBC. 19 January 2016.

  • Chatterjee, P. (1997), The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Cohen, L. (1998), No Aging in India: Alzheimer’s, the Bad Family and Other Modern Things, Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Kumar, Saurav. Experiences of Old Age in Indian Fiction: A Study of Two Indian Short Stories. The Gerontologist, Volume 62, Issue 3, April 2022, Pages 445–451
  • Nandy, A. (1988), The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism, New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Said, E. W. (1995), Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient, London: Penguin.
  • Raja, Ira. “Nation and Ageing: Mother India’s Mutable Body”, The Handbook to Ageing, forthcoming from Bloomsbury. 
  • Ramaswamy, S. (2007), ‘Body Politic(s): Maps and Mother Goddesses in Modern India,’ in R. H. Davis (ed.) Picturing the Nation: Iconographies of Modern India, New Delhi: Orient Longman, pp. 32–50.
  • Vaid, K. B. (2001), ‘Our Old Woman,’ trans. by the author, Hindi: Language, Discourse, Writing, 2.3, pp. 33–79.
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