In an interconnected world, literature moves through transnational networks, crosses borders, and bridges diverse cultures. In these ways, literature can bring people closer together. Today, as hopes for globalization wane and exclusionary nationalism is on the march, can literature still offer new ways of relating with others? Comparative literature has long been under the spell of circulation, contact, connectivity, and mobility—what if it instead sought out their antitheses?
States of Disconnect examines the breakdown of transnationalism through readings of literary texts that express aversion to pairing ideas of China and India. Focusing on practices of comparison, Adhira Mangalagiri considers how these texts articulate the undesirability or impossibility of relating with national others, tracing portrayals of violence, silence, and distance. She proposes the concept of “disconnect”: a crisis of transnationalism perceptible in moments when a connection is severed, interrupted, or disavowed. Despite their apparent insularity, texts of disconnect offer possibilities for relating ethically across national borders while resisting both narrow nationalisms and globalized habits of thought.
Reading a variety of largely untranslated 20th-century Chinese and Hindi short stories, novels, and poems, Mangalagiri develops three new strategies for comparison—friction, ellipses, and contingency—that together comprise a critical vocabulary of disconnect. Foregrounding transnationalism’s discontents, States of Disconnect offers a different path by which literary texts can cultivate a critical sensibility for making sense of a world rife with division.