“The Sacred and the Secular: The Formation of Sikh Identity in Anita Rau Badami’s Can You Hear the Night Bird Call?”

Date of Presentation


Name of Conference

Forum on Contemporary Theory

Date of Conference


Location of Conference

Goa, India

Document Type

Conference Presentation




In Partitioned lives: narratives of home, displacement, and resettlement, Nandini Bhatia argues that “gendered notion of violence” is linked to ideas of honor and purity, and as such, “women’s bodies become sites of national struggles and sexual violence: Partition narratives are replete with raped, abducted and martyred women (35). Yet, Sikh women’s raped and mutilated bodies do not find narrative space in the aftermath of the 1984 Sikh massacre in India. Most of these women’s bodies, dismembered and dehumanized, remain nameless. In my talk, I contend that although Sikh male bodies are feminized and queered as menacing terrorists, it is Sikh women’s bodies that are literally being erased through killing and dying for Sikh communal honor. I discuss the elision of Sikhs female violence and rape in literary narratives, which leads to further gender erasures and invisibility in Anita Rau Badami's Can you hear the Nightbird Call?.

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