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DEDICATION

For Hania, Iqbal, and Najma


with whom I did not have enough time,
but whose spirits are with me always.

For the Afrasian communities


past, present, and future,
who devise worlds otherwise.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The common wisdom is that it takes a village to survive the journey of a Ph.D.. But,

when you’re South Asian like I am and have a penchant for going big (see: Bollywood cinema),

it takes a megacity-sized community to help you thrive.

I am confident that there are no faculty more brilliant, kind, and generous than my

dissertation committee members, Asha Nadkarni, Johan Mathew, and Rachel Mordecai. Having

them as my foremost audience allowed me a harbor from which I could research and write this

challenging project, one that often felt untenable in its ambition. When I faltered, they put things

in perspectives by asking the right questions, pointing me back to places where I was on firmer

footing so that I could build from there (again), and encouraging me to take creative leaps (that

always paid off). More than dissertation committee members, Asha, Johan, and Rachel have

provided me blueprints for how to think, write, teach, mentor, and act in the profession. It has

been a gift to have them in this journey and I look forward to continuing to build with them in

the years to come.

In addition to my committee members, I have benefitted from the mentorship and support

of numerous faculty members at UMass Amherst. They include Mazen Naous, Malcolm Sen,

Jenny Adams, Jordy Rosenberg, Hoang Phan, Ruth Jennison, Agustin Lao Montes, and Amilcar

Shabazz. Without Stephen Clingman and Suzanne Daly’s guidance in my first year, I may not

have returned; the late Deborah Carlin’s generous and critical facilitation of a challenging and

rewarding seminar in theory continues to inform me as a scholar, writer, and teacher today. Ron

Welburn taught me how to think carefully and care well for one’s community. I will never forget

the encouraging card he wrote me on the first day of teaching for my first stand-alone literature

course.
The English department staff – Wanda Bak, Celeste Stuart, Mary Coty, and Tom Racine

– made administrative tasks a lot more bearable. Barbara McGlynn expertly handled all the

travel reimbursements, which helped soothe the financial burden of waiting. Mary Lashway

helpfully arranged the space for my dissertation defense when the audience bloomed beyond

what English department spaces could hold. My colleagues at the Graduate School have put on

beautiful Commencements years in and out and it has been a pleasure to work alongside them in

years past. I am excited to see you from the other side of the festivities this May. Thank you

especially to Sue Mellin, Tina Johnson, Lori Baronas, and Will Kazmier.

As an extreme extrovert and experiential learner, I am grateful for the opportunity to have

shared my work in numerous forums. Thank you to conference and seminar audiences at the

Northeast Modern Language Association (2012), Society for Novel Studies (2014), the British

Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies (2015), American Comparative Literature Association

(2016), Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (2016), Modern

Language Association (2017, 2018), African Literature Association (2017), East African

Literature and Cultural Studies Association (2017), National Women’s Studies Association

(2018), and the South Literary Association (2019). I am grateful to Tina Steiner, who invited me

to submit my work on Shailja Patel’s Migritude, for a special issue on Indian Ocean Trajectories

in the journal of the EALCS; portions of that article have been reproduced in Chapter 1 of this

dissertation. Sylvia Chan-Malik was a wonderful chair and respondent on my NWSA panel; her

questions and comments continue to provoke critical thought and will for a long time to come.

Travel funds from the UMass English department, MLA, NeMLA, and NWSA have supported

many of these conference presentations. The UMass English department contributed significant

funds for a research trip to South Africa in 2016 and I am grateful to the Gandhi-Luthuli
Documentation Centre staff at the University of KwaZulu-Natal as well as the District Six

Museum staff in Cape Town for their help in navigating the sedimented histories of racial

conflict and collaboration among the minoritized. The UMass Graduate School’s REAL

fellowship and a teaching-release fellowship from the UMass English department helped

tremendously in providing the necessary funding for focused writing in 2016 and 2017. Thank

you to Dean Barbara Krauthamer for her pivotal work in bringing to fruition the REAL

fellowship program; acquiring NCFDD membership for our institution, which has allowed me to

learn so much about the ins and outs of the profession and finding a healthy work life balance;

and, of course, for her generosity and enthusiasm that uplifted me and many others as we trudged

along in dissertation writing.

In AY2018-19, I was fortunate to join the Five College Womens Studies Research Center

(FCWSRC) as an Associate, a site of feminist worldmaking without which surviving my final

year of graduate school would have been a lot more challenging. In particular, I am grateful to

our director, Jennifer Hamilton, and our program coordinator, Nayiree Roubinian. Fellow

Associates Susana Loza, Charlotte Karam, Mary Njeri Kinyanjui, Anagha Tambe, and Crystal

Hayes have also been wonderful interlocutors. Chriss Sneed and I seem to resonate at the same

frequency and it has been a gift to build with them at FCWSRC this year; I look forward to

future collaborations. My thanks, too, to the Five College’s A/P/A works in progress group co-

directed by Iyko Day and Asha Nadkarni, who invited me to share work and celebrated in my

victories this year. Many thanks to Agnes Kimokoti, Coretta Odero, the late Amy Wordelman,

Theo Hull, and Hayley Culver at the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages,

who made it possible for me to study Kiswahili. I cannot quite put into English alone what it

means to make a home in Kiswahili. Asante sana.


My work with students at the Amherst College Writing Center and the UMass Women of

Color Leadership Network fortified my energies during the dissertation writing period. I am

grateful to colleagues at both organizations, particularly Jessica Kem, Emily Merriman, Susan

Daniels, Hind Mari, Doris Nyamwaya, Mohita Abbaraju, Hema Ramachandran, and Hannah

Youssef for making the work meaningful and the workplace inviting.

I would not be here, writing dissertation acknowledgements, were it not for the wonderful

faculty at Pace University, who both planted the seed for academia as a profession and warned

me of all its pitfalls. The lessons I learned from Catherine Zimmer, Sid Ray, Jonathan Silverman,

and Satish Kolluri have been critical. I frequently reflect upon conversations I had with the late

Tom Henthorne and wish I had the opportunity for more conversation now. Bill Offutt made it

possible for me to change course during my first year in college from a pre-med track to

majoring in the humanities. I, sometimes, doubt the choice – no profession is perfect – but, in the

end, it is clear that his guidance allowed me to make the right decision for myself. Bill also

taught me that strong mentors listen well and problem solve in collaboration with their mentees.

My fellow Fellows at the Dyson Society of Fellows have been vital interlocutors in critical

thought and good humor. Thank you especially to Ian Morlan, Gail Greenberg, and Andrea

Fernandez for providing encouragement along the way.

Academia takes its toll on our bodies and mind in equal measure and it is a heavy toll.

Thank you to Dr. Pierre Rouzier for taking my symptoms seriously from guiding me to the

resources I needed as the environmental allergens of Western Massachusetts wreaked havoc on

me to helping me create a physical therapy and pain management plan for the chronic pain that

accompanies academic life. My (usually) bi-weekly acupuncture appointments with Jack Radner

have been the most consistent appointments (next to my allergy shots) that I maintained through
graduate school. These moments of reprieve from the hamster wheel of life rejuvenated me.

Conversations with Jaycelle Basford-Pequet, LICSW, were critical to unlocking the negative

patterns I found myself in as well as affirming my off kilter practices of relaxation. If only one

could have a therapist as great as mine, we would do much better by each other. The Graduate

Employee Organization deserves special mention, especially under Anna Waltman’s leadership,

during which she and others on the bargaining team won wage increases and excellent healthcare

(to name only two important wins) for us. Without such good healthcare, I really cannot imagine

surviving graduate school despite being relatively healthy and able-bodied.

Thank you to my colleagues in the UMass English department’s dissertation group

(2016-2018) and my job market squad, Ashley Nadeau, Lauren Silber, Liz Fox, and Manuela

Borzone without whom the last few years would have been even more soul sucking. Your astute

insights on my chapters and careful feedback on job materials allowed me to finish strong!

Martha Balaguera and Alex Ponomaroff gave me the push I needed to assert my voice and

politics when they read an early draft of Chapter 5 in our 2016 REAL Fellows summer

dissertation group. I return to their comments whenever I need to be reminded me of the stakes

of decolonial work.

Mike Soha, Jenny Krichevsky, Carlin Mackie, hari stephen kumar, Travis Grandy, and

Kelin Loe have been part of my journey here from its earliest days, shaping the foundations of

my teaching, research, and writing. Studying abroad in Cuba would have been far less fun and

intellectually engaging without Trent Masiki. Crystal Donkor’s humor and frankness helped me

survive more than one challenge. Ashley Carpenter’s abiding commitment to students of color

has been a balm. Eli Bromberg’s mix of dry humor and sharp critique make receiving his

feedback a joy. Robin Garabedian and Anna-Claire Simpson were lifesaving writing
accountability in the final push of writing and revising as well as wonderful friends in the long

haul. Rye Ellis Katz and Greenlee Brown are part of my constellation in living otherwise from

the forces of normative lifeworlds. Gratitude for that cannot be put into mere words so I hope to

thank them in action in the long life of our friendship. Julia Bernier’s friendship has nourished

me throughout the years, teaching me how to indulge in seriousness and frivolity with equal

ease. I look forward to many more Sourdough Loaf Screen Porch writing retreats.

It is a rare privilege and a true joy to find colleagues with whom you can dream big and

then work hard to actualize those dreams. My experiences working with the English Graduate

Organization from 2009 to 2016 taught me how to be a good institutional member. I am

particularly grateful to have shared the experience of organizing our graduate conference with

the 2013 committee (“Citizenship and Its Discontents: Belonging in a Global World”) and

serving as co-chair from 2010 to 2012. Many thanks to Ruth Lahti, Julie Burrell, Amy Brady,

Denia Fraser, Rachel Jessica Daniel, and Lisha Daniels Storey, who, at the very beginning,

mentored me on how to find my place in the program.

Many of the folks who I worked with on “Citizenship and Its Discontents” came together

for a second event, an even more brilliant opportunity to convene colleagues and senior faculty

for a methods symposium on black, postcolonial, and queer studies. Our invited faculty for this

event – Lisa Lowe, Christina Sharpe, and Kimberly Juanita Brown – have mentored me

generously since we first gathered for conversations on critical methods. They pointed me

toward Saidiya Hartman’s work and the practice of critical fabulation, which became a

cornerstone of how I approach the work of my profession. In addition to shaping my scholarly

practice, I have benefitted from their wonderful recommendations in visual art, television,

movies, and music, all of which remind me to make time for joy, delight, and rest. I shudder
when I try to imagine navigating the academic job market without Kimberly’s sage advice; she

has truly help me set a strong foundation for a career. I am also grateful to my postcolonial

method workshop co-participants for helping me find a way to realize “afrasian imaginaries”

when it was just a seedling. Thank you especially to Ayshia Stephenson, Siddhant Issar, Maryam

Fatima, and Imani Wadud.

Even as so much of contemporary culture derides social media, I remain grateful for

Twitter, where I have been able to learn from legions of critics, writers, and organizers. I turned

to this site when I was starting comps and felt extremely isolated. You all modeled for me what it

communities of care look like, how to engage in substantive dialogue, and to prioritize critical

reflection and vulnerability when it is far too easy to harden up and close off from others. To do

this work publicly where people can learn from your example is a gift. Thank you Mariame

Kaba, Keguro Macharia, Rinaldo Walcott, Katherine McKittrick, Karla Hollaway, Dorothy

Robinson, Manu Samriti Chander, Eugenia Zurowski, Travis Chi Wing Lau, Tamara K. Nopper,

Zoe Samudzi, William Jamal Richardson, Bedour Alagraa, Tressie McMillian Cottom, Roxane

Gay, Raul Pacheco-Vega, Xine Yao, Manan Ahmed, Adia Benton, Ashon Crawley, Zandria

Robinson, Daniel Jose Older, Steven Salaita, Kiese Laymon, Brittney Cooper, Rahawa Haile,

Wambui Mwangi, Siddhartha Mitter, SA Smythe, Nick Mitchell, Namira Islam, Donna Austin,

Karen Williams, Eve L. Ewing, Hannah Giorgis, Marcia Chatelain, Laurent DuBois, Kinna

Likimani, Neelika Jayawardane, and Roopika Risam.

Through what seems like brilliant luck, in separate chance encounters, I met Sean M.

Kennedy, Asmina I. Nikolopoulou, and Thando Njovane. We might only have known each other

for a handful of years at this point but it feels like we have been interlocutors in our shared
profession and in our politics for more than one lifetime. Thank you immensely for your support.

I look forward to many more collaborations beyond the ones we have undertaken already.

My colleagues in postcolonial studies in the UMass English department have made it

possible to call this place a home. For that, my gratitude is enormous. Thank you Subhalakshmi

Gooptu, Saumya Lal, Joy Hayward Jansen, and Korka Sall. Our work together is only beginning

and I am excited to follow the work you each do individually.

I am fortunate to have a number of smart and generous women of color academics in my

circle. Jamele Watkins and I met in my first year, but it took several more years for us to connect

substantively and lay the groundwork for what became one of my most important friendships. I

am grateful for the many ways she teaches me how to be well and do well in this profession and

in the world. Marwa Amer helps me keep my wits about me and roasts me in equal measure.

Flávia Santos de Araújo is simultaneously a grounding and uplifting force. Thank you to Isabel

Espinal for microaffections, a most necessary antidote for the microaggressions that plague

academia.

Kevina King, Edwin Murenzi, Tiamba Wilkerson, Nara Sritharan, Matthew Donlevy,

Josh Odam, and Santiago Vidales make life in the Valley far more livable. The WhatsApp thread

is a life force and the last few years would be so dull without you all to put it mildly. Armanthia

Duncan’s commitment to freedom work and critical thought as praxis toward it teaches me how

to be better all the time. I am grateful to share in the hard work of building a better world and

finding joy throughout the process with her. Sean Ash Gordon is an incomparable intellectual

partner. He has read as many iterations of the arguments made within this dissertation as there

are in existence. His keen engagement with and faith in the project have helped me weather the

stormier parts of the journey.


Beyond the friendships that bloomed while surviving graduate school, I have managed to

hang onto dear friends who have had to put up with me for a lot longer. Katherine Spencer Carey

helped maintain my sanity that first year in Northampton. I’m grateful to Grace Riley for always

saying “Yes!” to my impromptu travel suggestions. Tyler Davis, Cat Kirifides, and Adam

Reichardt have taken me seriously when I needed it and reminded me to let go when the time

calls for it. Their willingness to show up time and again, especially after long bouts of not

hearing from me, means the world. It is often challenging to feel seen and heard from our family

and friends who are not academics, but they refuse the distinction between these Ivory Tower

and outside of it.

Finally, thank you to Fauzia Qadir, Hamza Qadir, Naved Hashmi, Shehzad Hashmi,

Nusrat Naved, Adiba Khan, and Wazir Khan. Despite not knowing fully the intricacies of my

day-to-day, you show up for me fully, your wayward family member pursuing a humanities PhD.

You tolerate my work-life imbalance with such grace. Thank you for feeding me, for making me

laugh, for comforting me when the going got tough, for believing in me always. Thank you,

especially, since all of you do this from a great physical distance. Afrasian Imaginaries is a

migrant narrative, like our family narrative. The quotidian practice of maintaining our

relationships is a blueprint for me, in doing this work, in unsettling the family and community

histories that have been buried.

And, then, there’s Haathi, meera saathi. Thank you for taking me on your long morning

walks, for glaring at me when I procrastinated from writing, and for encouraging me to take

breaks when I had been sitting too long. I certainly could have written a dissertation without a

doggo, but it has been far more fun to do it in your company.

‫اﻧﻘﻼ ب زﻧﺪه ﺑﺎد‬