This talk will explore the feminist poetics of postcolonial Punjabi poetry, focusing specifically on Amrita Pritam and Nasreen Anjum Bhatti. Through a close reading of their poems, “Ajj aakhan Waris Shah nu” and “Neel karaiyaan neelkaan,” I will discuss how these progressive poets deployed the Hir narrative as a genre of contestation to critique the multiple patriarchies of nation, region and community. Their radical re-working of Hir’s voice works to de-centre male authorial privilege in the Punjabi literary formation, constituting the vernacular as a site for engaging with tradition under modernity. Together, their poems offer a historiographical and literary reconstruction of cultural identity to place women as active subjects and narrators of history.
Sara Kazmi is currently pursuing a PhD in postcolonial literatures at the University of Cambridge. Her dissertation looks at literary radicalism in postcolonial Punjabi poetry in India and Pakistan, focusing on how issues around gender, caste and labour intersect with regional culture and national identity.