Vernacular English: Reading the Anglophone in Postcolonial India

How English has become a language of the people in India—one that enables the state but also empowers protests against it


Published (US):
Mar 1, 2022
Published (UK):
Mar 22, 2022
6.13 x 9.25 in.
15 b/w illus.
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Against a groundswell of critiques of global English, Vernacular English argues that literary studies are yet to confront the true political import of the English language in the world today. A comparative study of three centuries of English literature and media in India, this original and provocative book tells the story of English in India as a tale not of imperial coercion, but of a people’s language in a postcolonial democracy.

Focusing on experiences of hearing, touching, remembering, speaking, and seeing English, Akshya Saxena delves into a previously unexplored body of texts from English and Hindi literature, law, film, visual art, and public protests. She reveals little-known debates and practices that have shaped the meanings of English in India and the Anglophone world, including the overlooked history of the legislation of English in India. She also calls attention to how low castes and minority ethnic groups have routinely used this elite language to protest the Indian state.

Challenging prevailing conceptions of English as a vernacular and global lingua franca, Vernacular English does nothing less than reimagine what a language is and the categories used to analyze it.

Awards and Recognition

  • Shortlisted for the ASAP Book Prize, Association for the Arts of the Present
  • Winner of the First Book Prize, Modern Language Association