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Social Science and Public Policy

Secret Stories of the City: Bangalore and Bombay in Conversation

October 12, 2020 at 12:00pm1:30pm EDT

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Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs

South Asia Center presents

Mathangi Subramanian and Maura Finkelstein

Secret Stories of the City: Bangalore and Bombay in Conversation

Cities – particularly mega-cities like Bangalore and Bombay – contain identities, profiles, and stories that circulate through official, public channels. But both cities, like all cities, have hidden worlds, unseen corners, and marginalized residents whose stories are devalued or erased because they do not map onto accepted narratives of space and demographics. This conversation between Mathangi Subramanian and Maura Finkelstein will discuss how ethnographic storytelling can challenge accepted narratives by highlighting legitimized and marginalized voices, both through fiction and nonfiction. Drawing on Subramanian’s novel A People’s History of Heaven and Finkelstein’s ethnography, The Archive of Loss: Lively Ruination in Mill Land Mumbai, this conversation will ask: how can ethnography be used as a tool for recovery and visibility? Whose stories get told and whose remain hidden? How do writers choose what stories to tell and why? How can we think beyond the imagined bounds of these Indian cities – and, by extension, cities around the globe – through ethnographic storytelling?

Mathangi Subramanian is an award winning South Asian American author and educator who believes stories have the power to change the world. Her novel A People’s History of Heaven was longlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Valley of Words Prize. Her middle grades novel Dear Mrs. Naidu won the South Asia Book Award and was shortlisted for the Hindu-Goodbooks prize. A former public school teacher, Fulbright-Nehru Scholar, and senior policy analyst for the New York City Council, she holds a doctorate in education from Columbia University Teachers College.

Maura Finkelstein a cultural anthropologist, ethnographer and writer, as well as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Muhlenberg College, in Allentown, PA. I have an MA in anthropology from Columbia University (2005) and a PhD in anthropology from Stanford University (2012). Her first book, The Archive of Loss: Lively Ruination in Mill Land Mumbai, was published with Due University Press in 2019.

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This event was first published on August 26, 2020 and last updated on October 7, 2020.

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