Jewish literature and identity in contemporary India


In May Heinz Werner Wessler, professor in Indology at Uppsala University, presented a lecture under the title "Jewish literature and identity in contemporary India." The event was jointly organised with the Forum for Jewish Studies and The Hugo Valentin Centre

Professor Heinz-Werner Wessler, Professor of Indology, Department of Linguistics and Philology

The Indian Jewry forms an integral part of the mosaic of religions and confessions in India. However, even though the state and the secular society is proud of its Jewish compartment as a part of its "unity in diversity" approach to the religious and cultural traditions of India, emigration to Israel has decimated the traditional Jewish communities considerably and even threatens the very existence of Indian Jewry as such, as for example the documentary film “Next year in Bombay” illustrates. Wessler will focus on three authors in his lecture, two in English and one in Hindi: Nissim Ezechiel, Esther David and Sheila Rohekar. While Ezechiel and Rohekar have always stayed in India, David is a returnee after many years in Israel and France.

The writings of contemporary Indian Jewish authors illustrate the complexities, not so much of Jewish religious life, but of an identity molded by and based on a multicultural, trans-religious and somehow post-religious Indian modernity, with its complex discourses of communalism, secularism, progressivism, religion – and emigration. The responses to the momentous changes this process brought are naturally individualistic and display numerous aspects and layers.