Crooked lines: utopia, human rights and South Asian women’s writing and agency

My article focuses on the relationship between human rights and utopia with special focus on South Asia and women's writing and agency. Utopia offers possibilities to capture, in writing and practice, the impossible good place. Utopia has the dimension of the anticipatory consciousness, but also the impulse to narrativise that not-yet. Human rights too have a dual impulse of a strong drive to articulate a desired set of norms, while knowing that their actualisation is partly elusive. I examine in this article the oeuvre of South Asian women writers who were also actors from civil society, important in realising utopia in the domain of international law. I argue that feminist rights activism has an enriching critically utopian dimension; that the ‘crooked’ bildungsroman, with utopian and dystopian dimensions, creatively imagines vernacularised human rights; and that contemporary speculative fiction emanating partly from South Asia enriches human rights discourse in edgy, intriguing ways.


Barnita Bagchi, Department of Languages, Literature, and Communication at Utrecht University. Email:

Publish Date: 
November, 2016
Publication title: 
AJHR 22-2: Special issue on Utopias and human rights