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Abiral Kumar

Doctoral Fellow


Campus Am Neuen Palais
Am Neuen Palais 10
Building 1, Room 0.15
14469 Potsdam


by appointment only

Dissertation Project

Untold Treasures of the Tilism: Mapping an alternative cosmopolitan imagination in Salman Rushdie’s magical realist fiction


The cosmopolitan imagination, today, is dominated by major cultural centers of the western world which monitor the movement of people, cultures, and narratives across international borders. However, this was not always the case. Only a few centuries ago, people and stories migrated more freely from one place to another. They have informed the shared cultural ethos of several cultures and revealed a network of stories we can call the literatures of the world. In my work, I imagine the project of World Literature as a cosmopolis that claims to include the diverse literatures of the world. However, much like the major cosmopolitan centers of the world, it fails to either accommodate them properly or allow them space for movement, dialogue, and interpretation as other major literatures enjoy. In this regard, it becomes crucial to question these gaps and inadequacies within the foundation of World Literature. I aim to find ways of rebuilding it through inclusionary measures, and rereading it through ‘minor’ modes, rather than abandoning the cosmopolitan imagination altogether.

By focusing on the transcultural and multidimensional concept of tilism, I argue for a re-definition of cultural narratology that not only studies the peculiarities of a narrative and modes of storytelling but also how these narratives are transmitted and transmuted in their interactions with local, oral, or older literary traditions and the possibilities that arise from such interactions. My project takes the multicultural concept of tilism as a missing node in this network of world versions of tales. I intend to map its shifting connotations from its etymological roots in ancient Greece to the magical realism of Salman Rushdie to argue for a more expansive, but refined idea of World Literature which emphasizes these narrative networks to arrive at an inclusive world of literatures and a more comprehensive literatures of the world.


I completed my masters and MPhil. Degree (with distinction) in English Literature from the Department of English, University of Delhi. Following that, I worked in the capacity of Assistant Professor at St. Stephen's College and Miranda House. Here, I had the opportunity to teach Literary Theory, Postcolonial Literature, and World Literature, amongst other subjects, to undergraduate students. My graphic narrative Fragrance of Time based on the Hamzanama tradition was awarded by the Barzinji Foundation, USA. I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. as a fellow at the RTG Minor Cosmopolitanisms, Berlin.

Research Interests

  • World Literature
  • Postcolonial Studies
  • Conceptual History
  • Oral Narratives and storytelling


Conference Papers

‘(Un)scripting Hindustani: The Special Case of Hindi-Urdu Audiobook” at the International Conference on Confronting the 'Global', Exploring the 'Local': Digital Apprehensions of Poetics and Indian Literature(s) organised by the dept. of English, Jamia Milia Islamia University, New Delhi, Dec. 2020.

‘Gandhi’s Eco-philosophy: Signs and Signifiers in Swachh Bharat Campaign Posters, at National Conference on Gandhi in the Private and the Public Sphere: Image, Text, and Performance organised by the Dept. of English, University of Delhi, March 2020.

‘Defending Chandrakanta: Analysing the rise of Hindi and Devakinandan Khatri's defense of Hindustani in Chandrakanta’, at the Platform for Postcolonial Readings Multilingual Locals and Significant Geographies: New Approaches to World Literature (Keynote: Francesca Orsini) organised by Nether- lands Institute for Cultural Analysis, Amsterdam, June 2019.

‘‘Witch-Caste?’, and Sati: Critiquing the Colonial-Imperialist approach to Witchcraft Accusations’ at University of Vienna, Sept. 2019.

‘Rama in Tibet: Ramayana and the Tradition of Learning in Indo-Tibetan Interactions’, at Tibet Policy Institute, Dharamshala, India, Jan. 2019.