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Mag. Philipp Sperner, M.A.

The Rhetorics of Friendship as Brotherhood: Metaphors of Community in the Discourse on Indian
Independence and the Modern Nation State

Dissertation Abstract

My research project offers an analysis of the use of friendship and brotherhood as social metaphors in the discoursive construction of a political community by looking at 20th-century South Asian literary fiction, movies and and political theory, and their portrayal of the Indian national community as unified, egalitarian and democratic.

With the anticolonial struggle and the construction of a sovereign national community in the first decades after Indian independence, the interplay of the various global and local histories of the concepts of friendship and brotherhood lead to a variety of uses of the two terms in political treatises, speeches and pamphlets, but also in popular culture and literature (such as comic books of the Amar Chitra Katha series or the Bollywood Film Amar Akbar Anthony). These rhetorics proved to be hugely influential for the national social imaginary down to the present

By combining the perspective of Comparative Literature with approaches from the field of Global Intellectual History, I seek to show how the tropes of friendship and brotherhood, developed and popularized in and through these texts, significantly frame not only the image of the national community, but also the notions of democracy and the political as such. This leads to a whole series of questions that the project aims to discuss in the course of analysing the literary sources:

  • How does the combination of the rhetorics of friendship and brotherhood work and which
    functions does it serve?
  • How do the rhetorics of friendship and brotherhood work against the inclusion of women
    and others, who are not seen as part of the brotherhood or the group of friends
    constituting the democratic community?
  • Can the shift in the rhetorics of friendship and brotherhood in the beginning of the 20th
    century be seen as indicative of a broader change in the representations and functions of
    political sovereignty in India and beyond?
  • What emancipatory or egalitarian potential does the rhetorics of friendship have and how
    are these potentials curbed by the genealogical as well as androcentric and racializing
    logic of kinship and descent that are inscribed into the trope?
  • What are other metaphors that facilitate the construction of political communities beyond
    the potentially nationalistic frames of brotherhood and maybe even beyond the restraints
    (or historical pitfalls) of friendship?

Short CV:

Since 2018 PhD Candidate at the Research Training Group

2015: M.A. Languages and Cultures of South Asia, SOAS, University of London

2014: Mag. phil. in Comparative Literature, University of Innsbruck



"Harmful Speech and the Politics of Hurt Sentiments: Censorship as a Biopolitical Project in India."
In: Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) 51:44-45 (Nov. 2016), pp. 109-116.
http://www.epw.in/journal/2016/44-45/special- articles/harmful-speech- and-politics- hurt-

"Literarische Solidarität im globalen Kontext." In: Martin Mader (ed.): Arbeiter(kultur) in Literatur,
bildender Kunst und Film, Innsbruck: Studia Verlag, 2014, pp. 119-149.

"Böse Viren – gute Kunst?" In: Dunja Brötz, Beate Eder-Jordan und Martin Fritz (eds.):
Intermedialität in der Komparatistik: Eine Bestandsaufnahme, Innsbruck: Innsbruck University
Press, 2013, pp. 257-273.